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UCSB Grad Students Compete in Talk Fest

Three of Friday's nine Grad Slammers are (from left) Melissa Gordon Wolf, who will speak about education "On a Scale of One to Ten"; Ana Sofia Guerra, with "Cloudy with a Chance of Bird Poop: A Tale of Seabirds and Nutrients"; and Rebecca Baker, "Science Fiction and the Power of Possible Worlds"

Imagine condensing months of graduate thesis research into an elevator pitch of less than 180 seconds. Even more challenging, imagine presenting this research in words a general university audience can understand. That’s the test 79 UC Santa Barbara graduate students faced when they entered this year’s UCSB Grad Slam competition.

In its seventh year, the Grad Slam offers students a platform to share their work in under three minutes. The preliminary and semifinal round winners have competed the past two weeks for the final round on Friday, where judges will choose a winner who will receive a $5,000 prize. The student also gets to move on to the UC-wide Grad Slam competition.

The prelims were abuzz with nervous jitters and excitement during every presentation session. Based on the poise and confidence of the presenters, choosing a winner wasn’t easy, though audience members got to cast a People’s Choice vote during each preliminary round. Between those winners and the judges’ choices, nine graduate students from eight different departments will face off, presenting research on topics ranging from artificial intelligence to science fiction writing to bodily bacteria. Judges must rate the contestants based on clarity, organization, and delivery, as well as ability to communicate the significance of the research to a non-specialist audience

Friday’s final event takes place from 3 to 4 p.m. in the Corwin Pavilion. For those who can’t get to the ocean-side campus, the university will livestream the final slam at its Facebook page.

Of the 10 UC campuses, UC Santa Barbara is the last to announce its winner, who will compete in the UC-wide competition on May 10 in San Francisco. That event will be live-streamed and is judged by leaders in “industry, media, government and higher education” and emceed by UC President Janet Napolitano, according to the main Grad Slam website (https://gradslam.universityofcalifornia.edu/). Viewers can also vote for a final People’s Choice award winner. Last year, UC Santa Barbara’s Mengya Tao took the People’s Choice title with her three minutes on chemicals in the environment and humans, but a UC Santa Barbara grad student hasn’t won the grand title in years.

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