Globally popular 3MT prepares our researchers of the future

1 Jan 2014

In the late nineteenth century, Ralph Waldo Emerson was quoted to have said ‘Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door’, noting that a superior idea or product was in itself enough to guarantee success.

Modern thinking has amended Emerson’s statement, noting that it doesn’t matter how good the product is if nobody knows about it and clearly understands its benefits.

 While UQ’s brightest research higher degree students may not be building the next generation of mousetraps, the ability to communicate complex ideas in a simple way may ultimately determine their success or failure.

It is why UQ created the innovative and now globally popular Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition, and why students are turning 80,000 words of research into a concise ‘elevator pitch’.

First developed by the UQ Graduate School in 2008, 3MT challenges research higher degree students to communicate the significance of their projects to a non-specialist audience in just three minutes.

That means no props, no jargon, no long-winded speeches, and no second chances. Just a clear and concise presentation of the issues, the solution, and its impact in layman’s terms 

Now in its sixth year, 3MT’s popularity has spread from UQ across the world and is now being adopted in over 110 universities across 13 countries.

The 2013 UQ 3MT Final was held at the St Lucia campus on 17 September and was won by School of Psychology PhD student Michael Thai for his presentation titled “Ocker or Oriental? Asian Australians and the Denial of National Identity.”

Mr Thai said the experience of competing in 3MT was invaluable.

“It is a great way to get your research out there to a wider audience, but also to solidify in your own mind what you are trying to achieve,” Mr Thai said.

“When you have been doing a PhD for a while, you start to wonder about its impact because you don’t get a lot of external feedback.

“By doing 3MT, you get that feedback that you need, and I have had people coming to me and telling me how they personally relate to my research. It has been really rewarding in that respect.”

Michael will now represent UQ at the prestigious Trans-Tasman Final on 18 October 2013, which is being hosted by the University of Western Sydney. The Trans-Tasman Final will attract competitors from more than 40 universities across Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and the South Pacific.

UQ Graduate School Dean Professor Alastair McEwan said 3MT was designed to develop skills that will give students an important career advantage once they complete their studies.

“UQ provides world-class experts and facilities to ensure successful project outcomes, but it is also important to develop the transferable skills that employers are searching for,” Professor McEwan said. 

“It is a reality that many research higher degree students will need to communicate their ideas and results to people who may not necessarily have expertise in their field, but will still control funding and other decisions. 

“3MT develops the ability of students to communicate the significance and outcomes of a project in a short space of time.”

For more information on 3MT click here.