Grad Slam

Kuumbwa Jazz Center
320-2 Cedar Street
Downtown Santa Cruz
March 6, 2020
5:00 p.m. Doors Open
5:30–7:30 p.m. Event
Free and open to the public
Complimentary refreshments, Kuumbwa cash bar

Grad Slam, also known as the 3-Minute Thesis Challenge, gives graduate students three minutes to share their research, concisely and compellingly, with a public audience. (Three Minute Thesis, or 3MT®, is a registered trademark of The University of Queensland.)


2020 Finalists

Carver BiersonCarver Bierson
Earth and Planetary Science
Ph.D., 6th year
Exploration at the edge of the solar system

Hometown: Conifer, CO

What excites you most about your research? Understanding the features and physical processes that make each world in the solar system unique.

Why did you choose to attend UC Santa Cruz for graduate study? For the trees and strong planetary science program.

Tell us a bit more about yourself! I spent New Year’s 2019 with Brian May (guitarist for Queen) as the first data from the New Horizons flyby of Arrokoth was sent back to Earth.

Patrick CagePatrick Cage
Coastal Science and Policy
M.S., 1st year
Blue Livelihoods: Cultivating Ocean Solutions

Hometown: San Diego, CA

What excites you most about your research? Teaming up with talented young professionals from Kenya and the Gambia to empower new, nature-based sources of income in coastal communities.

Why did you choose to attend UC Santa Cruz for graduate study? For the special nature of the CSP program—highly applied, targeted at working professionals, and international—and the Pacific Ocean.

Tell us a bit more about yourself! I’ve participated in five UN climate summits as an accredited delegate, including the Paris Agreement negotiations. Living in Grenada in 2019 inspired me to work on sustainable solutions for coastal communities.

Amanda CarbajalAmanda Carbajal
Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Ph.D., 2nd year
Prion Proteins, evolution, and the origins of life on Earth

Hometown: Oxnard, CA

What excites you most about your research? It stands to benefit many fields and provide answers to some of the mysteries about life on Earth. Additionally, being at NASA Ames is what you’d expect: fun, exciting, and motivating.

Why did you choose to attend UC Santa Cruz for graduate study? The beautiful location and campus, and because I wanted to be in a place where great research is done.

Tell us a bit more about yourself! I am a dancer. I especially loe to do aerial dance—lyra, silks, and pole.

Melissa CroninMelissa Cronin
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Ph.D., 4th year
Fishing for Solutions to Save the Manta Ray

Hometown: North Reading, MA, and Bailey Island, ME

What excites you most about your research? Protecting the most endangered species, while also protecting the livelihoods of people and the communities who depend on fishing.

Why did you choose to attend UC Santa Cruz for graduate study? The Conservation Action Lab uses empirical tools to inform effective conservation actions to protect species at greatest risk of extinction.

Tell us a bit more about yourself! I’m a trained tap dancer, and before starting my Ph.D. in ecology, I had a career as an environmental journalist covering wildlife crime.

Ricky Garza GirónRicky Garza Girón
Earth and Planetary Science
Ph.D., 5th year
Finding the hidden earthquakes of a large volcanic eruption

Hometown: Jiutepec, Morelos, México

What excites you most about your research? The promise of one day saving lives by understanding how Earth works. And I get to visit amazing and remote places on our planet!

Why did you choose to attend UC Santa Cruz for graduate study? Because my advisor, Emily Brodsky, is a rock star and gave me the freedom to work on what I wanted.

Tell us a bit more about yourself! At age 18 I was a bartender in London at a 21-and-older bar!

Elizabeth GoldmanElizabeth Goldman
Psychology
Ph.D., 5th year
To Share or Not to Share

Hometown: Laguna Hills, CA

What excites you most about your research? Working with parents and their children. Children have natural curiosity, and I enjoy discovering how they learn. My research has real implications for how we can better reach and communicate with children.

Why did you choose to attend UC Santa Cruz for graduate study? At other potential Ph.D. programs, I sensed competitiveness. At UCSC, psychology graduate students are friends, support one another, collaborate, and cheer each other on.

Tell us a bit more about yourself! I love sports. Basketball, baseball, and cycling are favorites. My mom and I watch the Tour de France each summer, and my dream is to watch it live with her one year.

Kyuhyun HanKyuhyun Han
History
Ph.D., 5th year
Seeing the Forest Like a State: Forest Management, Wildlife Conservation, and Center-Periphery Relations in Northeast China, 1949–1988

Hometown: Seoul, Korea

What excites you most about your research? Observing complicated interactions between local people, lower cadres, and the indigenous environment of Northeast China.

Why did you choose to attend UC Santa Cruz for graduate study? To work with amazing and inspiring advisors and scholars and the warm winters. (It often snows until April in Seoul.)

Tell us a bit more about yourself! I have a famous bunny companion, Alex, who’s published a book in Korea and Taiwan and will soon publish in Thailand and Indonesia. My goal as a writer is to keep up with him.

Katie HellierKatie Hellier
Physics
Ph.D., 5th year
Investigating fluorescent dyes for power generating greenhouses

Hometown: Brentwood, CA

What excites you most about your research? Applying science to real-world problems. Focusing on sustainability is of high priority to me.

Why did you choose to attend UC Santa Cruz for graduate study? The connection I have to my adviser, Prof. Sue Carter. We began with a great relationship, and I knew she would provide the guidance I needed for a successful graduate career.

Tell us a bit more about yourself! I hold an A.A. degree from Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and was part of a San Francisco theatre company for eight years, doing parodies of horror films on stage.

Tori KleinTori Klein
Chemistry and Biochemistry
Ph.D., 5th year
Using zombie insects to find a cure for cancer

Hometown: Golden, CO

What excites you most about your research? Figuring out exactly how medicines from natural sources function in the human body.

Why did you choose to attend UC Santa Cruz for graduate study? For the great natural product and biomedical research happening here and the collaborative environment within the department!

Tell us a bit more about yourself! I teach elementary and middle school kids about genetics by showing them how to extract DNA from strawberries.

Jessie MNG LopezJessie MNG Lopez
Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology
Ph.D., 4th year
Who Interprets the Genome?

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

What excites you most about your research? I’m humbled and grateful that I get to help understand how life works.

Why did you choose to attend UC Santa Cruz for graduate study? While most molecular biologists only think about DNA or protein, at UCSC’s Center for Molecular Biology of RNA, we focus on what might be the ancestral biomolecule, ribonucleic acid.

Tell us a bit more about yourself! I don’t have any bottom canine teeth; they just never grew in.

Justin LuongJustin Luong
Environmental Studies
Ph.D., 3rd year
Restoring California Grasslands

Hometown: Irvine, CA

What excites you most about your research? Contributing to the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and experiencing beautiful and unique California landscapes I wouldn’t have otherwise experienced but for this research.

Why did you choose to attend UC Santa Cruz for graduate study? To work with my faculty advisers, Drs. Michael Loik and Karen Holl, and to research extreme drought impacts on restoration efforts.

Tell us a bit more about yourself! I created and manage a native grass Instagram page, @stipapulchra.

Abel MkulamaAbel Mkulama
Coastal Science and Policy
M.S., 1st year
How briquets can prevent deforestation and save lives in Malawi

Hometown: Malidade Village, Traditional Authority (TA) Mpherembe, Mzimba District, Malawi

What excites you most about your research? It is practical and helps solve problems that affect even my family and 90% of Malawi’s population!

Why did you choose to attend UC Santa Cruz for graduate study? The UCSC CSP program’s unconventional approach. I am unconventional, so I knew here I would feel right at home. Plus, hey, UCSC has quite a global reputation for research!

Tell us a bit more about yourself! I grew up in a remote village and didn’t use electricity until I was 16. I thought, “Wow! This is great! Now I’m not limited by 12 hours of daylight!” I’ve worked 15 hours/day since!


Prizes

  • UCSC Grad Slam Champion $3,000
  • Runner-up $1,500
  • People’s Choice (audience vote) $750

The UCSC Grad Slam Champion competes in the UC-wide Grad Slam on May 8, 2020, at the LinkedIn offices in San Francisco.


Past Participants and Winners

Check out past UCSC Grad Slam participants and winners here.

View video of the 2019 UCSC Grad Slam presentations on the Division of Graduate Studies YouTube channel.

Visit UCOP Grad Slam to view the 2019 finalists from UC campuses on May 10, 2019, in which UCSC participant Rachel Harbeitner took 3rd place!

See Also