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Get ready to vote: Grad Slam returns this Friday

This Friday, May 10, UC will hold its fifth annual Grad Slam — a systemwide contest that challenges graduate students from throughout the UC system to explain their research in three jargon-free minutes. UC President Janet Napolitano will emcee the contest, which will be judged by a panel of leaders in industry, media, arts and education.

The event, which begins at 10:30 a.m., will take place at event partner LinkedIn’s downtown San Francisco office. UCOP employees and university friends are encouraged to tune in to the livestream: Watch the event online and vote for your favorite researcher.

Why does UC hold Grad Slam?

This annual contest provides real-world job preparation by encouraging students to better communicate the potential impact of their research, a critical skill for emerging scientists and scholars as they seek to engage the public — and potential employers — in their work. Altogether, several hundred graduate students participate in the contest across the university’s 10 campuses. Many Grad Slam participants receive one-on-one coaching sessions and participate in theater workshops to further hone their skills in communication and public speaking.

What areas of research are covered?

Finalists will present on such diverse topics as blood tests that uncover concussions; mimicking antimicrobial surfaces for potential use on medical devices; how microbes in the Arctic change our understanding of global warming; the ways a Vietnamese battle of ideas influenced global politics, and more.

How does the contest work?

Through local competitions, finalists have already been selected to represent each of the 10 academic campuses. On the day of the contest, they will square off against each other in front of a panel of expert judges — including NBC news anchor Jessica Aguirre, UC Regent and former California Assemblymember John A. Pérez, Chief Scientific Officer for Thermo Fisher Scientific Alan Sachs and Deborah Cullinan, CEO of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

The graduates will be evaluated on how well they engage the audience, how clearly they communicate key concepts and how effectively they focus and present their idea, all in 180 seconds or less. The judges will choose the first, second and third place winners. An audience favorite, chosen by in-person and remote voters, will receive a $1,000 award. Grad Slam awardees compete for $11,000 in prize money in all, provided by Thermo Fisher Scientific.

For more information about Grad Slam, including a list of finalists competing on May 10, visit


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  1. Lena Zentall May 7, 2019 Reply

    This is my favorite UC event of the year. It’s inspiring to see complex ideas boiled down to their essence and communicated so engagingly. Bravo, Graduate Studies!!

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