May 2, 2024

UCalgary’s Three Minute Thesis competition returns for 12th year

Graduate students master the art of concise communication, bridging the gap between academia and the wider community
2024 3MT finalists during the finals event held on April 10, 2024. Milena Marshall, Faculty of Graduate Studies

The power of 3 minutes

In the world of research, where complex ideas and complicated methodologies are the norm, the ability to explain one’s research to a non-specialist audience is a valuable skill. The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, an internationally recognized event, offers graduate students an opportunity to engage in a unique challenge.

The idea of challenging participants to present their thesis research to a general audience in just three minutes using a single, static slide came from the University of Queensland (UQ), Australia in 2008. The concept quickly gained traction, evolving into an international competition by 2010, as universities worldwide embraced this innovative approach to academic presentation.

“The University of Calgary has extremely talented graduate students and this year’s 3MT competition was no exception,” says Dr. Tara Beattie, dean and vice-provost (graduate studies). 

“I’m proud of our students; listening to them showcase their research to the community and seeing the audience’s engagement during the University of Calgary 3MT Finals is incredibly rewarding. Even though not all can be crowned winners, every graduate student that participates in this competition will walk away with an incredible experience that will serve them greatly when communicating their research to the world. Congratulations to all winners and finalists.” 

This year marked the 12th annual UCalgary 3MT competition, a testament to the lasting interest and value of this unique competition. The 3MT is organized each year by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, reflecting its commitment to enhancing the communication skills of graduate students and providing a platform for them to share their research.

Breaking down the walls of complexity

3MT is more than just a competition; it’s a journey of skill development and discovery. It helps graduate students develop the ability to translate their research and its impact, an ability that is becoming increasingly essential in today’s world. This skill is not only beneficial for funding proposals and transitioning into employment, but also for generating interest in, awareness of and support for academic research, both within and outside of the university.

The graduate student researchers participating in the 3MT are leaders in their respective fields. However, without practiced research communication skills, their groundbreaking stories and impact can remain hidden in a maze of technical terms known only to a specialized few. The 3MT competition breaks down the walls of this maze, allowing the general community to appreciate the work and wonder happening in graduate studies.

The road to the finals

This year, over 60 UCalgary graduate students shared their research with peers, judges and the Faculty of Graduate Studies 3MT team during the heats that took place from March 18 to 21, 2024. The top two finishers for each heat advanced to the UCalgary 3MT finals on April 10, 2024, held for the first time at the Last Defence Lounge on main campus. 

The finalists wowed the audience with talks on topics including innovative research on stem cells, surprising results for how business markets function during social media blackouts, how quantum computing can protect our privacy, and ethical considerations around new animal biotechnologies.


Milena Marshall, Faculty of Graduate Studies

Celebrating the finalists and winners

The 2024 UCalgary 3MT finals saw 10 finalists presenting their research to a crowd of over 100 members of the campus and Calgary community. The winners of this year’s competition are:

First place: Darsh Tripathi, master’s student in kinesiology — Does Inherent Aerobic Capacity Protect the Knee Joint from Degeneration?” Tripathi’s research focuses on the link between obesity and strain on weight-bearing joints. Using a rat model, he is testing the hypothesis that high-aerobic-capacity might prevent knee osteoarthritis in rats fed a high-fat, high-sugar diet.

Second place and People’s Choice: Aliza Jaffer, master’s student in medical sciences — Mom & Me: Mental Health in Pregnancy and the Baby Brain. Jaffer’s work studies the impact of maternal mental health on infant brain development. Her research studies brain function in infants whose mothers experienced anxiety and/or depression during pregnancy, and how these brain changes translate to infant behaviour .

Third place tie: Jessica May Corpuz, PhD student in Biomedical Engineering — Proteoglycan 4: The Bio-Lubricant That’s Got Your Back. Corpuz’s research revolves around the role of the bio-lubricant Proteoglycan 4 (Prg4) in intervertebral disc maintenance. She uses mouse models and various lab techniques to explore the interplay of structure, function and molecular pathways to understand how Prg4 functions in intervertebral disc homeostasis.

Third place tie: Moty Moravvej, PhD student at Haskayne School of Business — Are Markets Efficient Without Noise Traders? Moravvej is studying the impact of noise trading on price efficiency. Her research demonstrates that the absence of noise traders reduces the speed at which information is incorporated into prices, leading to reduced liquidity and declining market depth.

Darsh Tripathi will advance to represent UCalgary at the Western Canadian 3MT regionals in Kelowna, B.C. on May 8, 2024.

A special thanks to the hosts and judges

The success of the 2024 UCalgary 3MT finals would not have been possible without the dedicated graduate student hosts and guest judges from the Calgary community. 

The hosts, Jamie Roeske and Abdul Al-Shawwa, are both skilled communicators as they participated in the 2023 3MT finals. Both Roeske and Al-Shawwa are part of the Leaders in Medicine graduate program at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine. Roeske’s MSc research uses MRI to study brain development in children, while Al-Shawwa’s MSc research focuses on predicting spinal cord deterioration.

The judging panel was equally impressive. Kat Kastner, winner of Amazing Race Canada 2023, is a UCalgary alumna passionate about mental health advocacy. Kim Ruse, CEO of FearIsNotLove, has a track record of transforming non-profit organizations. Rahim Sajan, co-founder of TEDxCalgary, is a public teacher and leadership adviser. Deborah Yedlin, CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and UCalgary chancellor emerita, brings her experience in capital markets and post-secondary education.

Each judge brought a wealth of knowledge and experience from their industries, making the event a true celebration of interdisciplinary learning and communication.


Milena Marshall, Faculty of Graduate Studies

Looking ahead

As we look forward to future UCalgary 3MT competitions, we celebrate the power of clear, concise and compelling communication in sharing the wonder of research with the world. The 3MT competition is not just about what happens on the stage; it’s about preparing for what happens next — future conferences, interviews, publications, or simply being able to share one’s work with family, friends and the larger community.

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