2017 Grad Slam Finalists and Winners!

Congratulations to John Felts on winning Second Place at the 2017 UC Grad Slam competition! You can watch John's presentation online as well as the other nine presentations from excellent graduate students across each of UC's campuses. If you're a gradaute student interested in sharing your research with the world, please keep tabs on this space and watch your email for announcements about the 2018 UCSC Grad Slam.

From left: LinkedIn Economist Guy Berger, Ph.D.; UCSC graduate student John Felts; Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies Tyrus Miller, Ph.D. Photo by Sonya Newlyn.

The Division of Graduate Studies is proud to announce our 2017 Grad Slam winners. Check out the 2017 UC Santa Cruz Grad Slam finalists' presentations on the Division of Graduate Studies' YouTube channel!

First Place, $3000: John Felts

John FeltsElectrical Engineering
2nd year, PhD
Cruz Foam: Transforming shrimp shells into surfboards
What excites you most about your research? "The opportunity to make impactful worldwide change toward a more sustainable planet by revolutionizing plastic foams."
Hometown: Pleasanton, CA
Why did you choose to attend UCSC for your graduate study? "I chose to attend UCSC to work with Prof. Marco Rolandi on groundbreaking projects alongside an incredible research group."
Fun fact: "I love the English Premier League soccer team Arsenal FC."

Second Place, $1500, and the People's Choice, $750: Sam Mansfield

Sam MansfieldComputer Engineering
3rd year, PhD
The Bed Sore Detection Project (BSDP)
What excites you most about your research? "I want to convey the benefits of new technology. There is too much fear around technological innovations because they are treated like magic."
Hometown: Berkeley, CA
Why did you choose to attend UCSC for your graduate study? "UCSC was my first acceptance letter. On orientation day, everything fell into place, and I decided to attend."
Fun fact: "I am a professional tea bartender."

Our other ten finalists, each putting in a great performance:

Sarah Beganskas

Sarah BeganskasEarth Sciences
5th year, PhD
From Soil to Faucet: How Soil Microbes Can Help Improve Water Quality
What excites you most about your research? "I am excited to use science to address a relevant issue about which I am passionate: the sustainability of our water resources."
Hometown: East Meadow, NY
Why did you choose to attend UCSC for your graduate study? "I chose UC Santa Cruz for the opportunity to work with my wonderful adviser, Dr. Andy Fisher, on an impactful science research project."
Fun fact: "In my spare time I serve on the Education Committee for the Groundwater Resources Association of California."

Jared Duval

Jared DuvalComputer Science
1st year, PhD
Spokelt: An Interactive Game for Cleft Speech Therapy
What excites you most about your research? "My reserach combines my passions for technology, art, and medicine in a way that can make a positive difference in people's lives."
Hometown: Dudley, MA
Why did you choose to attend UCSC for your graduate study? "The Interactive Systems Lab for individuals with Special Needs in UCSC's Computational Media Department is truly interdisciplinary. It's also set in one of the most beautiful places in the world."
Fun fact: "I have flown a biplane."

Zhichao "Chao" Hu

Zhichao HuComputer Science
6th year, PhD
Linguistic and Gestural Adaptation in Virtual Agents
What excites you most about your research? "The possibility to make future virtual agents more intelligent and natural so that they can help us achieve more in our lives."
Hometown: Fushun, Liaoning, China
Why did you choose to attend UCSC for your graduate study? "I chose UCSC because I'm really interested in my adviser Prof. Marilyn Walker's research. I also enjoy the beautiful scenery of the campus."
Fun fact: I have three cats, one dog, and twelve orchids."

Christian Johnson

Christian JohnsonPhysics
3rd year, PhD
Searching for Primordial Black Holes
What excites you most about your research? "I'm excited by the versatility of the instrument I use for my research, the Fermi Large Area Telescope. I can use Fermi-LAT data to observe astrophysical sources like supernova remnants and pulsars, while also looking for new and exotic physics like primordial black holes and dark matter. The breadth and depth of research coming from a single experiment is astounding."
Hometown: Chapel Hill, NC
Why did you choose to attend UCSC for your graduate study? "When I applied to graduate school, I was unsure of what area of high-energy physics I wanted to study. I learned that the UCSC Physics Department is very strong in a wide variety of high-energy physics specialties in both experiment and theory, so it seemed like a good fit."
Fun fact: "In my spare time, I play Ultimate Frisbee. I've been fortunate enough to win two world championships and one national championship over the past several years."

Zeka Kuspa

Zeka KuspaMicrobiology and Environmental Toxicology
5th year, PhD
Lead ammunition kills twice: the lesser known impacts of lead on wild scavengers
What excites you most about your research? "Revealing hidden impacts of environmental contaminants on wildlife and the potential for my work to effect policy and inform consumers for the protection of vulnerable species."
Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA
Why did you choose to attend UCSC for your graduate study? "I applied to the Smith/Finkelstein Lab because they were leading scientists in condor lead toxicology and had strong working relationships with field biologists who introduced me to California condor recovery."
Fun fact: "I am an amateur naturalist and organize nature walks around the UCSC campus."

Jenny Lovell

Jenny LovellEnvironmental Studies
5th year, PhD
The Masculinization of Agriculture in the Vietnamese Mekong River Delta
What excites you most about your research? "Uncovering assumptions about gender performance, gender identities, and gender roles in natural resource governance."
Hometown: Pacific Grove, CA
Why did you choose to attend UCSC for your graduate study? "I chose UCSC because the Environmental Studies Department has a uniquely interdisciplinary approach, which I embrace in my research and teaching."
Fun fact: "I do a lot of impersonations, including most Will Ferrell characters."

Andrew Marsh

Andrew MarshPhysics
7th year, PhD
The Search for Nanoflares: What Makes the Sun's Atmosphere So Hot?
What excites you most about your research? "I really enjoy learning how much complexity there is to the sun's behavior and how it can help and harm modern society."
Hometown: Ellicott City, MD
Why did you choose to attend UCSC for your graduate study? "I chose UCSC because of its great astrophysics program and because I fell in love with the town and campus the first time I visited."
Fun fact: "I play several string instruments (guitar, violin, mandolin, bass)."

Scott Tooby

Scott ToobyDigital Arts and New Media
2nd year, MFA
Embedded Soundscaping
What excites you most about your research? "What excites me about my research is having the opportunity to collaborate with engineers and scientists. Being able to transition between the fields of art, music, and engineering on a daily basis is an incredibly humbling and rewarding experience."
Hometown: Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA
Why did you choose to attend UCSC for your graduate study? "I came to UCSC to study with composer and bioacoustic researcher David Dunn, and also because the Digital Arts and New Media program affords its students the freedom and resources we need to realize our project and research goals."
Fun fact: "I whistle for 3 to 4 hours every day. I love whistling."

Brandt Warecki

Brandt WareckiMolecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
4th year, PhD
How do living cells deal with broken chromosomes?
What excites you most about your research?
"I am constantly awed by the ability to visualize processes fundamental to life."
Hometown: Campbell, CA
Why did you choose to attend UCSC for your graduate study? "I chose UCSC for the experience of working in a department dedicated to the success of its members and for the opportunity to be part of a lab that is driven by curiosity and discovery."
Fun fact: "In high school, I helped teach a biology class in the Galápagos."

kerrie welsh

kerrie welshFilm and Digital Media
5th year, PhD
Saphic Cinemania! Female Authorship, Queer Desires, and the Birth of Cinema
What excites you most about your research? "There is nothing I love more than the thrill of discovering something unexpected in the archive! What excites me most is the possibility that we might understand our past and each other in ways that foster empathy, understanding, and new possibilities."
Hometown: Wilmington, DE
Why did you choose to attend UCSC for your graduate study? "I came to work with renowned film scholar Shelley Stamp and other cutting-edge faculty in the innovative Film + Digital Media program, which integrates theory and practice. I stayed for the sea otters and monarchs and movie theaters."
Fun fact: "I am also a filmmaker and I collect old home movies cameras."

Check out the 2017 UC Santa Cruz Grad Slam finalists' presentations on the Division of Graduate Studies' YouTube channel!