UCalgary Three Minute Thesis Competition

Your thesis, three minutes, one slide

The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is an internationally recognized research communication competition. Participants have three minutes to deliver a compelling presentation on their thesis research for a general audience using a single, static slide.

The 3MT helps graduate students develop skills in translating their research and its impact for non-specialists. This skill is becoming essential for many purposes:

  • Funding proposals
  • Transitioning into employment
  • Generating interest in, awareness of and support for academic research
  • Communicating with confidence and clarity to diverse audiences

The University of Calgary 3MT takes place each year during the winter term. Registration opens in February, with heats taking place in March and finals in April.

It’s really important to use terms and speak in a way that people understand. The 3MT competition helped me learn to focus on the significance of my work: What makes it important? Why does it matter?

Nancy Adam, 2017 3MT finalist

Doctoral candidate, biochemistry and molecular biology

  1. Can I enter the UCalgary 3MT?

    University of Calgary graduate students who are active/enrolled in thesis-based masters or PhD programs and in good standing with their graduate program and the Faculty of Graduate Studies are eligible.

    • A student whose thesis is under submission on the date of their first competition is still eligible
    • Presenters must register and present in person
    • Graduating students become ineligible upon receiving notification of degree conferral
  2. I'm a visiting student. Can I enter?

    Visiting students are not eligible to participate in the UCalgary 3MT.

  3. How else can I get involved?

    Not sure about entering? Get involved by volunteering! We need student volunteers to help with heats and finals in a variety of roles. We start looking for 3MT volunteers in February of each year.

UCalgary3MT 2020 registrants will have the first opportunity to register for 3MT workshops, with any additional spots being opened up to all UCalgary graduate students. 

  1. All You Need to Know About the UCalgary 3MT

    Attend this workshop to learn about the 2020 UCalgary3MT competition including rules and regulations, how to register, and the process of the competition at UCalgary. You will also have the opportunity to practice speaking about your research to a non-specialist audience.

  2. Effective Presentation Skills

    Here you’ll learn techniques for crafting an engaging research talk that is memorable, visual, and accessible to any audience. You’ll also apply your learnings by analysing 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) talks, crafting an outline using the COMPASS Message Box (compassscicomm.org/), and applying design principles to create memorable and effective slides.

  3. Vocal Skills

    This workshop focuses on vocal skills. Learn exercises, strategies and techniques for voice control to help you deliver a commanding, confidant presentation. This is a highly interactive, "hands-on" workshop. Be prepared to get involved! 

    Participants should wear loose, comfortable clothing in which you can move and stretch.


  4. Framing Your Presentation: Creating a Memorable and Effective 3MT Slide

    Learn graphic design and document layout principles to help you create an amazing 3MT slide. See examples of effect and ineffective slide design. Learn how to identify design issues in your slide, and a range of techniques to help correct them. Bring a draft of your slide to get feedback from your colleagues as well as the instructor. 

  1. A single, static PowerPoint slide is permitted (no slide transitions, animations or 'movement' of any description, the slide is to be presented from the beginning of the oration). Please note that using a slide is optional but strongly encouraged. Images used in the slide must be your own, or you must have permission from the owner of the photo(s) and provide proper credit(s).
  2. No additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted.
  3. No additional props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment, laser pointers or note cards) are permitted.
  4. No notes allowed. Presentations are to be memorized.
  5. Presentations are limited to 3 minutes maximum.
  6. Presentations that go over 3 minutes will have marks removed in the heats, and will be disqualified in the final.
  7. Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g. no poems, raps or songs).
  8. Presentations must be based on research directly related to the student’s graduate program thesis. Research performed for employment should not be presented.
  9. Presentations are to commence from the stage.
  10. Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through movement or speech.
  11. Presenters must agree to be video-taped.
  12. The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

All participants receive a Certificate of Participation. Heat winners also receive an engraved medal.

All finalists will have professional headshots taken and their 3MT talks recorded and posted on the My GradSkills website. Other prizes for the 3MT finals include:

  1. First Place

    • $1,000 CAD
    • UCalgary 3MT First Place trophy

    The winner of the UCalgary 3MT represents the university at the Canadian Western Regional 3MT competition.

  2. Second Place

    • $500 CAD
    • UCalgary 3MT Second Place trophy
  3. Third Place

    • $250 CAD
    • UCalgary 3MT Third Place trophy
  4. People's Choice

    • $100 University of Calgary book store gift certificate
    • UCalgary 3MT People's Choice trophy

The first 3MT was held at the University of Queensland (UQ) in 2008 with 160 students competing. Enthusiasm for the 3MT concept grew and its adoption by numerous universities led to the development of an international competition in 2010.

The inaugural Trans-Tasman 3MT was held at UQ in 2010 with 33 universities participating. In 2011, 43 universities were represented in the Trans-Tasman 3MT that was hosted by The University of Western Australia. Today students from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Hong Kong take part in their own regional events.

The University of Calgary held the first UCalgary3MT competition in 2013 with 44 participants from 14 departments. The following year participation went up with 61 graduate students participating in 5 heats.

The University of Calgary hosted the first Western Canada 3MT competition on May 2, 2014. Many people came out or tuned-in to the live feed to watch the first Western Canada 3MT competition, where the top 3MT winners from the West competed against each other for a chance at participating in the first Canadian National competition at the end of May. A big congratulations to all the participants for their engaging talks, with big congrats going out to the three participants who represented Western Canada at the first ever virtual event hosted by the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS).

Four University of Calgary 3MT winners have gone on to Canadian Nationals, including Elizabeth Watt (2015), Aprami Jaggi (2017), Chidera Nwaroh (2018) and Laura Rios Carreno (2019). Both Elizabeth Watt and Chidera Nwaroh won Canadian Nationals, while Laura Rios Carreno won the People's Choice award at nationals.

*Participation in this competition is open to Western Deans Agreement participating Universities hosting a local 3MT competition. Eligible participants are the winner of their local competition, and are Masters or PhD candidates in graduate programs eligible for Tri-Council funding.

For more information on the history and mission of 3MT, visit the official 3MT website

UCalgary on the national stage

To date, four UCalgary 3MT winners have gone to Canadian Nationals resulting in two national champions and one national People's Choice award winner, making the University of Calgary the most accomplished institution in the history of Canada's 3MT competition.

Elizabeth Watt

Elizabeth Watt

2015 Canadian National Champion

Program: Physics and Astronomy. Supervisor: Dr. Tyler Meyer, PhD.

Permanent Breast Seed Implant: Improving Patient Experience in Early-stage Breast Cancer.

Watch Elizabeth's 3MT video

Aprami Jaggi

Aprami Jaggi

2017 Western Regional Champion and Finalist, Canadian Nationals

Program: Geoscience. Supervisors: Dr. Steve R. Larter, PhD and Dr. Thomas B.P. Oldenburn, PhD

The Ultimate Fate of Oil in the Marine Environment Following Spillage.

Watch Aprami's 3MT video

Chidera Nwaroh

Chidera Nwaroh

2018 Canadian National Champion

Program: Medical Science. Supervisor: Dr. Ashley Harris, PhD.

A Virtual Biopsy: Detecting Metabolite Changes in the Brain.

Watch Chidera's 3MT video

Laura Rios Carreno

Laura Rios Carreno

2019 Canadian National People's Choice Winner

Program: Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. Supervisor: Dr. Martin Jasso, PhD.

Modification of Asphalt with Reactive Polymers for Quality Enhancement of the Pavement.

Watch Laura's 3MT video