Grad Slam Participant Instructions

Grad Slam 2023 is Saturday March 4.

UC Santa Cruz finalists present at Kuumbwa Jazz Center. Learn more...

Divisional Preliminary Rounds: Finalists Determined!

The Graduate Division held in cooperation with the academic divisions (Arts, Baskin Engineering, Humanities, Sciences, and Social Sciences) four on-campus preliminary rounds to determine the top two presenters from each round to be the finalists of Grad Slam on March 4 at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center. A tie in the Sciences prelim for second place resulted in three instead of two finalists! The top presenters in each preliminary round won $500 each. The first ten graduate students to register to participate in their preliminary round and who actually participated received a $50 e-gift certificate to a UCSC-participating vendor.

The division finalists competing on March 4, 7:00 p.m. PST, at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center are:

Sciences Division

  • Simeiyun Liu, Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology
    How your diet today can affect your children tomorrow
  • César Rojas-Bravo, Astronomy and Astrophysics
    Deciphering Dark Energy with the Swope Supernova Survey
  • Christa Seidl, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
    Avian disease, climate change, and silencing paradise

Baskin Engineering

  • Xian Chang, Biomedical Engineering and Bioinformatics
    Reducing bias in genomic analyses with pangenomes
  • Samir Ghosh, Computational Media
    Wildfires in Virtual Reality

Social Sciences Division

  • Dana-Lis Bittner, Psychology
    Internet-Induced Forgetting: Does Looking for More Info Online Make You Forget What You Already Know?
  • Vanessa Oviedo, Psychology
    The Liking Gap in Online Communication

Arts and Humanities Divisions

  • Meloddy Gao, Social Documentation
    Swimming Lessons: Observing Grief Across Oceans
  • Mitra Elena Ghaffari, Social Documentation
    Ciclovía Visual Album and Community Bike Shop

System-wide Grad Slam Rules from UC Office of the President

All graduate students currently enrolled in UC master’s or doctoral graduate programs. In cases of collaborative research, the presenter’s contribution to the project must be salient and clearly specified.

Judging will focus on the presentation and the ability to communicate research to a non-specialist audience. Use of additional electronic media (e.g., sound and video files) must be approved in advance (email Sonya Newlyn with questions and for approval). Submissions may not contain any copyrighted material, such as licensed graphics.

A maximum of one PowerPoint slide (16:9 ratio), exclusive of title slide to be generated by UCSC Graduate Division, is allowed but is optional; no Prezi or other presentation formats. Students must create their PowerPoint slide themselves; they cannot ask someone else to design the slide. Use of PowerPoint templates is allowed. The slide can include visual elements (charts, visualizations, photos, clip art, etc.) created by someone other than the student, as long as the slide credits the original creator.

PowerPoint animation effects are allowed
Embedded audio and/or video clips (including but not limited to .gif, .avi, .mp4, .mp3, and .wmv file types) are not permitted unless they are deemed indispensable to the communication of the research topic. To request the inclusion of an audio or video clip, participants must send both the presentation with the embedded media and a short statement of justification to Sonya Newlyn for approval. Requests must be sent at least one week prior to the divisional preliminary round the requester will be participating in.

Props are allowed, but need to be cleared by Sonya Newlyn, require minimal set-up, and not produce a mess.

Timing commences when the student engages with the audience. (If engagement starts with a hand clap, a gesture, an audio or video clip or any other such engagement, prior to speaking, the clock begins at that time; if there is no such engagement the clock starts when the student begins speaking.) Timing will end after the last word is spoken.

Points will be deducted from the final score, beginning with one point at 3:03, and one point being taken off for every two seconds the speaker continues after that.


Judges rate presenters with a score of 1 to 5 (1=Poor, 2=Fair, 3=Good, 4=Very Good, 5=Excellent, with half-points allowed above 1 and below 5) in the following four categories:

The presenter translated their research and its disciplinary significance into language that all of us can understand.

The presenter delivered a talk that followed a clear and logical sequence.

The presenter delivered the talk with an effective performance style in terms of body language, eye contact, expression, volume, and pace.

The presenter conveyed enthusiasm for their research or artistic endeavor and captured and maintained the audience’s attention.

Grad Slam 2022 Finalists

    Applying to participate in Grad Slam

  • Video Your Presentation

    Presentations are limited to three minutes maximum. Presentations exceeding three minutes during the video round of competition will be disqualified.

    Begin your recording with:

    1. your full name
    2. graduate program
    3. title of your presentation

    This information may be presented in the video as text, such as in a slide, or spoken. If presented as a slide, this slide is not considered one of your presentation slides. The time it takes to do the above will not be counted as part of your presentation.

    Your presentation may include up to three Microsoft PowerPoint slides in widescreen format (16:9 ratio). No other slide presentation tool is allowed, and having slides is optional. If you use slides, they should not be the sole element onscreen for more than 50% of the video. You, the presenter, should occupy screentime more than 50% of the video.

    Slides must adhere to the following:

    • All work on slides must be original to the graduate student and may not be generated by a professional. Slides may contain visual elements (charts, photos, clip art, and so on) created by someone other than the graduate student presenter, as long as the slide credits the element creator.
    • Embedded audio and/or video clips, including but not limited to .gif, .avi, .mp4, .mp3, and .wmv file types, are not allowed, unless they are deemed indispensable to the communication of the topic. Should any entrant who embeds an audio or video file in their PowerPoint presentation be selected as a finalist for the UCSC Grad Slam on March 5, 2022, they will need to provide the Division of Graduate Studies (Sonya Newlyn) with both the PowerPoint presentation file and the embedded audio or video file.
    • No PowerPoint animation effects are allowed (see the PowerPoint animation tab).

    Props are allowed but need to be cleared by UCSC Grad Slam organizer Sonya Newlyn and the Division of Graduate Studies. Consider the feasibility of giving the same presentation live on stage; thus, laboratory equipment to perform an experiment on stage, being unlikely to be allowed, will also be disallowed in a video.

    Unless these are integral to the graduate-level research or work being presented, costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment, and so on are not permitted. Before using these in a presentation video, check with UCSC Grad Slam organizer Sonya Newlyn.

    Presentations are to be prose (no poems, raps, or songs).

    Your final, live presentation, should you be selected as a finalist, may differ slightly from your video presentation; however, the subject matter should be the same.

    Remember, the audio-visual technical quality of the recording is not judged; it’s the quality of the content that is important. McHenry Library’s Digital Scholarship Commons has video cameras, tripods, and video-editing software available to check out.

    John Raedeke, video producer and director with ITS-Learning Technologies, will once again offer 15-minute video-recording sessions of Grad Slam presentations in his Kerr Hall studio, Room 145A, on:

    • December 1, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (except the lunch hour)
    • January 6, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (except the lunch hour)

    Notice for how to sign up for a session will be in this space soon and broadcast to all graduate students via the Google Group.

  • Upload Your Video to Your UCSC Google Drive

    In your UCSC Google Drive, create a dedicated Google Folder for your presentation video, and name the folder LastName_FirstName_GradSlam2022. Upload your video entry as an MP4, MOV, AVI, or WMV file.

    • Name your video file using this format: Lastname_Firstname_GradSlam2022_TitleKeyWordorKeyWords.mp4
    • Share the file with Editor access with

  • Register for Grad Slam

    • Complete the UC Santa Cruz Grad Slam Registration Form.
    • Enter the Google Drive link to your video presentation in the application form, in the Presentation Link field.

    The deadline to share your video and enter is January 28, 2022, midnight Pacific Time.

  • Judging

  • Two sets of judges determine the finalists and winners of the live event: video-screening judges, all of whom are staff at UCSC, and live-event final judges, recruited from among UCSC graduate student alumni and local Santa Cruz citizenry. The screening judges review the video entries submitted by the deadline of January 28 and choose the finalists. The finals judges attend the live event on March 5 and choose the winner and runner-up. The judges choices are final and binding.

    The audience of the live event on March 5, both in-person and virtual watching the livestream, votes to determine the peoples choice winner. Each audience member gets one vote. In the event that the peoples choice winner is the same as the winner or runner-up, that individual receives both prizes.

    In the event of a tie, in either the judges’ scoring or audience voting for the peoples choice, Vice Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies Peter Biehl makes the final decision.

    The Division of Graduate Studies reserves the right to replace any judge who has to withdraw with another qualified individual and to cancel Grad Slam should too few graduate students enter the competition.

  • Judging Criteria

    Both the video and live-event judges score presentations on a 1 to 5 scale, with 5 being the best score, in each of the following categories:

    Did the speaker provide adequate background knowledge to make the talk and the importance of the project understandable?

    Did the presentation follow a clear and logical sequence?

    Pace, enthusiasm, confidence, body language, eye contact, and vocal range.

    If used, did the slides and/or props enhance the presentation and help to emphasize the primary points of the talk? Were the slides well designed, clear, legible, and concise? (If visuals were not used, a score of 5 points indicates the judge understood the presentation and that it kept their attention perfectly, so no visuals were required; a score of 1 point indicates that visuals were needed for the judge to understand the presentation.)

    Was the topic and its significance communicated in language appropriate to an intelligent but non-specialist audience? (For example, did the speaker avoid or explain discipline-specific jargon?)

    Intellectual Significance
    Did the speaker explain why her/his/their project matters (for example, its significance to the academic discipline)?

    To what extent did the talk speak to the judge’s intellectual curiosity? Did it make the judge want to learn more about the topic?


    In the live competition, timing will commence from the moment the student begins their presentation. The presentation begins at the moment the student engages with the audience (if they start with a hand clap, a gesture, an audio or video clip or any other such engagement, prior to speaking, the clock begins at that time; if there is no such engagement the clock starts when the student begins speaking). Points will be deducted from the final score, beginning with one point at 3:03, and one point being taken off for every two seconds the speaker continues after that.

  • Prizes

  • The winner receives $3,000; the runner-up $1,500; the peoples choice $750. Winnings may be taxable.

  • Disclaimers

  • The March 5 live UCSC Grad Slam event will be photographed, livestreamed, and video recorded. By entering the contest, you agree to allow the UC Santa Cruz Division of Graduate Studies to use the resulting photographs and video, which may include your image or presentation, in publicity for the contest and in other contexts, such as websites, promotional materials, etc. (The initial video entries will not be shared with anyone except the screening judges.)

  • Finalist Coaching and Participation

  • Live Event

    Finalists selected from the video round of competition will be required to participate in the live event of UCSC Grad Slam scheduled for March 5, 2022, at the Kuumbwa Jazz Center, 320-2 Cedar Street in downtown Santa Cruz. In addition, finalists must submit:

    1. a headshot to be used for event publicity and the printed program
    2. the up to three Microsoft PowerPoint slides (standard format of 4:3 ratio) for the live event presentation, if this option is desired
    3. any embedded audio or video file, if presenter has received permission to use from the Division of Graduate Studies

    These materials are due to the Division of Graduate Studies by noon on February 14.


    The Division of Graduate Studies will host a finalist coaching session February 4, 2022, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Pacific Time, in the Graduate Student Commons Study Lounge 204. The finalists will not be announced until February 3, so if you enter, try to block February 4, 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., on your calendar in anticipation that you will advance to the finalist round of live competition!

  • UCOP System-wide Grad Slam Participation

    Finalists who participate in UCSCs Grad Slam on March 5, 2022, agree to attend and represent UCSC at the UC system-wide Grad Slam on May 6, 2022, at LinkedIn, 222 2nd Street in San Francisco should they win the overall UCSC competition or take second place. The second-place finisher should be prepared to present and compete as an understudy to the winner in the event of any emergency that prevents the winner from competing.

  • Event Cancellation

  • The Division of Graduate Studies reserves the right to cancel UCSC Grad Slam if fewer than 20 video entries are received.