Civil Engineering Graduate Students Turn Up the Heat, Advancing in the 3MT @UBC Competition

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Graduate students from the Department of Civil Engineering competed in a 3MT @UBC heat on Friday, February 9th, putting their communication skills to the test. Started by the University of Queensland, the 3MT, or Three Minute Thesis, is a way for students to practice presenting their research in a concise but effective manner to an audience unfamiliar with their field.

Participants get a chance to hone their speaking skills, and are allowed only a single, static power point slide. No other media or props are allowed, and points are revoked for going over the titular three minute mark. A panel of guest judges select the first and second place winners, and the audience votes for a “People’s Choice” title.

The competition began in Australia in 2008, and UBC has been holding 3MT events spanning all disciplines since 2011. Each participating department in the university holds a “heat”, and the winners go on to compete in the campus-wide semi-final, before continuing on to the finals. Graduate students from Civil Engineering had two opportunities to enter the competition – either in their departmental event, or in the heat for the Faculty of Applied Sciences, held on Friday, February 16th for students who could otherwise not compete in their departmental heats. Winners from both events will go on to the UBC semi-final.

This year’s Civil Engineering heat was organized by the Civil Engineering Graduate Student Society. CEGSS President Rajat Jain spoke about the positive organizing experience, which began in December with support from the Civil Engineering Department and the cross-campus 3MT team. He mentioned that the greatest difficulty was reaching students who were at the right stage of their graduate studies to compete in the heat. Competitors must be enrolled in research-based courses and have honed their thesis to a cohesive stage. This year, seven competitors stepped up to the challenge, and there is room for even more in next year’s event. The benefits to students who participate in 3MT include the opportunity to showcase their research, win cash prizes, and practice the communication skills that will benefit their future work, all for a very minimal time investment.

The first place winner for the Civil Engineering event was Mohamed Essa, a Transportation Engineering PhD candidate, while James Roberts, a MASc student in Environmental Engineering, claimed the second prize. Geotechnical Engineering MASc student, James Adinata won the People’s Choice Award. Essa and Roberts will advance in the campus-wide competition.

At the UBC semi-final on March 13 (1:00-4:30 pm at the Thea Koerner House), the first place winner will receive a $250 prize, while a $150 prize goes to second place. The final is even higher stakes, as the second place finalist wins $500 and the student who wins first place takes home $1000 and a trip to Regina to compete in the Western Canadian regional 3MT competition.

You can watch the 3MT @UBC Final on March 15, from 12:30-2:30 pm at Jack Poole Hall in the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre (6163 University Boulevard) by visiting the “Schedule” page at to register as an audience member.

UBC holds a 3MT competition every February. Graduate students can participate by getting in touch with the Civil Engineering Graduate Student Society by visiting their webpage in January 2019.