Graduate School

Grad students to compete in 3-Minute Thesis event; special guest to deliver keynote


Clemson’s Three-Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition has been expanded to encompass not just the competition but a nationally known keynote speaker, judges drawn from industry leaders, and a networking reception for participants and guests. This year’s competition returns live to the Watt Center auditorium on November 19, starting at 9:00 a.m. (see schedule below). Organizers encourage students, staff and faculty to attend in person, but there will be a livestream at for those who can’t be there in person. Attendees are welcome to drop in for part of the day if they can’t stay for the entire program.

Talithia Williams
Talithia Williams will deliver the keynote address. See related article.

The event’s inaugural keynote speaker is Dr. Talithia Williams, host of PBS miniseries NOVA Wonders, mathematician, professor, popular TED speaker, author and big data expert. See related article for details. “Dr. Williams is one of the best examples there is of someone using a national and international stage to make science, data and statistics understandable and relevant for nearly everyone, and in an especially engaging way,” says Graduate Student Government Director of Research Initiatives and planning committee chair Nicholas Gregorich.

As for the competition itself, in less time than it takes to walk from the Library to Sikes Hall, each of the 20 finalists (see below) must explain their research and its implications to an audience unfamiliar with their field of work.

Among the topics of the presentations: whether Captain America’s shield (or something like it) could actually exist; evaluating the effectiveness of cancer treatments, how to protect athletes from concussions with a better facemask, COVID-19’s effect on older Americans moving to nursing homes, how entrepreneurs sell their stories, whether gender still affects parental investment in China, detecting ovarian cancer earlier, the persistence of first-generation Black students at historically Black colleges and universities, and many others.

Sponsored at Clemson by Graduate Student Government (GSG), the Graduate School, the Office of the President, the Vice President for Research, the Office of the Provost and the colleges, the competition allows students to develop and hone communication skills they need as professionals but often don’t focus on as part of their usual studies.

The competition’s real challenge – and value – is that the presentations must be understandable and engaging for a general audience. “By learning to communicate clearly about your work,” says Graduate Student Government Director of Research Initiatives Nicholas Gregorich, “you’re better prepared to advocate for yourself and your research to secure funding, the kind of job you want and so on in academia, industry, government, or wherever your career takes you.”

The finalists will polish their presentations via a “3MT Bootcamp” organized by GRAD 360°, the Graduate School’s comprehensive professional development program for graduate students and postdocs. They also participate in one-on-one coaching by faculty communication experts and others.

The winner of this month’s event will receive $1,000 and compete against other universities at the Council of Southern Graduate Schools’ annual conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, next year.

Schedule of events
All events take place in the Watt Center Auditorium unless otherwise noted. This is a live event, so times are approximate and subject to change.

8:45 a.m. Light breakfast provided in the Watt Center atrium
9:00 a.m. Program begins
9:25 a.m. Keynote speech by Dr. Talithia Williams

Session 1, 10:15-11:05

Monica Andrea Gordillo Varela, Chemistry
Vincent Yuxin Qiu, Architecture
Yinlin Dai, Economics
Sam Goodman, Communication
Daniel Stockwell, Literacy, Language, and Culture
Pawanjit Sandhu, Plant and Environmental Sciences
Yasir Mahmood, Mechanical Engineering
Vishal Manjunatha, Food, Nutrition & Packaging Sciences
Siddhartha Sarkar, Materials Science and Engineering
Sunil Pokhrel, Curriculum & Instruction

Session 2, 11:15-12:05

Vigjna Abbaraju, Chemistry
Rebecca Pool, Communication
Maurice Williams Jr, Educational & Organizational Leadership Development
Tessa Gagne, Packaging Science
Sara Krivacek, Management
Paritra Mandal, School of Computing
Sachindra Kiridena, Chemistry
Rose Marie Somers, Food, Nutrition & Packaging Sciences
Jonathan Preedom, Management
Sarah Donaher, Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences

12:35 Awards Ceremony
1:00 Networking reception and lunch in the Watt Center atrium