Say you’re at a family reunion, and a grandparent asks about your graduate school research. Excited to have a willing ear, you dive headfirst into the deep end, speeding through a catalogue of niche facts and findings. Only when you’ve run out of breath do you see the blank stare on the face before you and realize you’ve lost your audience.
Maybe that’s a low-stakes example, but consider the vast array of audiences who might ask just what it is that you’re doing in graduate school: potential employers, collaborators, donors, news reporters, and industry partners, to name a few.
The bottom line: being able to communicate why your work matters to a non-specialist audience is vital to the life of your research, regardless of field or focus.
“It’s no secret that our graduate students are performing cutting-edge research,” said Assistant Dean of the UNH Graduate School Dovev Levine. “But what we want is for our students to be able to share that research—at a dinner party, in an interview, maybe someday as a keynote lecture. This was the thinking behind many of our ongoing programs like the Three Minute Thesis, Research Communications Academy, and Science Communication course offerings—being able to talk about your research in various settings is an essential component to the research itself.”
If you still need to develop this skill, you might want to consider participating in the Graduate School’s 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) Challenge in which graduate students describe their research in three minutes or less to a general audience using only one static PowerPoint slide. This annual competition is funded in part by donors who gave to the Graduate School during the 603 challenge. The first rounds occur Monday, March 30, and Tuesday, March 31, in MUB Theater I, and the top six from each day will move on to the final round scheduled for Monday, April 27, in MUB Theater II. A panel of judges will decide the winners, who will receive cash prizes (first place $300, second place $150, third place $50, People’s Choice $200).
Some past participants have used language developed via the 3MT for proposals, grants and applications, while others have used their 3MT videos to promote their work on personal websites and social media. The competition also acts as an opportunity to practice public speaking, open doors to conversations with people outside of your field, and remember why your work matters.
“The 3MT is a valuable experience for anyone in any discipline,” said Caroline Kanaskie, a Ph.D. student and graduate assistant organizing the event. “Our vision for the workshops is to provide some dedicated time and space for students to prepare — the 3MT is so different from the traditional ways in which we present our academic work, so it really is a challenge to use this format, especially for the first time.”
There’s a 3MT practice round Tuesday March 10, 3-5pm, at the Dover Public Library, and the Graduate School is hosting a series of 3MT workshops throughout the semester to help students prepare. Students not able to attend the workshops in person are invited to join virtually via Zoom.
Register for 3MT Workshops
Where: The Hive, Thompson Hall G16
The Bones of Your 3MT: Wednesday, Feb. 5, 12:30-1:30 p.m. An overview of what makes a good 3MT, from content to audience to the way you present your research, orally and visually.
Brainstorming Writing Prompts: Wednesday, Feb. 12, 12:30-1:30 p.m. This 45-minute writing session will include a series of writing prompts (questions about your research) to help you articulate the focus of your research and why it’s important.
It’s All About Presentation: Wednesday, Feb. 19, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Past 3MT participants will discuss their experiences with the 3MT and a public speaking expert will talk about the ways to improve your onstage presence and how to connect with your audience.
3MT Fast Feedback: Wednesday, Feb. 26, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Bring a written draft to read aloud in a supportive group setting and receive feedback on your 3MT. (The draft can be from a paragraph to a page long.)
Editing Your 3MT: Wednesday, March 4, 12:30-1:30 p.m. In this workshop we will discuss tactics on editing your 3MT so that each word is powerful and effective.
The 3MT Competition
(Registration opens March 1)
Practice Round: Wednesday March 10, 3-5pm at the Dover Public Library
Rounds 1 & 2: Monday, March 30, and Tuesday, March 31, 3-5pm in MUB Theaters I
Final: Monday, April 27, 3-5pm in MUB Theater II