Graduate students challenged to present three-minute theses at OSU Materials Week

Matt Souva (right) won top prize for his 3MT presentation at 2017 OSU Materials Week.


How much time would you need to explain your dissertation, from the painstakingly crafted proposal to collected data, findings, and conclusion? According to the University of Queensland, an 80,000-word thesis requires about nine hours to present.


Master’s and doctoral students taking the stage at 2018 OSU Materials Week, however, won’t have a second past the three-minute mark.


On May 8, the Institute for Materials Research (IMR) kicks off its 10th annual OSU Materials Week conference with a Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, founded and registered by UQ in Australia.


No props. No elaborate electronic media assistance. No dumbing it down. Presenters are allowed just one static slide to accompany their three-minute orations.


The 3MT competition is a challenge to effectively communicate a distilled, compelling thesis and its significance to an audience outside their specific scholarly focus. Hundreds of materials-allied researchers from industry and universities across the country and within The Ohio State University are attending this year’s Materials Week event.


Are you up for the challenge?


Alumnus Matt Souva took it on last year, winning first place for his presentation, “High Throughput Block Copolymer Nanoparticle Assembly Methods and Morphologies.”


All he needed was the right angle. One to engage a broad audience with his research, he said. That meant pushing himself outside of his day-to-day grad-student experience of data analysis and dissertation writing.


“I gained a lot of practice distilling my research for a general audience,” Souva said. “That kind of thinking wasn’t an everyday thing for me, and it couldn’t have come at a better time: I was close to finishing my dissertation, and starting my job search. The fall engineering career fair, and subsequent interviews, were great places to use my newest communication skill. My 3MT talk was easy to adapt and use as a baseline explanation of my research. Practicing that kind of general-language approach made something very specific seem manageable to newcomers.”


On the heels of Materials Week, Souva finished his dissertation and earned his Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering. He began working early this year as a test engineer in the Cell Group with the Global Battery Systems Laboratory at General Motors.


IMR is accepting applications to compete in this year’s 3MT through April 20.


Research conducted in any topic relevant to materials-allied research is encouraged. The finals are held Tuesday, May 8 at the Blackwell Inn and Pfahl Conference Center on Tuttle Park Place. Awards are given to a winner, runner-up and “people’s choice.” Depending on the number of competitors, preliminary heats may take place the week prior.


For more information, visit IMR’s 2018 OSU Materials Week page, or contact IMR Senior Technology Integrator Kari Roth at


The Institute for Materials Research is an interdisciplinary institute that works across colleges and departments at The Ohio State University to facilitate, promote and coordinate research and infrastructure related to the science and engineering of materials.


Story by Mike Huson, IMR Public Relations Coordinator


Matt Souva on his 3MT: “I think my 3MT presentation is pretty representative of the core of my research: we want to use functional hydrophobic nanoparticles in interesting biological applications, and polymer self-assembly lets us encapsulate and protect the functional particles in order to deliver them in water-based environments. Then from an engineering side, we’re exploring new techniques for making that polymer assembly/particle encapsulation happen more quickly, and in scalable ways. Making some nanoparticles is interesting, making enough nanoparticles is when this becomes useful.”


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