3 Minute Thesis: A PhD Elevator Pitch
Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is a science communication challenge founded by The University of Queensland (my home university). But don’t let the short time limit of the challenge fool you, it’s deceptively hard to distil a 3+ year long PhD into a 3 minute elevator pitch!
I decided to enter my institute’s 3MT competition this year. So I wrote the first draft of a script and was pretty happy with myself… Until I read it back aloud and realised it was 6 minutes long! Not to mention too detailed & scientifically minded.
The challenge of sharing your research to a general audience in as little as 3 minutes requires more than just clearly explaining your science. You have to get creative to transform your PhD thesis into a 3 minute work of art!
An 80,000 word PhD thesis would take 9 hours to present. Their time limit… 3 minutes
– The University of Queensland
Your question should be: How can I engage everyone in the audience with my topic and leave them with a greater understanding of my research field, without becoming bogged down in details and jargon?
In the end, it took me 8 draft revisions to get to a script that I was happy with (and also under the 3 minute limit!). The most vital part of this process involved continually reshaping and refining the structure of the script – especially when it came to the Hook of the presentation.
Note: And now – after watching 3MT videos from the finalists of other institutes around UQ – I see how I can still greatly improve my hook & my whole presentation in general: It involves creating a central storyline or metaphor for your presentation to work around!
Sustainability. It has become the defining challenge of our lifetime. Our reliance on finite resources is a roadblock in our future towards sustainable energy, chemicals & materials. We need sustainable resources to create sustainable solutions…
Okay so I don’t know if you noticed this, but I just bombarded you with the sustainability buzzword 4 times in the last 20 seconds!
To visualise how the script evolved throughout the revision process, I’ve colour-coded the different sections (or scientific components) within the script. I’ve also added small discussions around the difference between each revision and the theory behind these changes.
I hope you find this helpful, and I’m happy to help anyone with script writing for 3MT or other similar science communication presentations!
3 Minute Thesis Script (V1 → V4)
From Version 1 to Version 4:
Changed the title to something more descriptive
Changed the hook to try to make people think about what sustainability means
Added more context around what plant fibres are
Tried to link together nanofibre section with sustainability
Streamlined evolutionary framework explanation
Cut down a lot of words!
3 Minute Thesis Script (V4 → V8)
From Version 4 to Version 8:
Changed the title to reflect the hook at the start
Altered the hook to highlight the fact that there are so many discussions around sustainability, but that we should start and reflect upon what sustainability actually means
Added rhetorical questions around sustainability solutions (plants) to create a more engaging presentation
Completely removed section about nanofibers and decided against any mention of ‘nano’ to avoid adding too many scientific elements and confusing the audience
Created more aura around the introduction of sorghum (“in the green corner”)
Significantly streamlined the quality control model section & removed any mention of ‘evolutionary framework’ to avoid confusion.
3MT Video – 1st Version
AIBN Institute Winning Video
3MT Video – Final Version
Finalist in The University of Queensland Institutes 3MT competition