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Sen. Jackson to Judge UCSB Grad Slam Finals; Public Invited to Talk Competition

UCSB Grand Slam
The winners of UCSB Grad Slam Round 5, who will go on to the semifinals, are Leah Kuritzky of Materials, left, and Audrey Harkness of Counseling, Clinical and School Psychology. (Patricia Marroquin photo)

By Patricia Marroquin for the UCSB Graduate Division |

California state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson will be among the judges for the UC Santa Barbara Graduate Division’s Grad Slam Finals on Friday afternoon at Corwin Pavilion, it was confirmed Monday. The public is invited to attend.

The Grad Slam is part of the second annual Graduate Student Showcase, a two-week series of events that celebrates UC Santa Barbara’s exceptional graduate students. The events range from performances, presentations and poster sessions to tours, exhibitions and open houses — all of which highlight the work of the university’s graduate students.

The showcase’s signature event is the national award-winning Grad Slam, a campus-wide competition for the best three-minute talk about research or other big ideas by a graduate student.

With the advent of TedX, the three-minute talk is rapidly catching on as an ideal format for the communication of graduate research to a general audience. Longer than an elevator talk but shorter than a conference presentation, in three minutes students must encapsulate the central points of their research and convey them in a clear, direct and interesting manner.

Students gain experience constructing a tight professional presentation and delivering it with confidence. They also have the opportunity to practice sharing their ideas with a wider audience, an important professional skill for communicating with employers, granting agencies, investors, CEOs, reporters, policymakers and others.

In its inaugural year last year, the UCSB Grad Slam was honored with the 2013 Western Association of Graduate Schools and Educational Testing Service Award for Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Education. This year, UC San Diego adopted UCSB’s idea, initiating its own Grad Slam competition.

UCSB Grand Slam
Grad Slam Round 6 competitors share a laugh while answering questions from the audience as the judges deliberated. (Patricia Marroquin photo)

Nearly 70 grad students competed in 10 preliminary Grad Slam rounds held last week at UC Santa Barbara. The student presenters came from nearly 40 disciplines across the campus, ranging from Music to Materials; Physics to Film and Media Studies; Communication to Computer Science; and Sociology to Spanish and Portuguese. The talks were entertaining, informative, enlightening, and impressive. Some of the more amusing titles: "Let Them Eat Ketchup" (History); "Kidney Punch" (Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology); "How Pizza Explains Yoga" (Religious Studies); "I Have the Foggiest Idea" (Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology); and "What Makes Grumpy Cat More Popular Than the Higgs Boson?" (Dynamical Neuroscience).

After two semifinal rounds this week, 10 students will advance to the finals on Friday.

“The Grad Slam final round is the cream of the crop,” UCSB Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti said, “a window into the groundbreaking research of our very best students, presented in a fun, accessible and exciting way.”

The Grad Slam grand prize winner will receive a $2,500 research award, and two runners-up will each receive $1,000.

In addition to Sen. Jackson, who represents state Senate District 19 (Santa Barbara County and a portion of Ventura County), other judges for the finals will be Denise Stephens, university librarian; Michael Witherell, vice chancellor for research; Sarah Cline, professor emerita of history; John Wiemann, professor emeritus of communication; and Gene Lucas, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering and former executive vice chancellor.

The public is invited to attend both the two semifinal Grad Slam rounds and the Grad Slam finals. The semifinals will be from 4 to 5 p.m. Tuesday, April 15 in the Student Resource Building Multipurpose Room and from 11 a.m. to noon Wednesday, April 16 in Engineering Science Building 1001.

The Grad Slam finals will be held on Friday, April 18 in Corwin Pavilion, and will be followed by the Graduate Student Showcase Reception in Friendship Court outside the pavilion.

A complete schedule of events is posted on the Graduate Post’s Graduate Student Showcase page. Read recaps of the preliminary rounds on the GradPost. For more information, contact Robert Hamm, coordinator of graduate student professional development, at 805.893.2671 or robert.hamm@graddiv.ucsb.edu.

— Patricia Marroquin is the communications director for the UCSB Graduate Division and writes for The Graduate Post.




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