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The Three Minute Thesis Contest?

PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2016 2:31 pm
by Dave Jensen
I just saw a site in England that is sponsoring a 3 minute thesis contest at an upcoming conference.

Has anyone ever done this? It's cool -- you take your thesis work, and find a way to describe it in an interesting way in three minutes to a layperson audience. Thats a great experience if you can pull it off.

I'd love to see us do something like that here, with video entries and a panel of judges, First off, let's see if anyone has tried this!


Re: The Three Minute Thesis Contest?

PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2016 2:38 pm
by Dick Woodward
That is actually not very different from the "elevator pitch" contests that are sometimes used as practice for venture capital presentations. Basically, the assumption is that you are in an elevator with a venture capitalist, and you have 30-60 seconds to give the VC a reason to learn more about your company.

Either way, sounds like a great idea.


Re: The Three Minute Thesis Contest?

PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2016 3:40 pm
by Abby
A wise advisor of mine (and Albert Einstein maybe) once said that if you can't explain your project to your grandmother you don't know it well enough yet. Seems like the same idea.

Re: The Three Minute Thesis Contest?

PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2016 3:43 pm
by Chris
They have one of these contests at my institution. Several of the students in our graduate program have participated and the general consensus I get from them is that it's a fun and worthwhile experience. There's also a nice prize for the winners, which helps!

Re: The Three Minute Thesis Contest?

PostPosted: Wed May 11, 2016 5:33 pm
by Dick Woodward

Einstein has been quoted variously as saying "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough" and "If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself"; these quotes are essentially the same thing as what your wise advisor said.

The emphasis in these contests is the ability to reduce your complex concept into the simplest, most important and most understandable items. It is actually a great exercise for newly-minted PhDs getting ready to start interviewing, whether for post-docs or academic jobs. Imagine being asked the question "what was your thesis about" and being able to say something like:

"Our group showed that closed circular or superhelical double-stranded DNA, which is found in plasmids and some viruses, contains regions that chemically behave as though they were single stranded, and that these regions often act as promoters for transcription. This was published in Nature. My contribution was developing the analytical methodology to quantify single-strand-specific chemical reactivity at these sites. During these studies, I re-evaluated the equation relating DNA base content to buoyant density, and demonstrated that many of the early hydrodynamic measurements on these DNA molecules were in error by a mistaken use of a constant for a variable quantity."

Oh wait, that was my thesis. Never mind...

One the other hand, that was many years of research in about 60 seconds, and simplified so that a non-DNA scientist could understand it. It also showed a publication in a prestigious journal, indicated what I did, and opened areas for further discussion. Not such a bad idea for an interviewee. It might take a little longer to explain to a smart six-year-old, but hopefully you will not be interviewing with too many of those!