2022 UCLA Grad Slam

Kelsi Rutledge
Kelsi Rutledge, 2022 UCLA Grad Slam Champion

Congratulations to Kelsi Rutledge, Biology – The Fluid Dynamics of Smell: A Stingray’s Perspective), for winning 1st Place at the 2022 UCLA Grad Slam Finals on March 9.

Let’s cheer Kelsi on as she competes in the UC Grad Slam Competition on Friday, May 6, 2022 at 11 am at the LinkedIn Headquarters in San Francisco, CA. Watch the competition via live stream at: https://gradslam.universityofcalifornia.edu.  Don’t forget to cast your vote for our very own Kelsi Rutledge for the Audience Choice Award. The event will be hosted by UC President Michael Drake and will be judged by a panel of leaders in the industry, media, government, and higher education. The first-place winners from each of the 10 UC campuses will compete for the systemwide title and their share of $10,000 in prize money.

Huge congratulations as well to Elizabeth Burnette, Neuroscience – What E.Coli Endotoxin Can Tell Us About Addiction (2nd Place), Mary Jo MaddaEducation – The Science Behind Bad PowerPoints:  Why No One Remembers What You Said (3rd Place), and Paul Vander, Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology – Suspended Animation as Medicine – Science or Fiction? (Audience Choice).

Thank you to all of our finalists and participants for sharing and presenting their graduate research.

Susan L. Ettner
Dean of Graduate Education, UCLA Graduate Division
Professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research
Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management


Overview, Eligibility, and Registration


Graduate education is the heart of every great university. Graduate students come to UCLA to make creative contributions and research discoveries that advance human knowledge.

Grad Slam is a campus and UC-wide competition that showcases and awards the best 3-minute research presentations by graduate students. Think TED Talks on steroids. The competition aims to strengthen the important career development skill of articulating graduate research concisely and effectively to a non-specialist audience. It also highlights the excellence, importance and relevance of UCLA graduate students and their research.

This year’s Grad Slam was comprised of a qualifying round via video submissions, culminating in a final competition and celebratory reception held on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 at the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center. The event was live-streamed.  Students can get help preparing their presentations through a series of workshops that were offered from January 24, 2022. See How Do I Prepare – Workshops tab below for more details.

First, second, and third place winners in the UCLA competition received fellowships in the amounts of $5,000, $3,000, and $2,000 respectively, and an Audience Choice award in the amount of $1,000. The campus winner will advance to a University of California competition that will be held in San Francisco on Friday, May 6, 2022 and will compete against the 9 other UC campus winners.

Special Thanks To Our Sponsors

– Graduate Division – Susan L. Ettner, Dean, Graduate Education
– Startup UCLA
– UCLA Store
– Dr. Jerome Greenberg and Randi Greenberg
– Charlie Steinmetz

Open the Grad Slam Outreach Flyer


2021 Grad Slam Challenge | 2020 Grad Slam | 2019 Grad Slam
2018 Grad Slam | 2017 Grad Slam | 2016 Grad Slam2015 Grad Slam

Am I Eligible?
  • The competition is open to all currently registered and enrolled UCLA Masters and doctoral graduate students.
  • Students must be registered and enrolled during Winter Quarter 2022 and be in good academic standing to participate in the Grad Slam and be eligible to receive any prize.
  • Students on an official leave of absence, paying a filing fee, or with lapsed status in Winter 2022 are not eligible to compete.
  • Students are only allowed to enter the competition individually. Joint presentations with other students are not permitted.
  • Students must meet the guiding principles of the Office of Intellectual Property and Industry Sponsored Research.
  • Students who competed in previous Grad Slams are eligible to enter the 2022 competition if they DID NOT win 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place. The Audience Choice winner is eligible to participate in Grad Slam again. However, if that person also placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, they are not eligible.
  • Students who participated in the 2021 Grad Slam Challenge, including those who were selected as top 10 videos, are welcome and encouraged to compete in the 2022 UCLA Grad Slam Competition.
Why Should I Enter Grad Slam?

5 Reasons to Sign Up View Infographic

Who Participated in 2022? View the 2022 UCLA Grad Slam Participation – Infographic

Need a little inspiration? Watch these videos from the 2020 UCLA Grad Slam Finals:

• Caitlin AamodtNeuroscience – How Songbirds can Help Us Find New Treatments for Autism
• Wadie ChalghamMechanical Engineering – Smart Pipeline Leak Detection and Response System (Audience Choice)
• An-Chieh FengMolecular Biology / Immunity, Microbes, and Molecular Pathogenesis – 99% Useless? (1st Place)
• Lucia IchinoMolecular Biology – Unlocking the DNA
• Meng-Wei KoOral Biology and Medicine – Natural Killer Cells: Triumph Over Cancer
• Cassandra MeyerNeuroscience – Taming the Neurodegenerative Monster in Multiple Sclerosis (2nd Place)
• Kanav SarafBioengineering – Helping your Doctor Catch Silent Heart Disease (3rd Place)
• Karthik SarmaBioengineering – Federated Learning for Medical Imaging
• David ShiaMolecular Biology – Outmaneuvering Drug-Resistant Cancer: A Game of Chess
• Gil TortenNeuroscience – Preventing Blindness on a Cellular Level

How Do I Register for Grad Slam?

Registration is now closed for the 2022 UCLA Grad Slam.

Grad Slam Stories

Grad Slam Student StoriesNeed more convincing to enter the competition?
Read the Grad Slam stories of past competitors.

Marissa StevensMarissa Stevens
1st Place – 2018 Grad Slam
Near Eastern Languages & Cultures
Social Identity from Ancient Egypt to Modern Times

“With just three minutes, Grad Slam challenged me to delve into the core of my academic interests and present a distillation of my research in a way that was relatable to a wide audience.”

Xiaofei LinXiaofei Lin
Decrypting The Immune System

“Grad Slam was a great experience that not only helped me build science communication skills, but also connected me with other incredible student researchers outside my field who remain fantastic friends today.”

Samantha MorseSamantha Morse
A Dreadful History

“Grad Slam gave me the skills and confidence to quickly share my research with anyone. This ability has especially come in handy at conferences when I’m introducing myself to other scholars and want to make a meaningful impression.”

Allyson TerryAllyson Terry
Securing The Health Of Organ Transplant Recipients

“Participating in both the Grad Slam preparation workshops and the competition not only opened my eyes to all of the interesting research outside of my field that is being done across the UCLA campus, but improved the way I think about, organize, present, and receive feedback about my own presentations. Grad Slam definitely helped me improve how I communicate my research to people both inside and outside of my field. If you will have to talk about your research at some point in your career (which I’m sure you will), I highly recommend participating in Grad Slam!”

Cindy LeeCindy Lee
English Learners and Oral Language Anxiety: An Approach Using Lego Storystarter

“I’ve always had a fear of public speaking, and get anxious and self-conscious just from standing in front of a room full of people. Despite this, I learned that it’s such an important skill to succeed in graduate school, and in life. When I saw the Grad Slam flyer, I thought to myself, “Hey! This couldn’t be that bad, since it has to be under 3-minutes!” Then I consulted with my academic advisor, who encouraged me to enter the competition. She believed that it would be interesting given that my research centers on children who are less comfortable speaking. One of the greatest things about Grad Slam is that they offered free workshops on presentation skills, visual designs, and small group coaching, which are wonderful resources not only for the competition, but also for future conferences and presentations! It was such a valuable experience and I look forward to bragging about it to my (future-if-any) grandkids.”

Nicholas MatiaszNicholas Matiasz
Building the Brain of a Robot Scientist

“I study medical informatics because, as an engineer, I value efficiency, and improving efficiency in medicine is sure to reduce suffering. To accelerate scientific discovery, I’m designing software that can help researchers to find all the valid interpretations of their evidence and to design experiments that would be most informative.I competed in Grad Slam because my work is only as good as my ability to communicate it. This competition helps you to distill your message for a general audience and to deliver that message with poise. Change happens when ideas spread, and that always requires a story—even in technical fields like mine. Grad Slam helped me to hone my story.”

Taylor CorcoranTaylor Corcoran
Anderson School of Management
HIV vs Hypertension: Optimizing Drug Approvals

“I chose to participate in Grad Slam after a stressful conference presentation in which I presented an early version of my grad slam research to a small room of professors and students. I was petrified and shaking throughout my entire talk, and I couldn’t wait to finish the presentation. Even though I was passionate about the work I was doing, I wasn’t able to convey it to others because of how nervous I was. I knew that I needed to overcome my fear of public speaking, which is why I chose to compete in Grad Slam — and it worked! By the time I reached the finals, I was actually excited to get on stage.”

Gary YeungGary Yeung
Electrical Engineering
Making Electronic Personal Assistants Listen to Children

“Scientific researchers like myself spend much of their time trying to understand problems. This is accompanied by a disconnect from society. While we might pat ourselves on the back for finding an interesting solution, we often ignore what the solution could imply for humanity. The reality is that science without an application is useless, and technology for the mere purpose of innovation is sometimes disastrous. Science can only make a meaningful impact if it is properly understood by the public. I entered the Grad Slam competition as it aligns with my beliefs that effective education and communication of science shapes research just as much as the science itself. I encourage others to participate in Grad Slam to reflect on how their research will affect society.”

Sarah StankowiczSarah Stankowicz
Third Place Winner and Audience Choice Award, 2015
Using Lasers to Illuminate Acetylcholine’s Role in Fear Memory

“Grad Slam was such a valuable exercise; it’s easy to underplay our own contributions when we stare at them for years, but explaining them to an audience of enthusiastic listeners reminded me why I’d worked so hard. Also – it was fun!”



Grad Slam Preparation and Competition

Presentation Guidelines & Rules

UCLA’s Grad Slam challenges graduate students to present a compelling presentation of their research in just 3 minutes using language appropriate for a non-specialist audience.

  • In cases of collaborative research, the presenter’s contribution to the project must be salient and clearly specified.
  • We strongly encourage Humanities and Social Sciences students to enter the competition.

Expected Participation

  1. Register for the 2022 UCLA Grad Slam competition.
    Registration will be open from January 5-28, 2022.
  2. Attend the Grad Slam Prep Workshops.
    To help you prepare for your presentation, attend these four optional Grad Slam prep virtual workshops that are available and open to all graduate students: Grad Slam 101: How to Get Started, Crafting a Compelling Presentation Workshop, Basic Presentation Skills: How To Resonate With Your Audience Workshop, and Design Principles for Virtual Presentations Workshop.
  3. Attend one Small Group Coaching Session on February 7-10, 2022.
    Participating students must come prepared with a draft of their presentations. These virtual small group sessions give students the opportunity to present before the group via zoom and receive feedback both from the coach and Grad Slam peers who will also be in attendance.
  1. Submit a 3-minute video presentation with 3 slides by February 14, 2022
    Using zoom, self-record a 3-minute video and PowerPoint presentation with up to 3 slides. Slides are optional, but highly encouraged. Along with your video, complementary visual aids will help audiences understand and recall the key takeaways from your presentation. To enter the qualifying round, you must attend one small group coaching session AND submit a self-recorded 3-minute video presentation with 3 PowerPoint slides by Monday, February 14, 2022.
  1. Present in-person, if selected as a finalist.
    If selected to move forward to the final competition, you must be able to present in-person on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 at the UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center.
  1. Represent UCLA, if selected as campus winner.
    If you are the campus winner, you must be able to represent UCLA in the UC Grad Slam competition in-person on Friday, May 6, 2022 in San Francisco. (Due to COVID response protocols and state travel restrictions, this event may shift to a virtual competition.)

*If you need equipment or space to record your video presentation, click on the “Video Recording Resources” tab for available campus resources and information.
*Last-minute cancellations are strongly discouraged. Please inform the Grad Slam team (gdevents@grad.ucla.edu) if you no longer wish to participate.

Presentations/Slides – GUIDELINES & LIMITATIONS


  1. Presenters are limited to a maximum of three (3) PowerPoint slides. No other formats (Prezi, PDFs, etc.) are acceptable.
  2. Slides are optional but highly encouraged. If you choose NOT to use slides, please indicate in your registration form so we can make a note of it.
  3. Please include the provided Grad Slam cover slide that includes 1) your name, 2) your department/graduate program, and 3) your presentation title.
  4. Use the 16:9 aspect ratio slide size for your presentation.
  5. 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. If embedding such files, they should auto-play.
  6. No PowerPoint animation effects are allowed (use of PowerPoint animation tab not allowed).
  7. Slides must be created by the student and not generated by a professional. Use of PowerPoint templates is allowed.
  8. Use common fonts like Arial, Calibri, Tahoma, Verdana, etc. to avoid any changes in your slides when opened on another computer.

Qualifying Round (video submission)

  1. To enter the qualifying round, you must attend one small group coaching session AND
  2. You are required to upload your 3-minute video with 3 slides to a designated Box folder. Specific upload instructions will be sent to each student presenter.

Background and lighting

  1. Please record yourself in a natural, uncluttered, quiet, and well-lit area (i.e., at home or office, not using a virtual background). Natural light sources illuminating your face from front and sides is ideal.
  2. Filming while facing an uncovered window during the day is usually best.
  3. Avoid bright lighting or windows behind you.

Recording your video

  1. Please record your video presentation on a desktop or laptop. Mobile devices are not recommended due to lack of PowerPoint sharing capabilities.
  2. Please record your presentation in 1080p/HD. Also, use landscape (horizontally) rather than in portrait mode.
  3. Please make sure that your audio is clear and that there are no echoes.
  4. Record from a straightforward angle, instead of the camera looking up or looking down, with the entire face up to chest-level within the frame.
  5. Use the Grad Slam cover slide as your initial slide. The cover slide does not count towards your three allotted slides.
  6. If you’re using PowerPoint slides and are incorporating them into your video by the share screen function, make sure to enlarge the video box on Zoom. Once in screen sharing mode, simply select the corner of your video box and drag it to the maximum size it will go. Make sure your video is not covering up any text or images on your PowerPoint slides.
  7. Make sure you save the recording locally and onto your device/computer instead of recording on the cloud. Recording locally will ensure that the video box stays enlarged.  Give yourself enough time to record your video before the submission date so that if you need to re-record, you will have time to do so. Please refer to the Presenting on Zoom Instructions document for more detailed directions.
  8. Do not edit your videos or add special effects.
  9. If you need a quiet space and/or equipment to record your video, please contact Graduate Division at gdevents@grad.ucla.edu. Please note that students are able to reserve study rooms and/or equipment through the UCLA Library. Visit this page for more detailed information on how to reserve the rooms and equipment.

Final Competition (in-person)

  1. If you are selected as a finalist, all presentations will be pre-loaded on the laptop on the day of the final competition. You will be required to upload your PowerPoint presentations to a designated Box folder the day before the competition. Specific upload instructions will be sent to each finalist.
  2. The room will be set up with a laptop, projector, remote slide advancer, laser pointer, and lavalier microphone. There may or may not be a podium in the room, depending on the venue. However, the use of the podium is strongly discouraged.
  3. Props are allowed, but need to be cleared by the Grad Slam program director, require minimal set-up, and do not produce a mess. Please email gdevents@grad.ucla.edu if you plan to use props.

Additional Tips

  • Grad Slam is about effective COMMUNICATION– engaging your audience in key aspects of your research that excite you, that tell the best story to people outside of your field.
  • Think about what sets your research apart from what has already been done already. What makes your work unique and valuable to your field?
  • Think about commonplace references you can make to relate to your audience and draw them into your subject. Humor is often a good tool, as are rhetorical questions.
  • The images you use on your slides should complement or illustrate what you are communicating verbally. Make sure they are relevant to your message.
  • Do not fill your slides with data, charts, or graphs that require a lot of explanation.
  • Do not fill your slides with so much content that the audience will be spending time trying to figure it all out, rather than listening to what you are saying.
  • Stay away from acronyms unless they are well-known or you can quickly explain them. Same with jargon and complex terms. You will need to briefly define them.
  • Practice, practice, practice so you know all of your content by heart.
  • Slow down and relax. Don’t speak too fast. Clarity and being comfortable with your content are key.
  • Practice presenting in front of your roommate, friends, or family members — people are not greatly familiar with your topic/research. They are great sounding boards.
  • Have fun with this! Your work is valuable and YOU are the expert. You have a lot to teach the rest of us and we’re here to listen.


  • The audience may be comprised of graduate students, faculty, staff, campus leadership, alumni, donors, friends and family of the presenters, and members of the general public. We encourage all the students participating in the Grad Slam competition to invite colleagues, mentors, friends, and family to your competition round.
  • An official photographer and/or videographer may also be present at the final competition. As stated in the competition registration, any videotape footage, photographs, film, and/or audio recordings will be used for UCLA archival and marketing purposes. No commercial use of the recordings is intended or will be authorized.
  • Members of the media may also be present and cover the competition.
  • The final competition on March 9, 2022 will be broadcast live online.
How Do I Prepare? Workshops

The Graduate Division is very pleased to provide the following prep workshops for Grad Slam entrants.  The workshops are open to ALL graduate students, as well.

Grad Slam Workshops

Monday, January 24, 2022 | 12 pm – 1 pm | Zoom | RSVP

You signed up for Grad Slam, but what’s next? Not quite sure where to start? Join us at our Grad Slam brainstorming session to:

– Choose/refine your presentation topic
– Start outlining your ideas
– Take a close look at the guidelines and rules
– Brainstorm with past Grad Slam finalists and fellow 2022 Grad Slam participants

Grad Slam Alumni Facilitators: Former Grad Slam competitors and winners
MengWei Ko, Grad Slam Finalist, 2020
Joey Lao, Grad Slam Third Place Winner, 2018
Nyasha Maforo, Grad Slam 1st Place Winner, 2019

Staff facilitators:
Ivy Ebuen, Manager, Operations & External Relations – Graduate Division
Samantha Tagoe, Events and Engagement Specialist – Graduate Division
Jacqueline Suero, Operations Administrative Specialist – Graduate Division

Design Principles For Visual Presentations

Thursday, January 27, 2022 | 12 pm – 1 pm | RSVP (updated date)
Open to all graduate students

Presentation visuals like PowerPoint can either help or harm your presentation and for most presentations we see, it’s the latter. Too often, presentation visuals are an afterthought, a dumping ground for additional information, or notes just for the presenter. If you want your audience to understand, retain, and recall your message, powerful and complimentary visual aids will help you achieve those goals. This interactive workshop will introduce the audience to universal design principles that can be applied when creating visual presentations using any platform, such as PowerPoint, Prezi, and Haiku Deck.

Kelsey DuffKelsey Duff
Professional & Career Development Portfolio Manager, UCLA Campus Human Resources

Kelsey fosters the professional development of UCLA staff through performance and impact coaching, program development, and workshop, course and retreat design, and facilitation. She manages a portfolio of professional & career development programs and initiatives, where she helps UCLA employees increase their impact and enhance their careers through skill development, strategic personal exploration, and project planning, execution, and presentation. She is a True Bruin, with a degree in Art from UCLA, 11 years of coaching experience, and a passion for fostering engagement and excellence in others.

Basic Presentation Skills: How to Resonate with Your Audience

Friday, January 28, 2022 |  12 pm – 1 pm | Zoom | RSVP (updated date)
Open to all graduate students

This workshop will help you articulate your information and content in a manner that is well received by a “non-specialist” audience increasing retention. By the conclusion of the workshop, you will improve your understanding of how adults prefer to take in, process, and synthesize new knowledge allowing your presentation to resonate with a disparate audience. You will learn your own primary, secondary, and tertiary preferences for taking-in new information, thereby mitigating subjectivity in your delivery, ensuring your presentation is relevant to an audience outside your career field. This workshop is open to all UCLA graduate students.

David FullerDavid Fuller
Training Consultant,
UCLA Campus Human Resources, Learning & Organizational Development

David is a training consultant with Campus Human Resources Learning & Organizational Development. He has spent more than two decades as an L&D professional focusing on leadership development, software training, and leveraging dynamic new employee orientations to engage and retain employees. David has worked across industries including entertainment, finance, health care, and social services, and prior to joining UCLA, he held training leadership positions for organizations such as GMAC Home Services, Bluebeam Software, and Volunteers of America Los Angeles. He has a master’s degree in Humanities from California State University, Dominguez Hills and a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from Central Washington University.

Participating students must come prepared with a draft of their presentations. These virtual small group sessions give students the opportunity to present before the group via zoom and receive feedback both from the coach and Grad Slam peers who will also be in attendance. These sessions are for registered Grad Slam participants only.

Monday, February 7, 2022 | 10:30 am – 12:00 pm | Allison Daly and Marissa Stevens
Monday, February 7, 2022 | 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm | Joey Lao and Mengwei Ko
Tuesday, February 8, 2022 | 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm | Marissa Stevens and Sarah Stankowicz
Tuesday, February 8, 2022 | 4:30 pm – 6:00 pm | Joey Lao, Sarah Stankowicz, and Mengwei Ko
Wednesday, February 9, 2022 | 3:00 pm – 4:30 pm | Joey Lao and Allison Daly
Thursday, February 10, 2022 | 1:30 pm – 3:00 pm | Sarah Stankowicz and Marissa Stevens

Grad Slam Alumni Facilitators: Former Grad Slam competitors and winners

Video Recording Resources

Before you record your video, be sure you have already attended one small group coaching session. 

Presenting on Zoom

Instructions on Presenting on Zoom
Zoom is a versatile platform where you can self-record your presentation (without any other meeting participants) and share your PowerPoint presentation by the share screen function. This document will cover helpful tips on how to use Zoom for your Grad Slam qualifying round video submission.

Campus Resources

UCLA Library

  • UCLA students are able to reserve study rooms through the UCLA Library.  Visit this page for more detailed information on how to reserve the rooms.
  • If you need to borrow equipment (i.e. laptop), the UCLA Library and CLICC provide technology assistance and equipment loans to UCLA students.  Go to this page for more information.

UCLA Graduate Division

  • The Graduate Division can also provide assistance if you are in need of space and/or equipment.  We are offering a limited number of 20-minute recording time slots at our conference room in 1237 Murphy Hall.
  • Please visit this page to make an appointment and email gdevents@grad.ucla.edu if you have any questions.
Other Preparation Resources

Online Resources

How to Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo, article by Guy Kawasaki
Giving an Academic Talk by Jonathan Shewchuk, Associate Professor in Computer Science, University of California at Berkeley
Don’t Be Such a Scientist by Randy Olson
The And, But, and Therefore of Storytelling by Randy Olson
Giving Oral Presentations from English Communication for Scientists by Jean-luc Doumont (ed.), Nature (2010)
Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds
10 tips on how to make slides that communicate your idea, from TED’s in-house expert by Aaron Weyenberg
Making the Most of Your Three Minutes for 3MT: The Three Minute Thesis by Simon Clews, Director, Writing Centre, University of Melbourne
10 Hints for Improving Presentations for the Three Minute Thesis Competition by Danielle Fischer, Charles Darwin University
Top Ten Tips for Writing and Delivering Very Brief Speeches by Bill Cole, Founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants
TED Talks (up to 6 minutes in length): Brief talks on “ideas worth spreading.”
PhD Comics Two-Minute Thesis: PhD Comics challenged graduate students to explain their work in two minutes – the best have been turned into videos!
3 Minute Thesis Competition Winners: Winning presentations from a multi-university thesis competition in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and the South Pacific.

The Secret Structure of Great Talks by Nancy Duarte at TEDxEast

Recommended Reading

Narrative Impact: Social and Cognitive Foundations, edited by Melanie C. Green, et al. (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates © 2002)
The Story Factor, by Annette Simmons (Perseus Publishing © 2001)
Tell Me a Story: Narrative and Intelligence, by Roger Schank (Northwestern University Press © 1990)
Wired for Story, by Lisa Cron (Ten Speed Press © 2012)

Language & Culture
Metaphors We Live By, by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (University of Chicago Press © 1980)
The Way We Talk Now, by Geoffrey Nunberg (Houghton Mifflin Company © 2001)
In Other Words: A Plea for Plain Speaking in Foundations, by Tony Proscio (Edna McConnel Clark Foundation © 2000)
When Words Fail, by Tony Proscio (Edna McConnel Clark Foundation © 2005)
Compassion Fatigue, by Susan Moeller (Routledge © 1999)
Tales of a New America, by Robert Reich (Times Books © 1987)

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Persons Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, by Steven Pinker (Penguin Books © 2015)
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, by William Zinsser (30 Anv. Rep Ed. © 2006)
Telling True Stories, Edited by Mark Kramer and Wendy Call (Plume © 2007)
Storycraft: The Complete Guide to Writing Narrative Non-Fiction, by Jack Hart (University of Chicago Press © 2012)

Competition Schedule

Qualifying Round

Monday, February 14, 2022
Deadline for video submissions to enter the qualifying round
Qualifying Round Presenters and Judges

Final Competition & Celebratory Reception

Wednesday, March 9, 2022
5:00 pm – 7:30 pm
UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center
Program  | Acknowledgements
Final Competition & Celebratory Reception Invitation 2022 Webcast/2022 Live Stream

University of California Grad Slam

Friday, May 6, 2022
San Francisco, CA
UC Grad Slam Website and Livestream

The UCLA campus winner will travel to San Francisco to compete in the UC Grad Slam competition to be held at the LinkedIn Headquarters. Attendance is by invitation only but will be broadcast live via video stream. There will also be an online People’s Choice vote. So mark your calendar so you can tune in!


Competition Results – Updated 3/11/2022

Competition Results

2022 Grad Slam Winners
Paul Vander (Audience Choice), Kelsi Rutledge (1st Place), Elizabeth Burnette (2nd Place), Mary Jo Madda (3rd Place)

2022 UCLA Grad Slam Winners!

  • Kelsi Rutledge, Biology – The Fluid Dynamics of Smell: A Stingray’s Perspective (1st Place)
  • Elizabeth Burnette, Neuroscience – What E.Coli Endotoxin Can Tell Us About Addiction (2nd Place)
  • Mary Jo Madda, Education – The Science Behind Bad PowerPoints:  Why No One Remembers What You Said (3rd Place)
  • Paul Vander, Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology – Suspended Animation as Medicine – Science or Fiction? (Audience Choice)
2022 Grad Slam Finalists
2022 Grad Slam Finalists

2022 UCLA Grad Slam Finalists!

  • Toni Boltz, Human Genetics – Can a Drop of Blood Predict Your Risk for Mental Illness?
  • Elizabeth Burnette, Neuroscience – What E.Coli Endotoxin Can Tell Us About Addiction
  • Shruti Indiresan, Civil Engineering – Wetlands and Wildfires:  How Microbes Maintain Balance
  • Briley Lewis, Astronomy and Astrophysics – Finding Planets in a Forest of Speckles
  • Mary Jo Madda, Education – The Science Behind Bad PowerPoints:  Why No One Remembers What You Said
  • Kelsi Rutledge, Biology – The Fluid Dynamics of Smell: A Stingray’s Perspective
  • Kshitija Shah, Civil Engineering – Zero Waste (Water Treatment)!
  • Brandon Tsai, Human Genetics – Breaking the Rules to Fight Cancer
  • Judah Van Zandt, Astronomy and Astrophysics – Finding the Connection Between Close-In Small Planets and Distant Giants
  • Paul Vander, Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology – Suspended Animation as Medicine – Science or Fiction?


Judging panels for the qualifying and final rounds will comprise faculty, academic deans, administrative staff, alumni, postdoctoral scholars, and donors.  Great effort is made to select judges that represent diversity in discipline, as well.

Presenters will be judged on the clarity and delivery, and their ability to provide context and engage with a non-specialist audience helping others understand and appreciate their research.

Each judge will award up to 35 points based on the following criteria:

  1. Clarity
  2. Organization
  3. Delivery
  4. Visuals
  5. Appropriateness
  6. Intellectual Significance
  7. Engagement

Judging Score Sheet

The timing of each presentation will commence from the moment the student begins the presentation. The presentation begins at the moment the student engages with the audience. Thus if s/he 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 alternative engagement, the clock starts when the student begins speaking.

Should the presentation go longer than 3 minutes, points will be deducted from the final score, beginning with a 1 point deduction at 3:03, and 1 point being taken off for every 2 seconds the speaker continues after that:

3:03 – 3:04 1 point
3:05 – 3:06 2 points
3:07 – 3:08 3 points
3:09 – 3:10 4 points
3:11 – 3:15   5 points
Speakers will be cut off at 3:30 (15 point deduction)

Judges will not be allowed to ask any questions of the presenters following their presentation.


First, second and third prizes will be awarded during the final competition, as well as an Audience Choice award. If the Audience Choice awardee is the same as the first, second, or third place winner, both awards will go to that person.

1st Prize

  • $5,000 stipend
  • Dinner with Dean Susan L. Ettner other VIP leadership in April
  • Paid, round-trip travel expenses to compete in the UC-wide Grad Slam competition in Spring in San Francisco, California

2nd Prize

  • $3,000 stipend
  • Dinner with Dean Susan L. Ettner other VIP leadership in April

3rd Prize

  • $2,000 stipend
  • Dinner with Dean Susan L. Ettner other VIP leadership in April

Audience Choice Award

  • $1,000 stipend
  • Dinner with Dean Susan L. Ettner other VIP leadership in April

All Other Final Round Runners-up

  • Grad Slam Finalist certificate
  • $500 stipend

All Qualifying Round Presenters 

  • $50 gift card

Students must be registered and enrolled during Winter Quarter 2022 and be in good academic standing to participate in the Grad Slam and be eligible to receive any prize.

The prize money is a stipend and is considered income. It will be taxed and a student’s financial aid eligibility may be adjusted, as a result.

University of California Grad Slam Championship

The system-wide competition on Friday, May 6, 2022 in San Francisco, CA will feature the first-place winners from each of UC’s 10 campuses who will deliver their 3-minute research talks.


Photos/Videos, Social Media & Sponsors

Photo & Video Galleries
Publicity & Social Media
Sponsors and Campus Partners


Thank you to our 2022 Grad Slam Sponsors

StartUp UCLA
UCLA Store
Randi & Jerome Greenberg
Charlie Steinmetz

The Graduate Division is also grateful for our friends and partners who assist with outreach, venues, and communications:

  • Graduate Student Resource Center
  • Graduate Student Association
  • Career Center
  • UCLA Development
  • UCLA Foundation
  • Women & Philanthropy at UCLA
  • Gold Shield
  • Faculty Women’s Club
  • Office of Residential Life – Graduate and Family Housing
  • Office of Media Relations
  • Alumni Affairs
  • Government & Community Relations
  • Dashew Center
  • UCLA Store
  • UCLA Meyer and Renee Luskin Conference Center


Contact Us

Map & Directions

Driving Directions to UCLA
Locate UCLA by zip code (90095) or by street address (405 Hilgard Avenue). Call 310-825-4321 for recorded directions. UCLA’s main campus is bounded by Sunset Boulevard. on the north and Le Conte Avenue. on the south; the east border is Hilgard Avenue and the west border is Gayley Avenue.

Visitor parking at UCLA | Public Transit | Metro Trip Planner

Contact Us

Questions? Email gdevents@grad.ucla.edu – please include “Grad Slam” in the subject line or call (310) 206-6086.

Meet the Grad Slam Team

Ivy EbuenIvy Ebuen
Manager of Operations & External Relations

“I’m looking forward to learning about all the innovative research that our brilliant graduate students are doing. Grad Slam is such a terrific opportunity for students to not only share their research with a larger audience but also develop as presenters.”

Christopher Sosa
Operations Administrative Specialist

“I cherish the opportunity to support the production of Grad Slam, an event that champions the academic excellence of our Bruin community. I look forward to seeing students encapsulate years of groundbreaking research and give us a glimpse of what changes the future holds.”

Jacqueline SueroJacqueline Suero
Operations Administrative Specialist

“It is quite rewarding to be involved in putting together Grad Slam this year. It is a truly empowering and inspiring experience to be able to provide a powerful platform where we can witness brilliant minds articulate and showcase their amazing research into a 3-minute TED talk style presentation.”

Samantha TagoeSamantha Tagoe
Events & Engagement Administrative Specialist

“I’m excited to watch these intelligent and talented students showcase their expertise in various areas of research. It’s always wonderful to witness the growth of students as they work diligently to succeed and meet their goals.”