Susan Cheng won Audience Choice at the Three Minute Thesis competition (3MT®), where Ph.D. students competed to deliver the best research presentation in a mere three minutes (and using one slide). Cheng tied for second place in the voting by the judges.

“It was harder than I thought it was going to be,” Cheng said. “Overall it was a valuable experience finding a way to explain the theoretical framework and methods of my dissertation in a way that could resonate with people outside of academia.” Cheng's title is "How clouds influence forest photosynthesis" and her advisor is Professor Knute Nadelhoffer. 

An interesting and diverse array of judges hailed from the U-M and Ann Arbor communities: a Rackham assistant dean; English Language Institute emeritus faculty; a Knight Wallace Fellow and NPR correspondent; a CEO of a local technology company; a director from Student Life; a coordinator in the Engineering Career Resource Center; staff from the Rackham Graduate Student Success office; a representative from University Development and an A2 Civic Theatre director.

The competition was a pilot program for U-M and part of a research communication training process and competition, cosponsored by the English Language Institute and Rackham Graduate School. 3MT® is a research communication competition developed by The University of Queensland to challenge research higher degree students to present a compelling oration on their thesis and its significance in three minutes in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience. U-M plans to continue holding the 3MT®.

“The students who competed in the finals were very polished and quite competitive,” said Janet Weiss, dean and vice provost for academic affairs, Rackham Graduate School. “To have achieved second place speaks highly of Susan’s ability to convey her scholarship in a compelling and engaging way.”

Cheng won $250 for placing second and another $250 in conference travel money for winning Audience Choice as well as books on academic writing from the University of Michigan Press.  

The competition was open to all Rackham graduate students. Participants received a one-on-one session with members of ELI who videotaped the presentations and gave feedback about delivery and language. The final competition took place Tuesday, November 12, 2013.

Watch for a video clip of Cheng’s presentation coming soon.

Original 3MT®