“Next time you sit down for a big exam or walk into a high-stakes meeting, remind yourself of my study,” Sabrina Comess ’24 told the crowd in Stirn Auditorium on May 1. “That stress you’re feeling could actually be helping you.”

She was describing her senior thesis in neuroscience, which tested how human beings perform under pressure. But the Stirn event itself, Amherst’s annual 3MT: Three-Minute Thesis competition, could be seen as a similar test: With cash prizes at stake, could 11 seniors from 10 different majors each stand on stage and succinctly explain their thesis, engaging a packed house of fellow students, staff, faculty and even the College’s president?    

They could, and they did, earning applause, laughter and (afterward) hugs from their friends. Like many of the subjects in her study, Comess excelled under pressure, tying for the People’s Choice Award—decided by audience vote—with architectural studies major Aniella Mutoni ’24. (According to Susan Daniels, associate in public speaking for the Writing Center, such a tie had never happened before in the six years since she had brought the international competition to Amherst.) 

The first-prize winner, statistics major Dasha Asienga ’24, and runner-up, English major Luke Herzog ’24, were chosen by a panel of judges: Andrew Grant-Thomas, co-founder and co-director of the national nonprofit EmbraceRace; Sharon Sharry, director of the Jones Library in the Town of Amherst; and Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large for Merriam-Webster.

Watch videos of the prizewinning 3MT speeches below. It won’t take long.

3MT Winner: Dasha Asienga ’24

May 1, 2024

Amherst College’s 2024 3MT Winner Dasha Asienga with her speech, “Decoding Bias: Can AI Be Fair?”

3MT Runner-Up Award Winner: Luke Herzog ’24

May 1, 2024

2024 Runner-Up Award Winner Luke Herzog with his speech, “From the Top.”

3MT People’s Choice Award Winner: Sabrina Comess ’24

May 1, 2024

2024 People’s Choice Award Winner Sabrina Comess with her speech, “Sink or Swim: Rethinking Performance Under Pressure.”

3MT People’s Choice Award Winner: Aniella Mutoni ’24

May 1, 2024

People's Choice Award Winner Aniella Mutoni with her speech, “The Power of Co-Designing Your Home.”