Two Yale doctoral students were named first prize recipients in the 2022 3-Minute Thesis Competition, or 3MT, sponsored by the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the McDougal Graduate Student Center.

The 3-Minute Thesis Competition challenges doctoral students to develop a presentation and convey a thesis in a live, three-minute presentation. On April 14, 11 finalists competed before a panel of judges: Lynn Cooley, dean of the Yale Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; Max Golts, a chief investment officer of 4x4invest; Andrea Levitt, professor emerita of French and linguistics at Wellesley College and Jenny Rooke, managing director of Genoa Ventures and Advisor to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This year, Kimmy Cushman GRD ’23 and Diondra Dilworth GRD ’24 tied for first place and received the People’s Choice Award from votes cast by the audience, each winning a cash prize of $1,000. 

“I enjoy hearing our students convey the breadth of research we do at Yale and their passion for their respective disciplines,” Cooley said. “When I hear them, I know that we are preparing them well for careers within and outside academia. It is thrilling to imagine where their training could take them and what they might bring to the world.”

Cushman’s presentation, titled “Dark Matter: The Mysteries of Mass,” stemmed from her work as a particle physicist studying the role of mass in the universe, particularly in the context of dark matter. Theories such as the standard model of particle physics apply to atoms, which account for only 15 percent of the universe’s mass. Cushman is studying a hypothetical model that could apply to the part of the universe that remains unknown in dark matter, simulating her theory with supercomputers to make predictions and compare astronomical observations.

Cushman viewed the competition as not only a way to continue her involvement within the Yale community, but also as a chance to test her communication skills.

“I really enjoyed pushing myself to explain my research clearly and concisely for a lay audience, and then convey that in a video and live presentation,” Cushman said. “It was awesome to learn about the research the other competitors are working on, as well as to see all of the work they put into their presentations.”

Dilworth’s presentation, titled “The Ribosome: Modifiable Machine – A Chemist’s Approach,” was centered around her work at the Yale NSF Center for Genetically Encoded Materials, or C-GEM, which explores the functions of the ribosome by developing new types of ribosomal inputs to produce new outputs. In addition to the NSF Center, she is also involved with Yale Open Labs’ Exploring Science initiative, an outreach program for students in New Haven and its surrounding areas. 

Dilworth was drawn to 3MT because of her career aspirations. She aims to combine her chemistry studies with her work in intellectual property law and saw the competition as an opportunity to improve her communication skills.

“I enjoyed the iterative preparation of my presentation the most,” Dilworth said. “I love my work, and being able to create a digestible presentation, in just three minutes, was a difficult, but highly-rewarding challenge.”

The Yale 3MT competition was inspired by the 3MT program created at the University of Queensland in 2008.

Elizabeth Watson currently serves as a Science & Technology Editor for the News. She previously covered breakthrough research as a staff writer and illustrates for various sections. Elizabeth is a sophomore in Pauli Murray College planning to major in science and the humanities.