About Grad Slam

Grad Slam is a UC-sponsored competition designed to showcase graduate student research for a general audience in three-minute talks. Think mini-Ted Talks. Entrants compete in preliminary rounds on their UC campus, with prizes awarded at each stage of the selection process. 

We encourage anyone from the entire Berkeley community to attend this exciting virtual event celebrating graduate student research. The winner from this event will compete in the UC-wide competition in early May.

Watch the 2022 Berkeley Grad Slam

Why Should I Enter Grad Slam?

Professional Development: Grad Slam is a unique opportunity for graduate students to practice pitching original research to general audiences. Participants have the opportunity to attend workshops and receive group and one-on-one coaching to develop oratorical skills, dynamic deliveries, and compelling content when presenting their academic research. 

Networking: Through Grad Slam, participants will meet and engage with a diverse body of UC Berkeley staff, faculty, graduate students, and valued associates (donors, alumni, media, politicians, community members, and more). 

Impact: Participants have the opportunity to make the importance and relevance of their research visible to a non-specialist audience. 

Prizes: All campus semi-finalists receive at least $300, with the first-place, second-place, and People’s Choice winners taking home $3,000, $1000, and $750 respectively. The campus first-place winner advances to the UC-wide event and the possibility of even more cash prizes.

How to enter the Berkeley Grad Slam

To enter Grad Slam, students must submit a video of their three-minute talk to GradPro. From those submissions, up to 10 semi-finalists will be chosen to compete in the campuswide virtual competition.

Full instructions on how to enter can be found on, How Does the Competition Work?

The campuswide competition will take place on:

Monday, April 11, 2022
3:00 to 5:00 p.m. via Zoom
Attend the 2022 Berkeley Grad Slam

UC-Wide Grad Slam Championship

In early May, Berkeley’s champion will compete against graduate student peers at the UC-wide championship competition. Competitors will be judged by notable leaders in industry, government, and media.

The top three presentations will receive cash prizes with first place recognized as the winner of the prestigious UCOP Grad Slam “Slammy” award.

Learn from Previous Berkeley Finalists

Justin Lee headshot

2022 Berkeley winner, Justin Lee

Justin Lee’s presentation on Jamming the SARS-CoV-2 Copy Machine, won him the UC Berkeley Grad Slam first place prize. As the Campus Grad Slam Champion, Justin Lee will compete with campus winners from the other nine UC campuses for prize money and the chance to take home the “Slammy.”

Adelaide Bernard headshot

2021 Berkeley winner, Adélaïde Bernard

Adelaide Bernard also took home 3rd place at the system wide competition! Adelaide studies how cells in our brain sense our energy status and modulate hunger and weight gain. As a non-native English speaker, being part of this competition and getting to share her research to a broad audience was a very exciting challenge.

Nancy Freitas

2019 Berkeley winner, Nancy Freitas

Nancy Freitas, a first year master’s student in the Energy and Resources Group, 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. “It is my hope that my research will motivate humans, which are much smarter, and much larger than microbes,” Nancy said.

Joe Charbonnet

2018 Berkeley winner, Joe Charbonnet

Joe Charbonnet, also took home the Slammy in the UC systemwide competition! Joe’s research described how sand coated with manganese oxide can be used to remove contaminants from stormwater. Joe is currently field-testing the use of this sand to replenish California’s underground aquifers. “This technology helps cities save their rain for a sunny day,” his talk concluded.

Kelly Swanson

Berkeley’s 2017 winner, Kelly Swanson

Kelly Swanson, presented her research on creating a smaller, more affordable alternative to the Large Hadron Collider, which allows scientists to discover new particles and observe their movement, but is 17 miles round. “These machines have been instrumental in answering questions about our universe, but they are becoming prohibitively large and expensive,” Kelly said. Her new approach, a laser plasma accelerator, is just palm-sized.

Kelsey Sakimoto

Berkeley's 2016 winner, Kelsey Sakimoto

Kelsey Sakimoto, presented his research on creating a better, more efficient version of photosynthesis at the interface of chemistry and biology. Kelsey has taught bacteria “to grow and cover their bodies with tiny semi-conductor nanocrystals” which function as solar panels. This cyborg “bacterial army” can “grow and photosynthesize food, fuels, pharmaceuticals, and plastics using solar energy” more efficiently than chlorophyll and at a fraction of the cost of solar panels.