April 14, 2023

UCalgary 3MT finals in person for the first time since 2019

2023 Three Minute Thesis finals set for April 20 at Hunter Student Commons
President Ed McCauley address the audience at the 2019 3MT finals
President Ed McCauley address the audience at the 2019 3MT finals. Faculty of Graduate Studies

Excitement is growing as the first University of Calgary 3MT (Three Minute Thesis) finals to take place in-person since 2019 are just around the corner. 

3MT is a research communication competition that challenges graduate students to share their research for a lay audience in three minutes with a single, static slide. The competition enhances the communication skills of graduate students and offers a space to learn about others’ research.

With the 2023 finals quickly approaching, the person responsible for introducing the 3MT to UCalgary, Dr. Tara Christie, PhD, joins two 2022 finalists to share their experiences with the competition. UCalgary graduate students view 3MT as more than just a competition, seeing it as a valuable learning experience and a way to connect with peers through research. Being able to attend the finals in-person is exciting for many graduate students, including previous 3MT finalists. 

Sharing and valuing diverse research  

Sandy Rao, a doctoral candidate in social work, focuses her research on accessible youth mental health care through a social justice lens. The value of sharing the results of a research project with a broad audience is typically not discussed during the research process. Yes, Rao feels these skills are essential. 

“I can say things with passion and conviction but if I don’t help people understand the direct impacts, my research is going to be limited and challenged,” says Rao, adding that "the process of going through 3MT helped me to understand that I haven’t made my research as accessible as it needs to be and can be.”  

Farwa Naqvi, a master’s student in community health science, researches mental health issues experienced by youth immigrants in Alberta. Navqi, too, learned how to translate research through 3Mt. Naqvi says this skill is transferable to the way she currently communicates with her research participants.  

Valuing diverse knowledge and research is at the core of 3MT. “Helping graduate students see the value of their research to a wider audience is important,” says Christie, manager of graduate recruitment and student success at the Faculty of Graduate Studies. “Grad students often narrow their focus and don’t recognize that others will also see value in their research.” 

Sandy Rao, PhD candidate in social work and former 3MT finalist

Sandy Rao, PhD candidate in social work and former 3MT finalist

Sandy Rao

Advice to current and future 3MT competitors 

“Get out of your own way. Give yourself the opportunity to shine because everybody does shine through the 3MT process,” says Rao. 

Some students use the strategy of storytelling to avoid academic jargon and engage the audience. 

“In my presentation, I used a personal story to guide my research,” says Naqvi. “I used to be an immigrant youth with mental health concerns. This guided my story more fluidly because now I am doing research with immigrant youth regarding their mental health.” She encourages current and future 3MT competitors to deliver their research verbally through storytelling.  

“While it may be cliché, ‘just do it’,” Rao says to grad students thinking about participating in the 3MT competition. “You have nothing to lose but everything to gain.” 

Farwa Naqvi, masters student in community health science and former 3MT finalist

Farwa Naqvi, masters student in community health science and former 3MT finalist

Farwa Naqvi

3MT is more than a competition  

Christie introduced the UCalgary 3MT a decade ago with the first competition in 2013. “3MT was first introduced as a competition but I have seen more groups of students treat it as an experience, and we have introduced numerous options to support this journey,” she says. 

Both Naqvi and Rao view 3MT as a challenging yet rewarding process. Mastering different gestures, facial expressions and clear language is all part of 3MT. Navigating these learning curves helps grad students feel better prepared for future endeavors — both within and outside of academia.   

Unlike some graduate-level competitions, UCalgary 3MT offers students support through feedback and constructive critiques on research presentations. Naqvi and Rao made genuine connections with others throughout the stages of 3MT. “The opportunity to see others’ research evolve throughout the process and cheer them on was a gift,” says Rao. “These are not just competitors but future colleagues in the professional world.”  

“Building and belonging to a community throughout 3MT also resonates with me,” says Naqvi. 

With ongoing support from 3MT facilitators in the Faculty of Graduate Studies and from fellow competitors, Rao and Naqvi received meaningful feedback and felt part of a community — something many who are part of a pandemic cohort have lacked.  

Competing alongside each other without ever meeting in-person, Naqvi and Rao are well acquainted. Relating with other competitors through research and creating concise presentations, regardless of how different they are, helps grow a sense of community.  

The My GradSkills team, a part of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, supports participants through meetings, workshops and feedback sessions. Naqvi and Rao felt better prepared for the 2022 finals through the ongoing support they received. My GradSkills also encourages other students to watch competitors deliver their talks and learn more about the diverse research available at UCalgary. 

2023 3MT Finals  

The UCalgary community is invited to attend the finals on April 20, 5-7 p.m. at the Hunter Student Commons, 4th floor. Register to attend here. The event, hosted by Chancellor Jon Cornish and former 3MT competitor Chantal Anderson, will also feature President Ed McCauley along with a reception after the competition.

Judges for this year's event include former mayor Naheed Nenshi, CBC Calgary EyeOpener host Loren McGinnis, Beakerhead Festival director Parker Chapple, assistant professor and SSE Teaching Chair in Engineering Education Innovation (Digital Transformation) Dr. Emily Marasco, PhD, and PhD candidate and former 3MT People's Choice winner Chantal Rytz. 

Live music and a cash bar will bring a festive close to this much anticipated return to an in-person event.