3 minutes, a charm

Physical Therapy student Michael Schiller won the 3-Minute Thesis competition for his presentation on how lunge exercise techniques influence knee stress.

Contest for graduate students puts their research on a single PowerPoint slide


Graduate students work for months, some even years, on their research or capstone projects. Many write lengthy papers summarizing their results. Three-Minute Thesis is an academic competition that challenges graduate students to distill that work into a three-minute talk, using just a single PowerPoint slide.


During UWL’s Three-Minute Thesis event on March 7, 11 graduate students from nine programs presented on topics from oil spills to teacher burnout. Physical Therapy student Michael Schiller won the event for his presentation on how lunge exercise techniques influence knee stress.


In addition to winning $500, Schiller went on to regional competition April 6 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Schiller advanced to the finals – one of just six to do so, out of 36 participants.


UWL Graduate Studies Director Meredith Thomsen interviewed Schiller the day of the competition to hear his thoughts on the experience.


Meredith Thomsen

Thomsen: What made you decide to participate in the Three-Minute Thesis competition?

Schiller: I was “strongly encouraged” to do so by a professor. It also sounded fun. As physical therapy students we practice explaining our work to a general audience — our patients — so I thought it would be interesting to use those same skills in another context. Plus, I figured the hard part was the research, which I was already done with.


Thomsen: So was making the presentation pretty easy?

Schiller: It was difficult to get it down to three minutes, and still present the project in its entirety!


Thomsen: I think that’s part of the reason you did well, that you told a complete story about your project. I also liked that you talked about how your research will apply to your work as a clinician after you get your degree.

Schiller: Yeah, that was something I thought was important to include. I was thinking about the articles I’m helping to write about my research. In the scientific article, you have to explain how the results apply to clinical practice or it won’t get published.


Thomsen: What was the overall biggest surprise to you, out of your 3MT experience?

Schiller: I was most surprised at how well-received my talk was! It helped me understand that as students, we know a lot about our topics. Being around a bunch of PT students all the time, it is hard to see that. It was also nice to see how enthusiastic the other students were. It was great to meet new people with strong research interests.


See more about the UWL Graduate Studies Program.