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Big Thoughts, Little Theses


Hamilton College hosted its fourth annual Three Minute Thesis Competition (3MT®), a contest open to all seniors in which they are challenged to present their senior project and its significance in three minutes or less. Eighteen seniors participated, representing a number of different majors.

Amy Gaffney, director of the Oral Communication Center, introduced the students, commenting that she was “excited to see that the competition has grown larger this year, which is a very good problem to have because it means the seniors are doing great work and are excited to share that with the audience.” The event is a unique opportunity, as Hamilton College is one of only a handful of undergraduate institutions to offer the competition.  

videos of presentations 

Watch all of the Three Minute Thesis presentations on our YouTube Channel. 

watch All presentations

The competitors covered a diverse series of topics, such as using improvisational theatre to teach complex philosophical theory, and the influence of personal relationships on foreign policy decisions. The unifying thread among the presentations is how they took nuanced approaches to important topics in their respective fields and tackled problems facing modern society.

For example, many seniors had projects addressing environmental issues. One thesis examined alternative food sourcing, like the “Impossible Burger” that looks, cooks, and tastes like meat but is made with plant matter. Another showed how rust, sun, and water can be used to cause a chemical reaction to generate hydrogen gas which can be used to produce energy or fuel cars, a step forward in the search for renewable energy.

All of the seniors accomplished the difficult task of both condensing their thesis down to three minutes and presenting it in such a way that a general audience could understand. “It’s a challenge,” said Gaffney “but I’m always impressed with what people are able to do with the three minutes.”

The summaries are especially impressive given how specialized senior projects can be, from conducting complicated scientific research, analyzing lesser-known historical figures and moments, or delving into aspects of the human psyche. But every participant was able to effectively present their topics, showing the oral communication skills that are one of the foundational elements of a Hamilton education.

First Place

Genevieve Darling
“A Dose of Nature: Mood Benefits of Walking Outdoors in Fall and Winter”

Her presentation made excellent use of audience participation to prove her point, as she began by asking everyone to imagine walking through nature. This visualization connected to her research which found that walking outdoors was beneficial for people’s moods as compared to walking indoors. She also found that season had no effect. Regardless of whether it was fall or winter, participants in her study showed general mood improvements following their walks, which is especially good news for students at snowy Hamilton.

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second Place

Leah Weaver
“The Plastic Problem: Investigating the Extent of Pollution in Lake Erie”

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Third Place

Samantha Donohue
Smoke and Mirrors: Biases in Google versus Instagram Image Results

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People’s Choice Awards

Helena LaPorte-Burns
“Philosophy as a Conversation: A Project that Actively Engages the Public World Through Rigorous Discourse and Creative Performance”

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Emily Granoff
The Worlds of Richard Burton: Examining His Hidden Works”

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