Three-Minute Talk competition winner
Dillon Jarrell, first-place winner, presented on developing heart tissue that is not immune-rejected.

What could you explain in three minutes?

November 4, 2019

How does someone in just three minutes unpack topics as complex as socially biased algorithms, developing heart tissue that is not immune-rejected, or Colorado’s wildfire risk, to a group of people with unrelated expertise? On Nov. 1, with poise and composure, CU Denver graduate students demonstrated how that can be done at the second annual Three-Minute Talk competition.

Inge Wefes, PhD, senior associate dean of the Graduate School, led the event, which was open to all graduate students on the CU Denver campus. “You can imagine that this is quite a challenge, presenting on very complex topics in just three minutes,” Wefes said.

The Three-Minute Talk competition originated at the University of Queensland in Australia in 2008. Rumor has it that during a severe drought, showers were restricted to three minutes, Wefes explained. Supposedly a dean of the school then wondered, what else could be done in three minutes? And so the Three-Minute Thesis competition was born. It’s since taken different forms at institutions across the globe. The University of Queensland restricts the participation to PhD students. However the Graduate School wants to invite all graduate students—thus the different name and logo.

In a conference room at the CU Denver Building on 14th Street, nine graduate students took turns explaining topics of their specific disciplines with just one standing slide. In three minutes, presenters shared part of their research and how it relates to real-world problems—recreational drug use, gun restrictions, and teen suicide, to name a few—and how the issues could be addressed.

Alan Kennedy, a graduate student in the School of Public Affairs, gives an impassioned presentation on gun restrictions.
Alan Kennedy, a graduate student in the School of Public Affairs, gives an impassioned presentation on gun restrictions.

Five CU administrators who aren’t directly affiliated with any school or college served as judges, to ensure the voting was neutral and fair. After each presentation, judges voted electronically based on comprehension, content, engagement, and communication.

The first three winners, listed below, received monetary prizes and will participate in the intercampus competition between CU Denver and CU Anschutz in January 2020.

  1. Dillon Jarrell, College of Engineering, Design and Computing. Topic: Autologous heart tissue for the repair of congenital heart defects.
  2. Sam Mills, College of Engineering, Design and Computing. Topic: Using computer models to help prevent concussions.
  3. Beza Taddess, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Topic: Teen suicide.
Dillon Jarrell, first-place winner
Dillon Jarrell, first-place winner

Additional competitors:

The nine competitors who participated in this year's Three-Minute Talk competition.
The nine competitors who participated in this year’s Three-Minute Talk competition.

The Judges:

  • Linda Bowman, interim vice provost and senior vice chancellor
  • Leanna Clark, vice chancellor of University Communications
  • Susan Nagel, director of Finance and Accounting at the Graduate School
  • Patricia Goggans, program administrator and events coordinator for the Graduate School
  • Julie DeWoody, senior director of Philanthropic and Partner Relations at the CU Denver Office of Advancement