Published: Feb. 9, 2024

Ten students participated in this year’s final competition for a chance at prize money and a chance to represent CU Boulder at the regional competition.

Environmental advertising, the mental health toll of being a drone pilot, and accessible robot building were a few of the topics presented during the seventh annual Three Minute Thesis Competition on Feb. 7, 2024.

This event challenges graduate students to craft a three-minute elevator pitch for their complex—and sometimes difficult to make sense of—research in a way that even an everyday person could understand.

This year, the ten competitors did just that to a packed Glenn Miller Ballroom and a panel of judges, which included Nobel Laureate Eric Cornell. The judges then evaluated the competitors on comprehension, content, engagement and communication.

“The Three Minute Thesis competition is one of my favorite Graduate School events for many reasons, and this year was no exception,” said Scott Adler, dean of the Graduate School. “It is of vital importance that the public understand the valuable work that graduate students are doing every day, and how it can impact them in lasting and positive ways, and this event does just that. Every year I am amazed and inspired by the incredible research that our students are doing, it makes me very proud to be dean of the Graduate School.”

The 2024 winners are:

First Place

Zach Schiffman, chemistry, The Urea Molecule: From Fertilizer… to Climate Change?

Second Place

Spencer Zeigler, geological sciences, The Missing Pages of Earth History

People’s Choice

Aaquib Tabrez, computer science, Building Trust & Reliance in Human-Machine Teams via Transparent Algorithms

Schiffman will receive $1500 in prize money and will represent CU Boulder at the Western Association of Graduate Schools competition. Zeigler and Tabrez will receive $750 and $500 in research funds, respectively.

Judges for this year’s event were College of Arts and Sciences Dean Glen Krutz, College of Engineering and Applied Sciences Associate Dean Charles Musgraves, Professor of Sociology Lori Hunter, and Nobel Laureate Eric Cornell. Bud Coleman, Roe Green endowed chair in theatre, was the event’s emcee.

More information about the 2025 Three Minute Thesis Competition will be available on the Three Minute Thesis competition web page this fall.

At the top of the page: First place winner Zach Schiffman giving his presentation. Photo by Patrick Campbell/University of Colorado Boulder.