Birmingham Three Minute Thesis 2020

  3MT banner 2014


The average PhD thesis would take nine hours to present. You have...three minutes

The University Graduate School is delighted to announce that the University will be running the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition 2020 virtually!

3MT 2020 Finalists

Congratulations to our 10 finalists for 2020 who will be competing on Wednesday 13th May in a live event hosted through Canvas. We will shortly be announcing details of how to vote for your favourite presentation and help select the People’s Choice Award winner.

  • Naomi Bennett (College of Engineering and Physical Sciences)
  • Diana Cruz de Oliveira (College of Engineering and Physical Sciences)
  • Michael Hughes (College of Medical and Dental Sciences)
  • Nikhil Pillai (College of Engineering and Physical Sciences)
  • Ciara Harris (College of Medical and Dental Sciences)
  • Inês Jorge (College of Arts and Law)
  • Lucy Thomas (College of Engineering and Physical Sciences)
  • Helena Crisford (College of Medical and Dental Sciences)
  • Kit Murdock (College of Engineering and Physical Sciences)
  • Chloe Bamboulis (College of Arts and Law)

About the Competition

Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is a research communication competition developed by the University of Queensland in 2008, in which doctoral researchers have just three minutes to deliver an engaging presentation on their thesis topic, its originality and its significance.

With universities across the world now holding their own 3MT competitions, we are delighted to be running a University of Birmingham 3MT and to invite our own doctoral researchers to participate in such a highly-regarded competition.

If you are a current doctoral researcher interested in developing your presentation and research communication skills, raising the profile of your research and having the chance to win an international research bursary, we warmly encourage you to take part. 

The competition will give you the opportunity to compete for a place in the nationwide UK 3MT contest. The winner of the Birmingham competition will go forward to the UK-wide 3MT semi-final, and to compete for one of six places in the UK final at the Vitae Annual Conference. 

After you submit your application, you will also receive training to help you polish your presentation skills for the heat event and the 3MT final. If you enter the competition, you will be invited to take part in a 'heat' with other entrants from across the University and the top ten presenters from the heat event will be selected to compete in the 3MT final.


 Key dates

Registration for 3MT 2020 is now closed. Please join us for 3MT 2021.

Applications closed: 10 March 2020

3MT Heats: Took place on 27 April 2020 using Canvas Conferences.

Birmingham 3MT final: Will take place 13th May 2020 (14:30-16:00). 

 Rules and regulations

  To enter the Birmingham 3MT competition, you must:

  • Be currently registered on a doctoral programme at the University of Birmingham. This includes students who have submitted their thesis and are awaiting their viva
  • Be available for a heat event
  • Be available, if shortlisted after the heat event, for the Birmingham final
  • Be available, if successful, to participate the UK-wide final in September
  • Agree to your presentation being videoed

 The rules for your 3MT presentation are as follows:

  • Your 3MT presentation should be based on research that is directly related to your doctoral thesis 
  • You should present in a style suitable for an intelligent but non-expert audience 
  • ALL presentations should be NO LONGER than three minutes; competitors exceeding three minutes will be disqualified 
  • You will be allowed one single and static PowerPoint slide to support your presentation (slide transitions or animations are NOT allowed) 
  • No additional electronic media (such as sound or video) are allowed 
  • No additional props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted 
  • No notes are permitted 
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (no poems or songs) 
  • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final

 How to enter

Registration is now closed. Please join us for 3MT 2021. 

 The prizes

The Birmingham 3MT winner's prize will be a £500 bursary. 

 Support in preparing your 3MT

3MT is all about effectively communicating the originality and importance of your research in three minutes to an intelligent but non-expert lay audience. You should therefore avoid dense information or specialised jargon, but instead distil your ideas in order to guide the audience through your work and leave a lasting impression.

After you submit your application, you will receive expert training in May to help you polish your presentation for the heat event and the 3MT final.

Meanwhile, here are some top tips:

  • Be enthusiastic and show your passion for your subject
  • Help the audience relate to your research by emphasising its relevance and any real-world applications or examples
  • Speak clearly and don’t rush... if you tend to speed up when nervous, check yourself on this
  • Time yourself and practice keeping within the three minute limit
  • A comfortable speed of delivery for oral presentation is approximately 80 words per minute. You should therefore be aiming for approximately 200 -250 written words for your three-minute summary
  • To structure your presentation, think about why you are researching your chosen topic or issue, how you are going about your research and how your work can be applied to the real world
  • Watch yourself in the mirror or record yourself using a camera phone so you can check your presentational style 
  • Address your audience directly: don’t look down!
  • Try to be natural and appear relaxed... Don’t move around too much (actions such as swaying can be distracting) but don’t appear static or rigid
  • Practice in front of friends who do not study in your area to ensure that your presentation is appropriate for a non-expert audience; if there are things they don’t understand, think about how you could express them more simply or clearly
  • Learn from previous winners by typing ‘three minute thesis winners’ into YouTube and watching the filmed presentations of past entrants

Presentations will be judged according to the following criteria:

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 trivialise or generalise 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?

Inger Mewburn (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, RMIT) has developed a presentation about the 3MT.

 Example 3MTs

In the video below, 2011 Trans-Tasman 3MT winner Matthew Thompson from the University of Queensland shows us how 3MT is done.


 University of Birmingham 3MT winners

Birmingham 3MT 2019 winner: Cai Lyons (College of Arts and Law)

Birmingham 3MT 2018 winner: Ella Hawkins (The Shakespeare Institute)

Birmingham 3MT 2017 winner: Meryl Lewis (School of Clinical Psychology)

Birmingham 3MT 2016 winner: Mathew Schofield (School of Physics and Astronomy)

Birmingham 3MT 2015 winner: Rosalind Davies (School of Chemical Engineering)

Birmingham 3MT 2014 winner: Chris Morgan (School of Biosciences)




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