• Anton Toutov, left, receives his first-place check from Mitch Moulton, a representative from prize sponsor Springer Nature.
    Credit: Caltech
  • Utkarsh Mital, left, receives 15 free lunches from Ernie’s Al Fresco proprietor, Ernie Mercado, who was also a judge in the competition.
    Credit: Caltech

Three-Minute Thesis Competition

Anton Toutov, graduate student in chemistry and chemical engineering and a Dow-Resnick Fellow, won first place—a $5,000 prize—at the Caltech Library's first Three-Minute Thesis competition held April 15 to a packed house in Dabney Lounge.

The contest challenged nine Caltech final-year PhD students to explain the breadth of their research in only three minutes while making it engaging and understandable to a nonspecialist audience. Each of the nine finalists' presentations was voted on by a panel of judges that included Doug Rees, dean of graduate students; George Pigman, professor of English; engineering librarian George Porter; graduate student Jamie Rankin; and special judges Pasadena mayor Terry Tornek; Joan Horvath, co-founder of Nonscriptum LLC; and Ernie Mercado, proprietor of Ernie's Al Fresco.

Toutov spoke about his work developing green chemical manufacturing methods while the second-place winner of $3,000, Utkarsh Mital, a graduate student in applied mechanics, explained his research on soil liquefaction. Mital was also the People's Choice award winner, which was voted for live via text message during the event, and for which he received $1,000 and a gift card to Ernie's.

Three-Minute Thesis is the creation of the University of Queensland in Australia as an exercise that "cultivates students' academic, presentation, and research communication skills." The Caltech event, initiated by special projects librarian Dana Roth, was sponsored by the Friends of the Caltech Libraries and academic publisher Springer Nature, which provided the prize money.

Written by Sharon Kaplan