UCSB’s reigning Grad Slam champion, Daniel Hieber, presents his talk at the UC-wide Grad Slam competition in 2015. Hieber won second place. (Robert Durell / UCOP photo)

With 30 disciplines, nearly 100 contestants, and only 3 minutes to talk on topics ranging from robots to raccoons, the Grad Slam, UC Santa Barbara Graduate Division’s national award-winning 3-minute talk competition for graduate students, will be marking its fourth year April 4-15, 2016.

A record 86 graduate students will be participating in the campus-wide competition for the best short presentation about their research. The participants are judged on such factors as clear and compelling presentation, intellectual significance and the ability to gear the talk to a general audience.

The ten preliminary rounds, three semifinal rounds and one final round to select a Grand Prize winner are all open to the public.

Panels of judges, including local officials, will determine the winners of these rounds, with the exception of one category in the preliminary rounds, the People’s Choice Award, determined by audience votes.

“It’s exciting to know that this coming year’s Grad Slam is almost upon us,” said Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti. “It is the best opportunity for the campus and general public to see the remarkable range and exceptional quality of the research being done by the graduate student community at UC Santa Barbara. These are discoveries from across the academic spectrum, and seeing the talks is a great way for the audience to be exposed to a wide range of new ideas and to reconnect with their liberal arts education. Last year, UC Santa Barbara’s Grand Prize winner took second place at the UC-wide competition. This year, we’re aiming for first!”

Prize money and number of sponsors for the UCSB competition are also at record levels this year. A total of $20,500 in prize money is pledged by the following generous sponsors: QAD Inc., FLIR Systems Inc., Yardi Systems Inc., Corning Inc., Bank of the West, HRL Laboratories, LLC and Northrop Grumman Corp.

Prizes range from $50 gift cards for preliminary-round winners to $5,000 for the Grand Prize winner. For the second time in two years, UC Santa Barbara’s Grand Prize Champion will advance to a UC-wide competition, to be held this year at LinkedIn offices in San Francisco Friday, April 22.

At the event, hosted by UC President Janet Napolitano, UCSB’s representative will go up against winners from the nine other UC campuses. The event will be live-streamed online.

Here at UCSB, the intriguing and thought-provoking talk titles — such as “The Notorious BMI,” “Where’re the Wolves?” “How Zika Has Saved Brazil,” “Dracula’s Private Collection,” “Fun Facts About Wild Pigs and Why We Should Care About Them,” “Hacked by a Robot,” “Worms in Raccoons: Worms in You?” and “So Trashy” — prove there should be something to pique anyone’s interests.

UCSB’s inaugural competition in 2013 earned the national Award for Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Education from the Western Association of Graduate Schools (WAGS) and the Educational Testing Service (ETS).

The UCSB Graduate Division’s annual Grad Slam is the centerpiece of its Graduate Student Showcase, which includes events held each spring that are designed to bring UC Santa Barbara’s remarkable graduate students out of their labs, classrooms and studios to give them a spotlight and to celebrate their accomplishments.

For more information about the Grad Slam, including the competition schedule, visit the GradPost’s Grad Slam 2016 page. You may also read “Back and better than ever! The 2016 Grad Slam and Graduate Student Showcase” or contact Robert Hamm, the Graduate Division’s director 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.