On April 3, Berkeley’s fifth annual Grad Slam showcased graduate student research from across campus, in the form of compelling three-minute talks. Sibley Auditorium, in the Bechtel Engineering Center, was packed with over 200 audience members who came to view the competition. The ten campus semi-finalists competed for cash prizes and a “People’s Choice” award, as well as the honor of representing Berkeley in the systemwide competition on May 10th.
This year’s semifinalists included Master’s and Ph.D. students from Chemistry, Ethnomusicology, Scandinavian/Anthropology, Education, Development Practice, Energy and Resources, Public Health, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, and Physics. These students spent nearly two months perfecting their presentations leading up to the campus-wide competition.
Fiona Doyle, Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate Division, emceed the Grad Slam proceedings. Joseph Charbonnet, UC Berkeley’s 2018 first-place winner and winner of the 2018 UC-wide Grad Slam, returned to give opening remarks before the presentations. Charbonnet — who is now a Science and Policy Associate at the Green Science Policy Institute — exhorted graduate students to get out and communicate their research. He emphasized the importance of communicating with the public not just about research in STEM, but also about research in the humanities and social sciences.
After Joe’s keynote, the talks began. A panel of three distinguished judges — Björn Hartmann, Faculty Director of the Jacobs institute for Design Innovation and Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences; Lawrence Johnson, Chair of the Graduate Division’s Executive Advisory Committee; and Wendy Tokuda, speech coach and former KPIX news anchor — scored each talk in the categories of intellectual significance, appropriateness, clarity, organization, engagement, delivery, and visuals. Audience members also cast their votes for a “People’s Choice” winner.
And the Winners Are…
When the votes were in, first place went to Nancy Freitas, a first year master’s student in the Energy and Resources Group from Tucson, Arizona. Freitas impressed the audience and judges alike with her talk, “Microbes in the Arctic,” which described how climate change is activating billions of microbial organisms that lay dormant in Arctic permafrost, changing our understanding of global warming and its effects.
Second-place winner Yifan Li, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in Chemistry from Rockville, Maryland, delivered a talk called “The Fast Track Through Photosynthesis.” As runner-up, Li will be ready to represent Berkeley at the systemwide competition if Freitas becomes unable to participate.
QinQin Yu, a third-year Physics Ph.D. student from Columbia, Missouri, took the People’s Choice Award for her talk on “Predicting Unpredictability in Evolution.”
The three finalists took home prizes of $3,000, $1,000, and $750 respectively. $100 prizes were awarded to seven semifinalists: Richard Barnes, Energy and Resources/Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences; Laura Fouquette, Public Health; Jessica Heiges, Development Practice; Sara Ann Knutson, Scandinavian/Anthropology; Michael Nance, Ethnomusicology; Chandan Singh, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences; and Pierre-Valery Njenji Tchetgen, Education.
Did you miss Grad Slam but still want to check out the presentations? See the video from the Berkeley Grad Slam event.
Stay tuned for the UC system-wide competition on May 10th — watch the livestream to cheer for Nancy as she defends Berkeley’s championship title!