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 and offer graduate students the opportunity to communicate the significance of their research to a general audience, all in three minutes or less.

In only three 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.


2019 Three Minute Thesis Winner Karl Lyn with his talk "Decriminalizing Education: A Black Freedom Struggle." See more UMass 3MT videos on the UMass YouTube channel

2020 3MT Info

Registration for the 2020 3MT has reached capacity. 

Competition Dates

  • Preliminary Rounds (all competitors must participate in one preliminary round):
    • February 10th, 2:30-4pm
    • February 11th, 2:30-4pm
    • February 12th, 2:30-4pm
    • February 13th, 10-11:30am
    • February 14th, 10-11:30am
  • Final Round: Friday, February 28th, 2020, 1-2:30pm Old Chapel
  • Community Day at the Jones Library in Amherst: Saturday, March 28th, 2020, 3-4pm

Supporting Events

OPD offers a variety of support for 3MT participants, including workshops, practice sessions, and special guests speaking about clear communication. 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! 

  • 3MT Info Sessions: Learn the competition structure, 3MT rules, and tips on how to prepare
    • December 17th, 10-10:45am
    • January 14th, 12-12:45pm
    • January 24th, 10:15-11am
    • January 29th, 2:30-3:15pm
  • Getting Comfortable with Public Speaking, facilitated by Dr. Jake Livengood from MIT; Thursday, January 16th - 10:00am-11:30am

  • Practicing Your Elevator Pitch; Wednesday, December 18th - 3:00-4:00pm

  • Communicating with People Outside Your Discipline; Tuesday, January 21st - 10:00-11:00am

  • Engaging Your Audience with Body Language; Thursday, January 23rd - 10:00-11:00am

  • Public Speaking-for the Anxious and the Not-So-Anxious; Monday, January 27th - 2:30-3:30pm

  • Making Great Slides for Presentations; Wednesday, January 29th - 10:00-11:00am

  • Using Simple Words for Big Ideas; Friday, January 31st - 10:00-11:00am

  • Making Great Figures; Tuesday, February 4th - 2:30-4:00pm

Registration for most events will open about three weeks prior to the event date. Check OPD's Events Page for more information, including location details. 

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;
  • present on their independent academic research; and
  • be available to participate in person in a preliminary round of competition and, if selected as a finalist, the campus Final.

Competition Rules

  • When preparing your presentation please keep the following rules in mind:
  • Participants are limited to three minutes for their presentation and time is strictly enforced.
  • Participants are allowed to use a single static PowerPoint-style slide.
    • no slide transitions, animations or “movements” of any kind are permitted;
    • your slide is to be shown from the beginning of your presentation; and
    • no additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted.
  • No props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (eg. no poems, raps, or songs).
  • Presenters must remain on stage for the duration of their presentation (e.g. you may not walk through the audience as you speak or start your presentation from the back of the room).
  • Presentations (and the three minute timer) begin when a presenter starts their presentation through either movement or speech.
  • Questions on whether participants have adhered to competition rules will be referred to the judging panel; the decision of the judging panel is final.

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?
2019 3MT winners Karl Lyn (first place), Lian Guo (runner-up), and Riddha Das (People's Choice)

2019 3MT winners Karl Lyn (first place), Lian Guo (runner-up), and Riddha Das (People's Choice)


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