Joe Grad Slam 2018 VideoOn May 3, Berkeley’s campus champion was awarded top honors at the UC-wide 2018 Grad Slam! 

Environmental Engineering doctoral student Joseph Charbonnet brought home the first place ‘Slammy’ (a systemwide trophy and $6,000, for a total of $9,000 in prize money) for his three-minute talk — “A stormwater solution” — on using manganese-coated sand to capture, clean, and re-use stormwater, with the aim of diminishing storm damage and replenishing depleted aquifers.

Janet Napolitano and Fiona Doyle handing Grad Slam award to Joe Charbonnet.At this high-energy, high-profile tournament — live streamed on YouTube — Berkeley’s representative competed against outstanding graduate student peers from the nine other UC campuses. Every contestant delivered crisp, compelling, illuminating presentations explaining the purpose and value of their research. Students from UCSF, Merced, and Santa Barbara took the second, third, and people’s choice awards.

Hosted by LinkedIn in San Francisco and emceed by UC President Janet Napolitano, the annual event featured judges from business, government, media, academia, and secondary education. Contingents of high school and undergraduate students — aspiring graduate students — were inspired to envision their own research goals.

President Napolitano described the 2018 contestants this way, “The ten graduate students whom you will hear from today are already champions at explaining their research to the public in engaging, dynamic, and understandable ways… they are well on their way to becoming public intellectuals and ambassadors for research. Those are talents that our country needs so much today.”

Earlier this semester, dozens of Berkeley graduate students from diverse fields vied in preliminary rounds of the campus Grad Slam competition.

Charbonnet reflected on the merits of the contest, “I would recommend that every PhD student see if they could explain their research and its value in three minutes or less to an audience that’s savvy yet unfamiliar with your field. This is true whether you’re in STEM or in the humanities, whether you’re interested in entrepreneurship or not.”

Congratulations, Joe Charbonnet!