Celebrating six years of the VPR Three Minute Challenge

Update: The Feb. 15 event has been canceled due to the University weather closure. The 2021-22 VPR Fellowship cohort will still be announced in early March.

Ellen Fisher at 3-Minute Challenge

Assistant Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Ellen Fisher welcomes graduates students to the 2017 Three Minute Challenge.

With only three minutes on the clock, 35 Colorado State University graduate students will be presenting their research to a panel of six esteemed judges in the sixth annual Three Minute Challenge, hosted by the Office of the Vice President for Research.

The 2021 Three Minute Challenge will be held online via Zoom on Feb. 15 at 1 p.m. Presentations will represent seven colleges and 29 disciplines, including psychology, statistics, anthropology, biology, and more. This event is free and open to the public.

This challenge allows participants to compete for an opportunity to join the 2021-22 VPR Graduate Fellowship cohort. The judges will select roughly a dozen students to become Fellows based on their performance in the challenge. Fellows are eligible for scholarship and travel support and opportunities to participate in professional development workshops, mentorship and engagement opportunities over the following academic year.

The Three Minute Challenge initially began in 2016 after Vice President for Research Alan Rudolph, encouraged Ellen Fisher, assistant vice president for strategic initiatives, to find a new way to engage graduate students. She attended Graduate Student Council meetings where students expressed concerns about funding to participate in professional meetings and conferences.

Present to a wide variety of audiences

In collaboration with the Graduate School, Fisher constructed the idea for the Three Minute Challenge event,  inspired by the international Three-Minute Thesis event from the University of Queensland in Australia. The idea behind the Three-Minute Thesis and the Three Minute Challenge is for graduate students to present their research to a wide variety of audiences with no prior knowledge of their subject in under three minutes.

“The thing I look forward to most is that we scramble the order in which the presentations are given. You truly get to see the diverse range of research that’s going on at CSU,” said Fisher. “The students give such excellent presentations; I always learn so much – it’s truly a unique event.”

Leading up to the competition, Fisher holds a session to help graduate students prepare for their presentations to excite judges and communicate to a wide variety of audiences. Previous winners and presenters gain presentation skills they can use in the future when sharing their research with a general audience.

“I had to sit down and think about how I am going to get somebody who maybe hasn’t taken any science since high school and how am I going to communicate what I do every day and why it’s important,” said Daniel Corbin, VPR Fellow and Ph.D. student in the Department of Chemistry. “The Three Minute Challenge was helpful because I had to think through a communication process and be aware of how to communicate to different audiences.”

After the 2021 Three Minute Challenge, Fisher is stepping into a new role as the Vice President for Research at the University of New Mexico, after 28 years on the faculty of the CSU Department of Chemistry Department.