Wendy Tokuda (2018 Berkeley Grad Slam judge, former KPIX News Anchor, and speech coach) and Joe Charbonnet (2018 Berkeley Grad Slam Champion, Ph.D. candidate in Environmental Engineering) demonstrate “Man-Sand” in the O’Brien Hall lab at UC Berkeley.

This Thursday sees the 2018 Grad Slam, a UC-wide competitive speaking event designed to showcase graduate student research in three-minute talks pitched to a general audience. Competitors develop skills in communicating their academic research, while making their work visible to academic, media, and private and public sector leaders from across the state.

Entrants compete in preliminary rounds on their UC campus. In April, Berkeley’s 2018 champion was chosen from ten semi-finalists in open competition. This week, first-place winner Joe Charbonnet will vie with graduate student peers from nine other campuses at the UC systemwide championship tournament. The event will be emceed by UC President Janet Napolitano at LinkedIn in San Francisco. Competitors will be judged on their communications chops by a panel of leaders in media, business, and academia.

Berkeley’s Joe Charbonnet is a fifth-year Ph.D. student In Environmental Engineering. His talk, titled “A Stormwater Solution,” explained how sand coated with manganese oxide — “Man-Sand” for short — can remove contaminants from stormwater, to re-use for municipal purposes. “This technology helps cities save their rain for a sunny day,” he notes. He is currently field-testing the use of this sand to replenish California’s underground aquifers.

Joe described his reasons for deciding to enter the Grad Slam competition: “The ability to contextualize and defend your research is a huge part of the research process itself. Knowing the answer to high-level questions — like ‘Why are you studying this? Why is this important?’ — not only makes your research more useful and fundable, it also helps to guide you on your search for truth and benefit to society.”

Wendy Tokuda — a 2018 Berkeley Grad Slam judge, former KPIX News Anchor, and speech coach — volunteered to work with Joe to perfect his three-minute presentation for the systemwide Grad Slam competition.

Tune into the livestream on Thursday, May 3, at 10:30 am. Members of the audience and general public can also vote. Cast your vote for Joe Charbonnet as People’s Choice favorite! Winners will be announced at 1 pm, including the audience choice award and the judges’ picks for first-, second- and third-place.