2024 3MT® Winner Hannah Ericson Shares Her Experience

Hannah Ericson, 2024 3MT Grand Prize winner

Recently, the UGA Graduate School hosted the Three Minute Thesis, a highly engaging international research competition. Better known by the acronym 3MT®, the competition requires contestants to explain their thesis or dissertation topic and its significance in three minutes or less using only a single static presentation slide.

2024 UGA Grand Prize winner Hannah Ericson, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Genetics, shared more about herself, her research, and her experience with 3MT®. Her winning presentation was titled “Catalyzing Change: What Helps Department Heads Be Successful?” Congratulations, Hannah!


What is the focus of your research, and whom does it impact?

Higher education institutions have been pushing for instructors to use more evidence-based teaching practices in their classes, and one way to help with that is through how teaching is evaluated. If teaching evaluations can recognize and reward these practices, then that can motivate instructors to start using them in their classrooms. My research focuses on how teaching evaluation has been changing here at UGA, and what has been influencing these changes. I specifically focus on department heads, who are key players in making changes in their units, and how they’ve been facilitating these changes to teaching evaluation.

My work most specifically impacts department heads and other individuals who are looking to lead change within their units. More broadly, my work has implications for faculty, as how they are being evaluated starts to shift.

Hannah Ericson, 2024 3MT Grand Prize winner, at a conference

Hannah Ericson presenting a poster at a conference, summer 2023 (photo courtesy of Hannah Ericson)


How did preparing for 3MT® help you with your thesis and research?

Preparing for the 3MT competition really helped me take a step back from my work and think about how to present it in a way that is understandable to someone who hasn’t been working on the project for four years like I have. I think it can be easy to start talking about D, E, and F in your research, when someone needs to understand A, B, and C first. Putting together my talk really helped me think about what the fundamental concepts are that someone needs to be familiar with before I can start talking about the nitty-gritty of my project.


What was the competition like for you? How did you feel when you won?

I thought the competition was really fun! I did theater in high school, but it’s been a while since I’ve been up on a stage like that, so it was like a blast from the past. Even down to practicing my talk with my dog serving as the audience! I really appreciated the change to get to talk about my research with a new group of people.

It felt very surreal to win. It took me a few seconds to fully process what had happened. I thought that everyone did an awesome job with their talks, so I fully wasn’t expecting to win!

Hannah Ericson, 2024 3MT winner, presenting


How do you feel that this competition has prepared you for the next step in your career?

I feel like the competition has given me some valuable practice presenting my work in a comprehensible way to a lay audience. I’ve presented at conferences before, but those audiences were at least generally familiar with my field of study. For the competition, I had to assume that the audience had no idea what I was talking about, so I had to figure out how to take them step by step through the story I was trying to tell. This is an important skill when interviewing for jobs, so I appreciated the lower stakes (and fun!) way to get more practice with it.


How have you charted a path to success in graduate school?

The Graduate School has really given me the opportunity to explore my interests. I came in through the Integrated Life Sciences (ILS) program with only vague ideas about what I wanted to study. I was able to rotate through a couple of different labs, and ended up in my current lab, doing research in a field I hadn’t even known existed before! I really appreciate the opportunity to figure out what I was passionate about and what types of research I wanted to do.


Who is someone that has impacted your graduate career? 

My PI, Dr. Tessa Andrews, has been super impactful on my graduate career. She has been extremely supportive and encouraging, both academically and personally, every step along the way. I really appreciate the experience I’ve gained via working in her lab, and truly don’t think I could have ended up with a better mentor!


What is next for you?

I still have roughly a year left before I graduate from my doctoral program. I have a lot of work ahead of me, including pushing out a few papers. After that, I’m planning on going on to a post doc position, although I’m not sure exactly where that will be, or what that will look like.


What would people be surprised to know about you?

I love collecting houseplants! I’m especially partial to unique and interesting succulents. My current favorites are called Mother of Thousands, because they grow little plantlets along the edges of their leaves, which then fall off and start growing new plants. I’ve accumulated something like 50 different plants (and counting!) over the last few years. They’re slowly taking over my apartment!



This year’s 3MT® competition drew over 70 submissions from students in departments across UGA’s campuses. The 3MT® annual contest was open to any currently enrolled UGA master’s or doctoral student. Ten students advanced to the finals after scoring well with a team of judges during the preliminary heats.

Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) is an academic competition developed by The University of Queensland (UQ), Australia. Learn more about 3MT®.


3MT - Three Minute Thesis, founded by the University of Queensland


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