Three Minute Thesis

The University of Massachusetts Amherst Three Minute Thesis (3MT) celebrates the research accomplishments of our graduate students while helping students develop their presentation and communication skills. These popular competitions have become a global phenomenon by challenging graduate students to communicate the significance of their research to a general audience, all in three minutes or less.

In only four years, the UMass 3MT has become a much-anticipated annual campus event. Our 2019 winner, Karl Lyn (Higher Education), went on to place first in the Northeast Regional 3MT Competition, out of over 20 competitors from regional institutions.

Our 2019 3MT finalists also participated in a 3MT Community Day at the Amherst Jones Library, sharing their research with members of the local community.

In 2021 we're going virtual! Join the 3MT Campus Final via zoom on Thursday, March 18, 4-5:30pm! 

2020 Three Minute Thesis Winner Kira Tait with her talk "Roadblocks to Access: Perceptions of Law in Post-Apartheid South Africa." See more UMass 3MT videos on the UMass YouTube channel

2021 3MT Info

Registration for the 2021 3MT is now open!  Registration will close February 9, 2021. Spots are limited, reserve your space early! All events for the 2021 3MT will be held remotely--participants will submit a video of their presentation according to the guidelines listed below under "Virtual Competition Rules and Tips." 

Supporting Events

The Graduate School Office of Professional Development (OPD) offers a variety of support for 3MT participants, including workshops and practice sessions. Participating in UMass’s 3MT is a great way to build communication skills and increase confidence in your public speaking abilities--our supporting programs can help you calm your nerves and craft your message! Start your preparation by attending a 3MT Info Session to learn the competition structure and rules and get tips on how to prepare your video.

Dates and times for 3MT Info Sessions (pre-registration is required): 

  • Wednesday, December 9, 9-10am
  • Tuesday, December 15, 2-3pm
  • Tuesday, January 5, 10-11am
  • Thursday, January 14, 1-2pm
  • Tuesday, February 2, 4-5pm
  • Thursday, February 4, 1-2pm

Information on 3MT practice sessions will be communicated to registered participants. 

Additional supporting events from OPD include:

  • Crafting Slides for Effective Presentations
  • Communicating with Non-specialists
  • Public Speaking for the Anxious and Not-So-Anxious

Check OPD's Events Page for specific dates/times and event registration links. Pre-registration required for all events; registration for most events will open about three weeks prior to the event date.

Virtual Competition Rules and Tips

Guidelines for virtual 3MT competitions are established by the University of Queensland, which originated the 3MT competition. 

  • Presentations are limited to 3 minutes and competitors exceeding 3 minutes are disqualified.
  • Presentations are considered to have commenced when a presenter starts their presentation through speech (timing does not include the 3MT title slide and commences from when the competitor starts speaking, not the start of the video).
  • Videos must meet the following criteria:
    • Filmed on the horizontal;
    • Filmed on a plain background;
    • Filmed from a static position;
    • Filmed from one camera angle;
    • Contain a 3MT PowerPoint slide (top corner/side-by-side/cut to)
  • A single static slide is permitted in the presentation (no slide transitions, animations or ‘movement’ of any description). This can be visible continuously, or ‘cut to’ (as many times as you like) for a maximum of 1 minute or submitted via email if not included in the presentation.
  • The 3 minute audio must be continuous – no sound edits or breaks.
  • No additional props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment and animated backgrounds) are permitted within the recording.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g. no poems, raps or songs).
  • No additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted within the video recording.
  • Submissions via video format. Files sent in other formats will not be accepted.

Registered participants will receive instructions on how to submit their video (deadline for video submission for the 3MT Preliminary Round is February 15, 2021). Competitors *will not* be judged on video/ recording quality or editing capabilities (optional inclusions). Judging will focus on the presentation, ability to communicate research to a non-specialist audience, and 3MT PowerPoint slide.

After each competition round competitors have the option to either submit their current presentation or rerecord and submit a new presentation for entry into the next round.

Questions on whether participants have adhered to competition rules will be referred to the judging panel; the decision of the judging panel is final.

Stumped on how to film a video? Follow these four easy steps!

  1. Open a Zoom session.
  2. Share your screen, with your 3MT slide as side-by-side display with the image of you speaking.
  3. Hit record in Zoom. 
  4. Give your talk! Know where the camera is located on your computer and talk directly into the camera. Try to avoid using notes or reading a script so you can engage better with your video "audience." 

Looking for more info? We've compiled detailed instructions and tips on how to prepare your 3MT video

Two-time UMass 3MT finalist Destenie Nock shares how participating aided her professional development.


UMass Amherst graduate students from any discipline are welcome to participate if they meet all the eligibility requirements. Participants must:

  • be enrolled full-time as a graduate student at UMass Amherst;
  • be in good academic standing; and
  • present on their independent academic research.

Prizes & Judging Criteria

Final Round First Place Finisher: $1,000
Final Round Runner-Up: $500
Final Round People’s Choice (determined by audience vote): $500
The panel of judges will evaluate participants in the preliminary and final rounds based on the following:

Comprehension and Content

  • Did the presentation clearly identify the research question/topic being addressed and its significance?
  • Did the presentation clearly describe the key results of the research, including conclusions and outcomes?
  • Did the presentation follow a clear and logical sequence?
  • Did the speaker use language appropriate for a non-specialist audience?
  • Did the speaker avoid scientific jargon, explain terminology, and provide adequate background information to illustrate points?
  • Did the presenter spend adequate time on each element of their presentation, not elaborating for too long on one aspect or rushing through portions?

Engagement and Communication

  • Did the oration make the audience want to know more?
  • Was the presenter careful not to trivialize or generalize their research?
  • Did the presenter convey enthusiasm for their research?
  • Did the presenter capture and maintain their audience’s attention?
  • Did the speaker have sufficient stage presence, eye contact and vocal range; maintain a steady pace, and have a confident stance?
  • Did the PowerPoint slide enhance the presentation – was it clear, legible, and concise?
2020 3MT winners Jarrel De Matas (runner-up), Kira Tait (winner and People's Choice), and Jennifer Ryan (runner-up)

2020 3MT winners Jarrel De Matas (runner-up), Kira Tait (winner and People's Choice), and Jennifer Ryan (runner-up)


Contact us for more information about UMass Amherst’s 3MT competition.