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The UC San Diego Grad Slam is a graduate student competitive speaking event that showcases graduate student research. Grad Slam participants present their research using three PowerPoint slides in a three-minute “TED-like talk” that can be understood by a general audience. Presenters will compete in successive rounds and receive prizes ranging from $100.00-$5,000.00. The top winner will have the opportunity to compete in the annual UC system-wide Grad Slam competition in Northern California. All travel expenses to participate in the statewide competition will be covered by the Graduate Division.

The goal of this event is to share with the campus community the tremendous quality of the graduate research at UC San Diego and offers an opportunity for graduate students to develop oratorical skill, a dynamic delivery, and compelling content when presenting their academic research. 

See last year's UC San Diego winner, Geoff Hollett receive 3rd place at the UC systemwide event!


"Grad Slam is absolutely one of the greatest experience of my graduate study! The opportunity of public speaking and unique personal coaching really inspires out of box thinking of daily research and helps communicate research to a much broader audience."

- Rongxin Fang, Bioinformatics PhD student, Ludwig Institute Cancer Research

"The University of California’s Grad Slam competition was an invaluable experience for me to hone my public speaking skills. In addition, it required me to spend a great deal of time thinking about how best to present my research in terms for the general public, which has very beneficial to me as a researcher. I learned that this is a very difficult, but necessary, skill to acquire and I think the practice I received in the competition will help me throughout my career."

- Erin Smolak, Language and Communicative Disorders PhD student

"Science communication is a skill often overlooked, but it's critical to be able to translate your years of hard work into something people can get behind and care about. Grad Slam is one of the few opportunities we get as researchers to practice public speaking, and I would strongly encourage any and all graduate students to participate."

- Geoff Hollett, Materials Science PhD student 


How to "Speak Research" and Be Understood

This workshop will highlight techniques to make you successful in the competition.

  • Friday, January 26th, 11am-12pm in Marshall College Room (2nd floor PC West) Presentation
  • Monday, January 29th, 12-1pm in Roosevelt College Room (2nd floor PC West)
  • Wednesday, January 31st, 11am-12pm in Marshall College Room (2nd floor PC West) Presentation

Slide Prep Drop-In Coaching

  • Friday, February 2nd, 1-3pm in Roosevelt College Room (2nd floor PC West)
  • Monday, February 5th, 10am-12pm in Roosevelt College Room (2nd floor PC West)

Preliminary Round Drop-In Coaching 

  • Tuesday, February 6th, 2-4pm in Student Services Center, room 554 (5th floor)
  • Friday, February 9th, 1-3pm in Roosevelt College Room (2nd floor PC West)

Semi-final Round Drop-In Coaching

  • Friday, March 2nd, 1-4pm in Chancellor's Complex, room 111A
  • Monday, March 5th, 9am-12pm in Chancellor's Complex, room 111A

Final Round Drop-In Coaching

  • TBA


Preliminary Rounds

  • Tuesday, February 13th (Eleanor Roosevelt College and Marshall College Rooms) 
    • 1 - 3pm Semi-finalists: Anupam Garg, Noel Brizuela, Abigail Dommer
  • Wednesday, February 14th (Eleanor Roosevelt College and Marshall College Rooms)
    • 10am - 12pm Semi-finalists: Daniel Klein, Daril Brown, Angela Nicholson, Aurora Lagattuta, Jessica Moreton, Andres Gannon, Eileen Moreno
    • 1 - 3pm Semi-finalists: Quynh Nguyen, Ahanjit Bhattacharya, Nicholas Root
  • Thursday, February 15th (Eleanor Roosevelt College and Marshall College Rooms)
    • 10am - 12pm Semi-finalists: Chava Angell, Luke Sanford, Marie Adomako
    • 1 - 3pm Semi-finalists: Timothy Shaw, Niu Du, Gaurav Agrawal, Sara Emami

Semi-Final Rounds

  • Wednesday, March 7th (Chancellor's Complex, Room 111A)
    • 10am - 12pm
    • 1 - 3pm

UCSD Final Round

  • Thursday, April 12th (Student Services Center, Multipurpose Room)
    • 4 - 6pm

UC systemwide Final

  • May 2018 


All Participants

  • Grad SLAM swag


  • $100


  • 1st place - $5,000
  • 2nd place - $3,000
  • 3rd place - $1500
  • Participants - $500

Logistics and Files

  • Guidelines for the UC San Diego competition
  • PowerPoint Template - download
    • PowerPoint presentations are due by Tuesday, February 6, 2018 to sslebioda@ucsd.edu
    • To ensure compatibility, please do not alter the background or filetype (pptx)
  • Judges' ballot form
  • Please show up on time! Any late participants will be disqualified from their round and may request to be rescheduled to a later date, pending availability.

Katy Brecht - Center for Student Involvement

Katy Brecht is a member of the Center for Student Involvement (CSI) Communication and Leadership team!  She brings a wealth of experience in event planning and leadership development from her previous roles on campus. Prior to working at CSI Katy served as Coordinator of Student Activities at Muir College, where she advised 13 Muir College student organizations and coordinated leadership conferences as well as cultural, social and educational programs.  Previously, Katy served as College Outreach Coordinator for Non-Resident Students, where she planned initiatives for international and out-of state students, developed assessment plans and assisted with student leadership trainings.  Katy is an alumnae of UC San Diego with a degree in Cognitive Science and after graduating from UCSD she earned a master’s degree in Postsecondary Administration and Student Affairs from the University of Southern California. 

Tiffany Fox - Qualcomm Institute

Tiffany Fox is a Public Information Representative for the Qualcomm Institute at UC San Diego, as well as an award-winning public speaker. She  helps researchers tell their research stories and has offered research communications training to hundreds of undergraduates and grad students at UC San Diego, across a wide range of disciplines. She also writes a weekly newsletter on research communications, Research Refined. Prior to coming to UC San Diego, Tiffany was a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune for 10 years. She is a freelance journalist and has written for local, national and international publications on a multitude of topics spanning science, engineering, technology and the arts. She is also a certified yoga teacher, served in Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer and is a mother of two.



  • TED Talks: Approximately 3-minute talks on “ideas worth spreading”
  • PhD Comics Two-Minute Thesis: PhD Comics challenged graduate students to explain their work in two minutes – the best have been turned into videos!
  • 3 Minute Thesis Competition Winners: Winning presentations from a multi-university thesis competition in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and the South Pacific

2017 Finals

Videos in order of presentation

  1. Suzanne Rohrback
  2. Melissa Vipperman-cohen
  3. Jonathan Trueblood (2nd place)
  4. Caleb Christianson
  5. Juliane Moreto
  6. Matthew Wills
  7. Rongxin Fang
  8. Gopesh Tilvawala
  9. Erin Smolak (3rd place)
  10. Geoff Hollett (1st place)

2016 Finals

Videos in order of presentation

  1. Lynne Waterhouse
  2. Amay Bandodkar
  3. Jung-Hwan Albert Lim
  4. Mary Glen Fredrick (2nd Place)
  5. Sarah Shires
  6. Lorenzo Rossini (3rd Place)
  7. Nicholas Root
  8. Tiffany Taylor (1st Place)
  9. Catherine Nickels
  10. David Adamowicz

2015 Finals

Videos in order of presentation

  1. Nicholas Root
  2. Rachel Meza
  3. Garfield Kwan
  4. Steven Naleway
  5. Jennie Kuckertz (3rd Place)
  6. Calandra Turner Tomaszewicz
  7. Catherine Nickels
  8. Sophia Georghiou (2nd Place)
  9. Alyssa Finlay
  10. Alex Phan (1st Place)
  11. Andrew Peters

2014 Finals

Videos in order of presentation

  1. Keng Lou James Hung
  2. Catherine Dufour
  3. Paola Marcovecchio
  4. Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld
  5. Sarah Jurick (2nd Place)
  6. Colin Haynes
  7. Benjamin Rubin (3rd Place)
  8. Patrick Metz (1st Place)
  9. Eric Keen
  10. Sophia Georghiou