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. 

The Berkeley Grad Slam 2024 campus competition will take place on Tuesday, April 9, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. via Zoom.

Watch the 2024 Grad Slam

How to enter the Berkeley Grad Slam

Full instructions on how to enter, including submission deadlines and information session dates, can be found on, How Does the Competition Work.

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. To prepare their talks, participants have the opportunity to attend workshops and receive 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.

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

2024 Berkeley winner, Victoria Chevee

Victoria is a sixth-year Ph.D. candidate in the Molecular and Cell Biology program. She is interested in microbes and how they interact with their hosts, particularly when it comes to pathogens. Her work currently focuses on bacterial replication and dissemination during infections that affect the brain.

Berkeley’s Grad Slam 2023 first-place winner, Madison Browne

2023 Berkeley winner, Madison Browne

Madison Browne explores a non-invasive light therapy for Alzheimer’s Disease. With a passion for developing diagnostic and therapeutic tools to improve quality of life for those suffering from brain disorders, Madison plans to devote her career to this cause.

Justin Lee headshot

2022 Berkeley winner, Justin Lee

Justin Lee‘s presentation on Jamming the SARS-CoV-2 Copy Machine, won him not only the 2022 UC Berkeley Grad Slam first place prize, but also the 2022 UC systemwide competition, bringing the “Slammy” back to Berkeley.

Adelaide Bernard headshot

2021 Berkeley winner, Adélaïde Bernard

Adelaide Bernard won in first place of campus Grad Slam competition and 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.