Slamming Finalists


Think of it as TEDx for the grad set. The annual Grad Slam competition rewards PhD students who present the most compelling dissertation in three minutes or less, using language that not only their peers, but also non-specialists will understand.

The Graduate Division has announced that 10 UCSF grads that made it through the preliminary rigors to achieve the status of 2017 Grad Slam Finalist.

“I look forward to Grad Slam every year,” said Liz Silva, associate dean of graduate programs. “It’s an opportunity to hear about the amazing research that our students do, so it’s both illuminating and really fun. I’ve heard the same from people all over UCSF, and I hope everyone will consider coming out to cheer for our young science communicators.”

Twenty-four graduate students submitted their talks on video to enter the Grad Slam contest. Nine preliminary judges of faculty scientists and non-scientist communications specialists from across UCSF reviewed the videos and chose the 10 finalists.

Since 2015, the competition has been held across all 10 campuses of the University of California. The winner from each individual campus will go on to compete in the system-wide Grad Slam contest in May.

Don’t Miss Grad Slam LIVE!

The 10 UCSF student finalists will present their research in a live contest on Thursday, March 16, at 4 p.m. in Byers Auditorium at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus.

The event will conclude with an announcement of the winner, who will be awarded $3,000. The runner-up will receive $1,500, and the “people’s choice” winner, chosen by the audience present, will get $750. There will also be a trivia contest and a celebratory reception. The entire UCSF community and the public are invited.

The finalists are:

  • Britta Berg-Johansen, Bioengineering Program (Jeffrey Lotz, faculty mentor)
  • Peter Chisnell, Neuroscience Program (Kaveh Ashrafi, faculty mentor)
  • Stephanie Holden, Neuroscience Program (Jeanne Paz, faculty mentor)
  • Christina Hueschen, Biomedical Sciences Program (Sophie Dumont, faculty mentor)
  • Ariel Kauss, Biomedical Sciences Program (Todd McDevitt, faculty mentor)
  • Sophia Levan, Biomedical Sciences Program (Susan Lynch, faculty mentor)
  • Anne Pipathsouk, Tetrad Program (Orion Weiner, faculty mentor)
  • Sam Pollock, Chemistry and Chemical Biology Program (Jim Wells, faculty mentor)
  • Hane Ryu, Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics Program (Nadav Ahituv and Katie Pollard, faculty mentors)
  • Ashley Smart, Neuroscience Program (Jim Wells and Grae Davis, faculty mentors)

A panel of five live-contest judges includes UCSF Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS; Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Dan Lowenstein, MD; and Bruce Alberts, PhD, who is the chancellor's leadership chair in biochemistry and biophysics for science and education at UCSF. Alberts is also former president of the National Academy of Sciences, former editor-in-chief of Science, and a recipient of the National Medal of Science.

The panel also includes science journalists Gabriela Quirós, an Emmy Award winning television producer for KQED Science and Environment; and Indre Viskontas, PhD, a neuroscientist, opera singer, and host of the "Inquiring Minds" podcast created by Climate Desk.