Three Minute Thesis


Education Policy Doctoral Student Wins 3MT Final 

Malachi Nichols won first place in last week’s Three Minute Thesis competition final with his presentation Beyond Smarts, the Role of Character Skills in College Success. As the top finisher, Nichols won $750 and entry to the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools’ regional Three Minute Thesis contest.

In the regional contest, Nichols will represent the University of Arkansas while competing against nearly 50 graduate students from universities across the Southern Region. The contest will be held on February 24 in Fayetteville.

Nichols, who is advised by Gema Zamarro, is an education policy doctoral student.

Members of the audience voted for Edidiong Udofia as the People’s Choice winner. Udofia, a mechanical engineering doctoral student, won $500 for his presentation Making Microdevices. Udofia is advised by Wenchao Zhou.

Six contestants participated in the final. Each of the participants had previously won a competition held in the academic colleges that house their degree programs.

The Three Minute Thesis contest challenges graduate students to summarize their thesis or dissertation research within three minutes to a general audience. Presenters were allowed a single, static PowerPoint slide to accompany their presentation. The contestants were judged on their ability to help audience members understand their research and their ability to engage the audience.


The Three Minute Thesis competition is an academic contest that challenges graduate students to summarize their thesis or dissertation research within three minutes to a general audience. The competition celebrates the discoveries made by graduate students and encourages them to communicate the significance of their research to the broader community in language that is understood by the general public.

The competition was first developed by the University of Queensland in 2008. The popularity of the competition grew rapidly, and 3MT competitions are now held in over 170 universities across more than 18 countries worldwide.

At the University of Arkansas, preliminary heats are held in each of the academic colleges. The top finisher in each academic college advances to the university-wide final.


  • 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.


Comprehension & Content

  • Did the presentation provide an understanding of the background to 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?
  • Was the thesis topic, key results and 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 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?

Engagement & 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?


  • Malachi Nichols, Education Reform, Ph.D.
  • Edidiong Udofica, Mechanical Engineering, Ph.D.


  • Winner: Diana Chen, Environmental Dynamics, Ph.D.
  • People's Choice: Daniel Sandor, Plant Science, Ph.D.


  • Winner: Jade Newsome, Plant Pathology, M.S.
  • People's Choice: Richard Perry, Kinesiology, Ph.D.


  • Winner: Priyanka Sharma, Cell and Molecular Biology, Ph.D.