Three Minute Thesis Competition

3 Minute Thesis Competition

Virtual Competition Details

Submit Video by January 20, 2021
Virtual Awards Ceremony February 3 at 2:00 p.m.

180 Seconds to Present Your Thesis

An 80,000-word thesis would take nine hours to present in full. The Three Minute Thesis Competition challenges students to present their work clearly and concisely. 

The History of 3MT®

The first Three Minute Thesis Competition was held at the University of Queensland in 2008. The idea spread quickly, and universities around the world now host events. Graduate students compete to be the best presenter of their research and its significance, in terms anyone can understand and in only three minutes.

3MT® at NDSU

On February 4, 2015, the NDSU Graduate School hosted its first Three Minute Thesis competition. Twenty-five graduate students participated in five preliminary rounds; the winner of each round received $250 and went on to compete in the final round, with the grand champion winning $1,000.

Since then, we've had nearly 60 graduate students showcase their research for staff, faculty, fellow students, and community leaders. 

Information for Participants

If you’re interested in competing in the Three Minute Thesis Competition, you can find the information you need to participate below.


Participants in the university-wide competition register with the Graduate School during fall semester. Eligibility is limited to current NDSU graduate students (either master's or doctoral) who are registered for spring semester, as well as December graduates. All participants must have approval from their adviser.

Competition Rules

NDSU Competition Rules

  • Presentations are to begin with students introducing themselves and identifying their graduate program.
  • Presentations will be recorded and may be shared on the NDSU website and through other media platforms.
  • All contestants must sign a Participant Release Form to agree to the release of information and recording.

General Competition Rules

  • 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.
  • No additional electronic media (i.e. sound or video files) are permitted.
  • No additional props (i.e. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  • Presentations are limited to three minutes maximum; competitors exceeding three minutes are disqualified automatically.
  • Presentations are to be delivered via spoken word (i.e. 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 movement or speech.
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

Judging Criteria

Judges will evaluate competitors on four general categories:

  • Content 
  • Comprehension
  • Communication 
  • Engagement


Scoring System

  • Each criterion is equally weighted and has an emphasis on audience. 
  • For each of the categories, judges will assign a score of 0 to 5. 
  • These scores will be added together, so the total maximum score is 20. 
  • Any competitor who exceeds the three-minute limit is disqualified automatically. 
  • The winner in each heat will be the student whose presentation was three minutes or less and who received the highest total combined judges’ score for that heat.


1. Comprehension (0-5 points)

  • Were the topic, key results, research significance, and outcomes communicated in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience?
  • Did the speaker avoid scientific jargon, explain terminology, and provide adequate background information to illustrate points?
  • Did the speaker clearly understand their topic and make the audience understand something about it, too?


2. Content (0-5 points)

  • Did the presentation provide some background about the research question 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 presenter spend adequate time on each element of their presentation – or did they elaborate for too long on one aspect or was the presentation rushed?


3. Engagement (0-5 points)

  • Did the presenter give the audience a sense of who they are, what they study, why they study it, and how --- in relatable terminology?
  • Did the presenter engage and connect with the audience?
  • Did the orator and presentation 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?


4. Communication (0-5 points)

  • Did the presenter capture and maintain their audience’s attention?
  • Did the speaker have sufficient stage presence, eye contact, and vocal range?
  • Did s/he maintain a steady pace, and have a confident stance?
  • Did the PowerPoint slide enhance the presentation – was it clear, legible, and concise?
  • Was the research or scholarship conveyed in an understandable way?

Judging Selection

Judges are carefully chosen and assigned to each room in order to prevemt possible conflicts of interest between judges and competitors. Competition judges include community members, faculty, staff and graduate students.

Release of Information

Participant Release Form

As stated in the NDSU competition rules:

  • Presentations will be recorded and may be shared on the NDSU website and through other media platforms.
  • All contestants must sign a Participant Release Form to agree to the release of information and recording.

General Student News Release Form

Competitors are also asked to complete a General Student News Release Form, so that information regarding their participation in the Three Minute Thesis Competition and other involvement at NDSU may be released to the Fargo Forum and their hometown newspaper.

Past 3MT® Winners


2019 Grand Champion: Elisabeth Wilson

Program: Biological Sciences (M.S.)
Adviser: Dr. Julia Bowsher
Presentation: "Micro-climate Impacts Nesting Choice and Success of Alfalfa Leafcutting Bee"

2019 Finalist: Alireza Rahimi

Program: Coatings and Polymeric Materials (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Dr. Dean Webster
Presentation: "Developing of Marine Paints to Combat Biofouling"

2019 Finalist: Matthew Confeld

Program: Pharmaceutical Sciences (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Dr. Sanku Mallik
Presentation: "Hypoxia Responsive Peptide Conjugated Nanoparticles for Treatment of Solid Tumors"

2019 Finalist: Mohsen Tahmasebi Nasab

Program: Civil Engineering (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Dr. Xuefeng Chu
Presentation: "How do Climate-driven Changes Affect our Water Resources?"

2019 Finalist: Pranothi Mulinti

Program: Pharmaceutical Sciences (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Dr. Amanda Brooks
Presentation: "Silk Bubbles to the Rescue"

2019 Finalist: Priyanka Swami

Program: Pharmaceutical Sciences (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Dr. Estelle Leclerc
Presentation: "Combination Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer Treatment"

2019 Finalist: Raquib Hasan

Program: Pharmaceutical Sciences (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Dr. Amanda Brooks
Presentation: "Putty that Treats Bone Infection"

2019 Finalist: Sakshi Taneja

Program: Pharmaceutical Sciences (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Dr. Estelle Leclerc
Presentation: "Evaluating the Critical Role of Receptor of Advanced Glycation Endproducts (RAGE) in Pancreatic Cancer"


2018 Grand Champion: Farnaz Fouladi

Program: Pharmaceutical Sciences (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Kristine Steffen
Presentation: “The Role of the Gut Bacteria in Weight Loss Surgery”

2018 Finalist: Shrinidh Joshi

Program: Pharmaceutical Sciences (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Yagna Jarajapu
Presentation: “‘Designer’ Stem Cells for the Treatment of Diabetic Complications: ‘The Future is Now’”

2018 Finalist: Cecilia Monclova-Santana

Program: Plant Pathology (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Julie Pasche
Presentation: “Rust: A Dry Bean Disease Story in North Dakota”

2018 Finalist: Seseer Mou-Danha

Program: Communication (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Charles Okigbo
Presentation: “Nothing, Nothing Justifies Terrorism”

2018 Finalist: Amreen Mughal

Program: Pharmaceutical Sciences (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Stephen O'Rourke
Presentation: “Regulation of Vascular Tone in Cerebral and Coronary Arteries by Apelin/APJ Receptor Mechanisms”

2018 Finalist: Suresh Niraula

Program: Environmental and Conservation Sciences (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Shafiqur Rahman
Presentation: “Does Manure Application Help Increase Corn Yield in ND?”



2017 Grand Champion: Tayebeh Anajafi Marzijarani

Program: Pharmaceutical Sciences (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Sanku Mallik
Presentation: “Targeted Drug Delivery in Pancreatic Cancer”

2017 Finalist: Matthew Crouse

Program: Animal Sciences (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Joel Caton
Presentation: “Effects of Maternal Nutrition on Fructose, Glucose, and Cationic Amino Acid Transporter Expression in Bovine Utero-placental Tissues from Days 16 to 50 of Gestation”

2017 Finalist: Farnaz Fouladi

Program: Pharmaceutical Sciences (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Kristine Steffen
Presentation: “The Role of the Gut Bacteria in Sustained Weight Loss after Gastric Bypass Surgery”

2017 Finalist: Babak Jahani

Program: Mechanical Engineering (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Fardad Azarmi
Presentation: “Development of an Advanced Composite Material Consisting of Iron Matrix Reinforced with Ultra High Temperature Ceramic Particulate (TiB2) with Optimum Properties”

2017 Finalist: Xiaoxia Li

Program: Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Canan Bilen-Green
Presentation: “A Semiparametric Trajectory Model for Cognitive Decline”

2017 Finalist: Brian Schmidt

Program: Advanced Athletic Training (M.S.)
Adviser: Shannon David
Presentation: “Psychometric Evaluation of Two Self-Reported Questionnaires for Musculoskeletal Injuries Among Musicians”

2017 Finalist: J Stanley

Program: Plant Sciences (M.S.)
Adviser: Hans Kandel
Presentation: “Soybean Yield Gap in North Dakota”

2017 Finalist: Masahiro Toyama

Program: Developmental Science (Ph.D.)
Adviser: Heather Fuller
Presentation: “The Protective Power of Social Relationships in Late Life”



2016 Grand Champion: Manpreet Bains

Program: Molecular Pathogensis (Ph.D.)
Advisor: Glenn Dorsam
Presentation: "Modulatory Effects of Neural Proteins on Your Microbiome"

2016 Finalist: Sajid Asif

Program: Electrical and Computer Engineering (Ph.D.)
Advisor: Banjamin Braaten
Presentation: "Batteryless, Leadless Pacemaker"

2016 Finalist: Renee Bourdeaux

Program: Communication (Ph.D.)
Advisor: Ann Burnett
Presentation: "Financial Conversations Between Romantic, Committed Partnerships"

2016 Finalist: Lauren Dennhardt

Program: Botany (Ph.D.)
Advisor: Steven Travers
Presentation: "Kentucky Bluegrass Invasion of North Dakota"

2016 Finalist: Prajakta Kulkarni

Program: Pharmaceutical Sciences (Ph.D.)
Advisor: Sanku Mallik
Presentation: "Pancreatic Cancer Treatment"

2016 Finalist: Courage Mudzongo

Program: Developmental Science (Ph.D.)
Advisor: Brandy Randall
Presentation: "Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health: Lessons from an Urban Adolescent Population"


2015 Grand Champion: Allison Peltier

Program: Nursing (DNP)
Advisor: Loretta Heuer
Presentation: "Cervical Cancer Among American Indian Women: The Battle Against Health Inequalities"

2015 Finalist: Lutfur Akand

Program: Civil Engineering (Ph.D.)
Advisor: Mijia Yang
Presentation: "Exploring fiber reinforced porous concrete with finite element modeling and experimental studies"

2015 Finalist: Adam Edwinson

Program: Molecular Pathogenesis (Ph.D.)
Advisor: John McEvoy
Presentation: "Host mucins trigger replication of a pathogentic parasite"

2015 Finalist: Venkata Indurthi

Program: Pharmaceutical Sciences (Ph.D.)
Advisor: Stefan Vetter
Presentation: "Diabetes, high blood sugar, and protein modifications"

2015 Finalist: Courage Mudzongo

Program: Developmental Science (Ph.D.)
Advisor: Brandy Randall
Presentation: "Short-Term Mission Trips"