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Three Minute Thesis Competition

Students catching up on the Clocktower lawn

3MT Logo

This entertaining event gives thesis students the chance to present their research to a large audience while competing for a number of generous prizes, with the overall University of Otago winner also going on to participate in the Trans-Tasman 3MT final. In an exciting development in 2015, we now have the opportunity to send the best Masters' contestant to represent the University in the newly launched Masters 3MT National Inter-University Challenge.

The competition is open to both thesis Master’s and Doctoral students, who must communicate their research in no more than three minutes, with the help of only one static slide, and the presentation should be aimed at a non-specialist audience.

Who is eligible to enter?

Master’s Candidates currently enrolled in a thesis worth 90 points and Doctoral Candidates currently enrolled in a doctoral thesis. Candidates whose theses are under examination are eligible.

What could I win?

We know that it can be hard to find grants to travel to conferences, support fieldwork or fund experiments. So as well as spot prizes in the heats there is some serious pay-off in this contest to help support your research.

The Divisions provide a $500 research grant for the winner of the heats.

The Graduate Research School and Marketing and Communications will provide a $1000 research grant to both the winner of the Master’s and the winner of the Doctoral sections in the 3MT final in Dunedin. GRS will provide a $500 research grant to the winner of the crowd favourite. 

But wait, there’s more!

Courtesy of the Graduate Research School, the winner of the Master’s section will receive a trip to compete in the Inaugural Masters 3MT Inter-University Challenge at a New Zealand location and the winner of the Doctoral section wins a trip to Queensland to compete in the Trans-Tasman Competition.

Rules, rules, rules

  • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted. No slide transitions, animations or ‘movement’ of any description are allowed. The slide is to be presented from the beginning of the oration.
  • No additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted.
  • No additional props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  • Presentations are limited to 3 minutes maximum and competitors exceeding 3 minutes are disqualified.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (eg. no poems, raps or songs).
  • Presentations are to commence from the stage.
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through either movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

What is the judging criteria?

Communication style; was the thesis topic communicated well to an intelligent lay audience?

Comprehension; did the presentation help the audience understand the topic?

Engagement; was the audience left wanting to know more?

When are the national/international competitions?

Inaugural Masters 3MT Inter-University Challenge: Massey University, 21 September 2016

2016 Trans-Tasman 3MT: Queensland 30 September 2016

For more handy tips and advice, check out the GRS Blog!

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2015 Final

The 2015 Three Minute Thesis Competition final was held on Wednesday 26 August in the Archway 4 lecture theatre on the Dunedin campus, and was also streamed live online.

Jenny McDowell UQ comp resized

Congratulations to Jenny McDowell, a PhD candidate from the Sir John Walsh Research Institute, whose talk entitled 'Time related taphonomic alteration to juvenile skeletal remains in a marine environment: The effect of seawater on bone preservation over time’ earned her the Supreme Award. Jenny received a $1000 research grant and airfares and accommodation to represent Otago at the Trans-Tasman Three Minute Thesis Competition at the University of Queensland on 2nd October 2015, both courtesy of the University of Otago.

Special mention must be made to Jenny who went on to win her heat at the Trans-Tasman competition at the University of Queensland, locking in her spot in the final, which also meant making the top ten of a total of 50 competitors - a tremendous achievement! Congratulations, Jenny!

The Masters winner title and a $1000 University of Otago research grant went to Nicola Beatson - bulletinNicola Beatson, a Master’s student from the Department of Accounting and Finance, whose presentation was titled ‘Motivation and Satisfaction at Work: Is it the Money or the Job? A study of IT professionals.' The University also sponsored Nicola to represent Otago at the Inaugural Masters 3MT National Inter-University Challenge in Auckland on 10 September 2015.

Gilles Marciniak, a PhD student from the Centre of Sustainability won the Crowd Favourite crown and a $500 research grant for his talk entitled 'Making the Intangible Tangible: Eliciting Landscape Values at a Community Level'.

Other finalists were:
Hana Cadzow, Geography
Emma Wade, Women and Children’s Health
Leon Mabire, School of Physiotherapy
Emanuel Kofler, Management
John Gray, Peace and Conflict Studies
Chris Larsen, Chemistry
Mayouri Sukhapure, Psychological Medicine (UOC)
For those of you who cannot attend, the final will also be streamed here.

More great stories and information about the 2015 3MT can be found on the Graduate Research School BLOG!

Thanks again to all the 2015 competitors and event helpers. Hope to see you next year!

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2013 Final

The 2013 Three Minute Thesis Competition final was held on Friday 30 August in the Castle 1 lecture theatre on the Dunedin campus, and was also streamed live online.Daniel Wee

Congratulations to Daniel Wee, a PhD candidate from the Department of Philosophy, whose talk entitled ‘Talking to oneself: Is it still a language if only one person understands it?’ earned him the Supreme Award. Daniel received an Apple iPad, and airfares and accommodation to represent Otago at the Australasian Three Minute Thesis Competition at the University of Western Sydney on 18th October 2013, both courtesy of the University of Otago.

Second place and a Samsung Galaxy tablet sponsored by OfficeMax went to Helen Alderson, a Master’s student from the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, whose presentation was called ‘Geochemically sourcing the architectural basalt of Nan Madol.’

David Barton, a Master’s student from the Department of Psychology won the Schools’ Favourite prize of a $250 book voucher courtesy of the University Book Shop, for his talk entitled ‘What’s in a Name?’ This was voted by Dunedin high school students who were invited to attend the final.

Our other finalists were:

  • Shobhit Eusebius – Marketing
  • Jessica Leov – Psychological Medicine, DSM
  • Oliver Watkins – Chemistry
  • Rebecca Gray – Public Health, UOW
  • Andrew Das – Pathology, UOC
  • Sophia Cameron-Christie – Women’s and Children’s Health, DSM

Footage of the 2013 final can be viewed elsewhere on are website.

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2012 Final

The 2012 Three Minute Thesis Competition final was held on Friday 31 August in the Dunedin College of Education Auditorium, and was also streamed live online.

Congratulations to Andrew Filmer from the Department of Music, whose talk entitled ‘String Retunings: Modern Approaches to a Lost Art’ earned him the Supreme Award. Andrew received a $1500 study grant, and airfares and accommodation to represent Otago at the Australasian Three Minute Thesis Competition at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, which will be held on 11th October 2012.

Second place and a $750 study grant went to Allamanda Faatoese from the Department of Medicine at the University of Otago’s Christchurch campus, whose topic was "Why are Maori dying earlier of heart disease?"

Hemakumar Devan from the School of Physiotherapy was awarded third place and a $500 study grant for his presentation 'Amputation, Asymmetry and Low Back Pain.' Hemakumar also won the $250 prize for best presenter as voted by Dunedin high school students who were invited to attend the final.

Our other finalists were:

  • Tim Crawford - Biochemistry, OSMS and Botany
  • Rebecca Cooke - Human Nutrition and Medicine, DSM
  • Rebecca Van Amber - Applied Sciences
  • Neil Vallelly - English and Linguistics
  • Wiebke Finkler - Tourism

Footage of the 2012 final can be viewed here.

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2011 Final

The 2011 Three Minute Thesis Competition final was held on Wednesday 31 August in the Dunedin College of Education Auditorium, and was also streamed live online.

Congratulations to Jack Rivers from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, whose talk on medical marijuana earned him the Supreme Award. Jack received a $2000 study grant, and airfares and accommodation to represent Otago at the Australasian Three Minute Thesis Competition at the University of Western Australia in Perth, which was held on 29 September 2011. Jack also gave an impressive performance at this event, taking out the People's Choice Award, and his winning presentation can be viewed here.

Second place and a $1000 study grant went to Kirsten Walsh from the Department of Philosophy, whose topic was 'Experiment and Mathematic in Newton's Natural Philosophy.'

Jordana Norrish from the Department of Mathematics and Statistics was awarded third place and a $500 study grant for her presentation 'The Language of Mathematics: Lost in Translation?'

Our other finalists were:

  • Jonathan Foo - Pathology and Molecular Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington
  • Azrina Md Ralib - Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch
  • Yanwei Tan - English
  • Travis Monk - Zoology
  • Hongjun Shi - Pathology and Molecular Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington
  • Carla Jellum - Tourism

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2010 Final

In 2010 we had ten finalists who presented their PhD research to a large and enthusiastic audience - as well as a television crew from Invercargill-based station Cue TV - in the Dunedin College of Education Auditorium on 19th August.

Our Supreme Award Winner was Carol Wyvill from the Department of English, with her presentation 'Mirror of a Medieval Monk.' Carol's fantastic performance at the Australasian final can be viewed here: 'The Mirror of a Medieval Monk.'

The Audience Favourite Award was shared between Evan Tan from the Department of Women's and Children's Health at the Dunedin School of Medicine, and Daniel Hutchinson from the Department of Chemistry. Evan's presentation was on 'Sleep - A new tool against childhood obesity?' and Daniel's was called 'Chemistry in Action.'

Our other finalists were:

  • Trudy Sullivan - Economics
  • Jordana Norrish - Mathematics and Statistics
  • Tracy Melzer - Medicine, UOC
  • Moira Smith - Public Health, UOW
  • Jacqueline Kao - Chemistry
  • Patty Towl - Education
  • Kristen Steslow - Bioethics, DSM

Our supreme award winner received a $2000 conference/travel grant, as well as a trip to Brisbane to compete in the Australasian final at the University of Queensland in September, with each finalist each receiving a $250 study grant. In addition to this, the presenter voted the audience favourite, won a $1000 conference/travel grant.