Tips for Grads: Why participate in the Three Minute Thesis® Competition?

Guest column by Claudia Matta Ramly, PhD Student

Two years ago, I attended the Writing Center’s Three Minute Thesis® Competition (3MT) workshop. It was pre-pandemic, we were huddled into groups while we practiced talking about our research. There were a lot of embarrassed smiles and laughter as we faltered while talking and realized this was way more difficult than it sounded. To talk about your research in three minutes? And make it fun? A year later, I participated in the UW–Madison 3MT® competition and won. It was an enjoyable journey and I gained many insights on why you should participate in this competition.

  • Practice: The competition is a great reflection exercise. As you advance in your graduate journey, you’re going to think about your research in different ways. You are also going to have conversations about why it matters and why people should care about your research. This can happen anywhere – with your advisor, at a conference or even when submitting a grant. I remember honing my talk over and over as I got feedback from peers, friends, and family. Along the way, I realized I was getting valuable feedback that I could use to think about the future of my research and why it matters, and how to work towards that goal.
  • CV Boost: Whether you want to stay in academia or move to another industry, a lot of recruiters love to see your teaching/public speaking skills in action. Participating in this competition, whether you end up as a semi-finalist, finalist or win one of the awards, will put your skills in the spotlight and show first-hand how you deliver high quality presentations.
  • Effective Networking: Not only did I meet with fellow students on campus and connected with them after watching their presentations, I also got to sit with my classmates and colleagues to talk about my research. This created a positive buzz in my class and the department. People will learn about you and about your research and it helps to create a lovely sense of camaraderie.

I encourage you to consider participating in the 3MT® competition as a professional development experience, one where you are in charge of your own personal and professional growth. One mantra that I hold close to my heart is to “say yes to learning opportunities.” You’ll be surprised what they lead to, and the people you’ll meet along the way.

Visit the 3MT® website to learn more about the 3 Minute Thesis® competition and to sign up.

Tips for Grads is a professional and academic advice column written by graduate students for graduate students at UW­–Madison. It is published in the student newsletter, GradConnections Weekly.