Columbia University Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition

Columbia 3MT logo

The 2024 Columbia University 3MT Competition, co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Coordinated Doctoral Programs in Biomedical Sciences, will be held on March 7, 2024. 


The Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition showcases the research of Columbia’s doctoral student community. Participants are challenged to share their research clearly and effectively with a broad, general audience in just three minutes, using one slide and no notes.

3MT is an entertaining and instructive event that helps doctoral students develop their presentation and communication skills, which are vital for academic conferences and a variety of careers both within and beyond the academy. Through 3MT, participants also have the opportunity to share their work with the broader Columbia community by presenting in front of a diverse audience of students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

Read about the 2023 Columbia 3MT competition and watch videos of the 2023 finalists' presentations.

    2023 3MT Finalists

    2024 Competition Information

    The 2024 Columbia University 3MT competition will be held Thursday, March 7, 2024, from 3:00 to 5:00 pm in Low Memorial Library. The in-person event will be followed by a reception. A Zoom livestream is also available. Get your tickets here.

    • All applicants are invited to participate in a public speaking workshop series and will have the opportunity to receive feedback on their communication skills.
    • Finalists compete for cash prizes of $1,000, $500, and $250 for the first-place, second-place, and third-place winners, respectively. Audience members vote for Audience Choice.

    Application Instructions

    The application to participate in the 2024 Columbia University 3MT has closed. Please check back in November 2024 for the 2025 application. All advanced PhD candidates from across the university may apply. Applicants must submit:

    1. Presentation/project title. This may be the same as your dissertation title, or you could choose a title that appeals to a broader audience.
    2. Concise summary of your dissertation project (no more than 1,500 characters) geared toward a non-specialist audience. Project summaries should avoid jargon and technical language and should be written in a way to engage an audience that is not familiar with your field.

    Please write to Rachel Bernard at [email protected] with any questions.

    Review Process

    1. Completed applications received by the deadline will be reviewed by an internal committee of staff from the sponsoring schools. Applications will be evaluated for clarity of expression and ability to engage an audience that is not familiar with your field or research topic.
    2. Those selected to continue as semifinalists will be invited to complete a brief recorded video interview in January.
    3. Those selected as finalists will be notified in late January. Finalists will attend a preparatory workshop in February and must be able to present in person at the event on March 7.
    4. All applicants, including finalists, will be invited to attend a series of online public speaking workshops in February.


    Applicants must be advanced doctoral students currently enrolled in their first seven years of any Columbia PhD program. Applicants must have passed relevant milestones, such as a qualifying exam, prospectus defense, and/or MPhil conferral. Graduates are not eligible.


    Consult the resources below as you prepare:

    The below rules are adapted from the official University of Queensland 3MT competition:

    • A single static PowerPoint slide is permitted. No slide transitions or animations are allowed. The slide is to be presented from the beginning of the presentation.
    • No additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) are permitted.
    • Presentations are limited to 3 minutes maximum. Presenters will be stopped by the timekeeper after 3 minutes.
    • The decision of the adjudicating panel is final.

    Comprehension and Content

    • Did the presentation provide an understanding of the background and significance of the research question being addressed, while explaining terminology and avoiding jargon?
    • Did the presentation clearly describe the impact and/or results of the research, including conclusions and outcomes?
    • Did the presentation follow a clear and logical sequence?
    • Were the thesis topic, research significance, results/impact, and outcomes communicated in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience?
    • Did the presenter spend adequate time on each element of the presentation? Did the presenter elaborate for too long on one aspect? Was the presentation rushed?

     Engagement and Communication

    • Did the oration make the audience want to know more?
    • Did the presenter convey enthusiasm for the research?
    • Did the presenter capture and maintain the audience’s attention?
    • Did the speaker have sufficient stage presence, eye contact, and vocal range; maintain a steady pace; and have a confident stance?
    • Was the slide clear and did it enhance the presentation?


    • First Prize: Erin Louwagie, Mechanical Engineering
      A patient-specific computational approach to study mechanical causes of preterm birth
    • Second Prize: Cherie Henderson, Communications
      Living While Dying: Terminal-Illness Narratives and the Cultural Construction of the End of Life
    • Audience-Choice Award: Naveed Tavakol, Biomedical Engineering
      Astronaut-on-a-chip: bioengineered human tissues for studying cosmic radiation


    • First Prize: Kinnari Shah, Earth and Environmental Engineering
      Sustainable hypersaline desalination via solvent extraction: fundamental molecular insights from thermodynamic analysis
    • Second Prize: Pedro Javier del Rivero Morfin, Physiology and Cellular Biophysics
      Tuning the heart: modulation of cardiac calcium channels by unconventional subunits
    • Audience-Choice Award: Alejandra Quintos, Statistics
      Using Mathematics to Help Impoverished Women, via Microlending


    • First Prize: Richard Warren, Neurobiology and Behavior
      Machine Learning Reveals Hidden Beauty in Animal Behavior
    • Second Prize: Wei-Li Lee, Chemistry
      Fluorescent Chemicals to Image Serotonin Release
    • Audience-Choice Award: Divya Venkatesh, Biological Sciences
      Identifying New Molecular Pathways that Alter the Antitumorigenic Ability of Ferroptosis


    • First Prize: Sean O’Neil, History
      The Art of Signs: Symbolic Notation and Visual Thinking in Early Modern Europe
    • Second Prize: Bailey Brown, Sociology
      Kinder Panic: School Selection and Parental Uncertainty
    • Audience-Choice Award: Jyotirmoy Mandal, Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics
      Using the Sky to Cool Buildings