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How to Present Your Thesis in Three Minutes or Less: An Interview with 2019 Research Day Winner Niraj Verma


Selecting and working on your Ph.D. dissertation is one thing, but presenting your work to your colleagues and making others aware of your research is another. Communicating about your research, both within your field and outside it, is an essential skill that every graduate student must master. One way students at SMU are able to promote their research and practice this art of communication is through our annual Research Day

Master's and doctoral students are encouraged to participate in the events of Research Day — the poster session and the Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition. To give you a better idea of the preparation that goes into presenting at Research Day and how this event can help prepare graduate students for their future careers, we sat down with the 2019 3MT winner, Niraj Verma, and asked him about his experience. Read on to hear what he had to say. 

If you are in or around the DFW area, consider attending the DFW Regional 3  Minute Thesis Competition on June 1, 11am-12pm to see the competitors in action!


Niraj-VermaTell us about yourself: where are you from? And what do you study?

My name is Niraj Verma and I am from India. As an undergraduate, I studied Polymer Science and Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), in Roorkee, India. However, I have always been interested in animations, which is how I discovered and learned python. I was so interested in programming that I became a software developer. I realized that research is an amazing opportunity, where you are free to choose whatever you want to do. So, I came to SMU where I now study computational chemistry.

How did you prepare for the Three Minute Thesis (3MT)? How did you handle nerves?

The best part of research is the ability and opportunity to communicate and share your achievements with others. I felt participating in the 3MT might help me introduce my research to a broader audience.

How did you decide to narrow your research in order to present the Three Minute Thesis?

My research is focused on multidisciplinary subjects such as computer science, mathematics, and chemistry. However, the broader goal of my research remains the same. When presenting, I only focused on the broad goal of my research and dropped all the important methods and science that was required to reach that goal. Essentially, at the 3MT, I only presented the tip of the iceberg.

What types of advice do you have for a winning presentation?

The first thing that comes to a researchers mind while competing against others is — my research is not good enough. No research is perfect, as every project requires you to address many challenges. But, although your research may not be treating cancer (always fascinating) you still have the opportunity to motivate your audience with what you are presenting. In the end, it’s your personality and ability to clearly explain what your research entails that will help you win the competition.

What’s the benefit of presenting a Three Minute Thesis at Research Day?

There are many benefits. First, it will help you to communicate about your research with any audience. Second, it will help you to better understand your own research and its impact on science and society.

What are your future career plans? How has the Research Day event at SMU helped prepare you for the future?

I plan to continue working in the research field as a scientist. Also, I regularly interact with people from various backgrounds because of the multidisciplinary nature of my research, and 3MT has helped me advertise my research and spread the word about what I am doing.

What has been your favorite part of your Ph.D. program at SMU?

I would say I love doing research and SMU is a great place for computational chemists. We have a supercomputer (ManeFrame II) which is far superior to most in the USA. Also, winning 3MT has been a highlight of my time here at SMU.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Research Day is an excellent opportunity for any researcher (undergrad or graduate) to experience and learn about the high-quality research that is happening at SMU. Also, participating in the competition will help you shape your professional goals.

If you are interested in learning more about the opportunities for graduate research at SMU, or any of our Ph.D. programs, we invite you to reach out to us and request more information. You can also check out our complete guide to getting a doctorate by clicking the resource below. We look forward to hearing from you!

To explore the Ph.D. process from start to finish, check out our digital resource, A Guide to Choosing, Applying for, and Thriving in a Ph.D. Program.

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