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‘3 Minute Thesis’ Challenges Idaho Students To Make Academic Research Relatable

Madison Park
Boise State University
Rachel Phinney presents her 3MT at Boise State University. She won first place and will compete against the other winners from Idaho on Wednesday.

Graduate students spend years researching and writing about one single topic. They leave university with knowledge and information many people will never understand. And that’s a problem — a problem an unusual competition seeks to solve.

Three Minute Thesis, or 3MT, started in Australia in 2008. 3MT is now an international competition that challenges graduate students to present their lengthy, jargon-filled theses to a non-expert audience in less than three minutes. 

"Research doesn't have meaning if you're unable to communicate that to the general public." - Rachel Phinney, Boise State grad student

Rachel Phinney and Marie Schwaner are graduate students at Boise State University and the University of Idaho respectively. They each won the 3MT competition at their universities last week. They joined Idaho Matters to talk more about their approach to preparing a presentation like this, and the importance of doing so for others and their careers. 

To Phinney, the need for learning this skill in communication is obvious. “The 3 Minute Thesis is a great way to practice that skill that will be so useful as we continue our careers,” she said.

Schwaner says the fun of it doesn't just come from the competition. She says she learns from other students on stage.
“It’s not only the general audience that we need to be clear to,” Schwaner said. “The fact that I study biomechanics and animals makes me knowing way less about other topics. So even if another science from another field comes with all the jargon, I know [as little] as the general audience.” 
On Tuesday Feb. 19, the 3MT finalists from all three of Idaho’s research institutions — University of Idaho, Idaho State University and Boise State University — will compete in the 2020 Idaho 3MT competition here in Boise.


Have a question or comment for the show? Tweet @KBSX915 using #IdahoMatters

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Molly Wampler is a newsroom intern at Boise State Public Radio. Originally from Berkeley, California, she just graduated from the University of Puget Sound in Washington state. There, Molly worked for her university's newspaper but is stoked to try her hand at and learn all there is to learn about radio journalism.