Melbourne Partnership Inspires New Three-Minute Thesis Competition

Friday, May 3, 2013

By Victoria Greene

PhD student Nicole Spigner, Senior Associate Dean for Graduate Education, Professor Vicki Greene, and PhD student Evan Haglund

Inspired by its partnership with the University of Melbourne, Vanderbilt University held its inaugural Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition on March 22, 2013 at the Student Life Center. More than 60 master’s and Ph.D. students in the Graduate School presented at the competition, which was organized by the Graduate Student Council with help from a dedicated crew of faculty and staff members. The challenge of the 3MT is for graduate students to pitch their dissertation topics to a general audience and a panel of judges; participants have exactly three minutes to explain what is novel, compelling, and exciting about their research using only a single static slide for illustration. The goal of the competition, originally developed by the University of Queensland, is to prepare the students to communicate the significance of their work clearly and concisely, an accomplishment that will serve them well during job interviews as well as casual conversations.

The Vanderbilt 3MT had its origin in an invitation that Professor Dick Strugnell, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Melbourne School of Graduate Research, issued to Professor Victoria Greene, Senior Associate Dean for graduate education for Vanderbilt’s College of Arts and Science. Professor Greene spent a few weeks in Melbourne in 2012, shadowing Professor Strugnell and learning about several excellent programs at Melbourne designed to enhance the professional development of graduate students. While at Melbourne, Professor Greene was a judge for the finals for the Melbourne 3MT ( and was determined to bring the competition to Vanderbilt. Joseph Rustick and Sushil Khadka, president and vice president of academic affairs of the Graduate Student Council enthusiastically proposed to hold the Vanderbilt 3MT competition during the annual Graduate Student Research Symposium. The Writing Studio offered workshops to help the students prepare for the competition.

The Vanderbilt 3MT was very well-attended, the competition was fierce, and the event underscored the high level of research being done by students of the Graduate School. Ultimately, two students tied for first place: Elizabeth Dong Nguyen (Chemical and Physical Biology) with “Progress Toward Unlocking the Treatment for Cognitive Impairment” and John Baunach (Physics and Astronomy), “Radiation in Deep Space: Can we go to Mars Without Getting Cancer?” The People’s Choice Award went to Rachel Lippert for her presentation “A Sweet Mystery: Understanding How Your Brain Controls Your Desire for Sugar.” Plans are already underway for the 2014 Vanderbilt 3MT competition.


One Comment on “Melbourne Partnership Inspires New Three-Minute Thesis Competition”

The 3MT is intriguing, Will you publish the winners in the Alumni Magazine?

Louis Todd on May 30th, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Leave a Reply

Back Home   

About the Vanderbilt-Melbourne Partnership

In September 2007 Vanderbilt University (USA) and The University of Melbourne (Australia) committed to building a new kind of strategic international partnership. Their shared vision was founded on a striking synchronicity in research strengths and aspirations of both institutions, as well as a profound dedication to teaching at all levels. For more information about the partnership, contact the joint website at