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CSU graduate students compete for a scholarship in three minutes or less

Summarizing and presenting an entire research project in three minutes may sound daunting, but for the Colorado State University graduate students competing for scholarship money and a fellowship, it was exactly what they signed up for.

man presents dissertation
Clifton McKee explains his dissertation topic in less than three minutes at the Lory Student Center Monday afternoon. The Vice President for Research program hosted a competition for various graduate students to explain their thesis or dissertation research using only 1 PowerPoint slide in 3 minutes or less. The winner is chosen to be part of the Vice President for Research Fellowship Cohort of 2018-19 and will receive up to $4,000 in scholarship money and support. (Brooke Buchan | Collegian)

The Vice President for Research’s 3-minute challenge took place in the Lory Student Center Monday afternoon.


Ellen Fisher, a faculty member in the office of the Vice President of Research, kicked off the event with a description of the event’s purpose.

“The VPR fellows program started two years ago and arose from a desire by our VPR Alan Rudolph to create a program that would positively impact graduate student researchers at CSU,” Fisher said. “This challenge event provides a venue for students to compete for our VPR fellowships and to gain experience doing something a little out of their comfort zone.”

The winners of the challenge, whose presentations are ranked by a panel of judges, are eligible for up to $4000 in scholarship money and the opportunity to become a cohort of VPR fellows the following year.

“This was great, it’s really hard from a science perspective to really broaden your research,” said Lance Li Puma, a PhD student studying biomedical sciences. “So being able to find what’s necessary, what’s not and practicing performing and getting it down is beneficial.”

The content of the entire presentation was presented in rapid succession and with very little downtime between presenters.

Although the presentation was challenging, Carolina Gutierrez, an international doctoral candidate from Colombia studying Ecology, thought about it in a positive light.

“It’s great and it forces you to think about your research a little more in depth because it makes you think about not only easy-to-understand words, but also about the impact that your research has on people,” Gutierrez said. “I love that, but it’s very challenging. There are only three minutes and it takes a lot of preparation.”

All participants were selected for the opportunity to present at the VPR challenge after being chosen as top performers at the Graduate Student Showcase last fall

“So last year, I participated in the graduate student showcase,” Gutierrez said. “Those people selected have the opportunity to participate in the challenge.”


Li Puma, like Gutierrez, was selected to present at the VPR challenge after the Graduate Student Showcase.

“I just did the graduate student showcase,” Li Puma said. “I did well there and got right up to this one.”


The winners are to be announced at a later date within the month.

Aside from the scholarships, the Vice President for Research, Alan Rudolph, expressed his thoughts on the value of the 3-minute challenge.

“It’s really an opportunity for us together to put a little shine on our graduate students and what they do,” Rudolph said.

Editor’s Note: This article has been update to remove quotes that contained inaccurate information about the VPR challenge.

Collegian reporter Carson Lipe can be reached at or on Twitter @CarsonLipe.

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