Preview of Grad Slam semifinal round 1: April 17

by Nicole Poletto, Professional Development Peer
Sunday, April 16, 2017 9:48 AM

The 5th Annual Grad Slam competition continues with three semifinal rounds this week, leading up to the ultimate final round on Friday, April 21. Join us for the first semifinal round on Monday, April 17, and watch your fellow graduate students explain their research in 3 minutes or less. Here's a preview of what's to come... be sure to follow us on Facebook for live updates on ​who will advance.

Semifinal Round 1

Monday, April 17 | 11 a.m. to 12 p.m.
Engineering Science Building, Room 1001

Andrew Cawley | Environmental Science & Management 
Climate Change, Costs, and Caribou
Certain human activities that improve our quality of life - urban growth, interconnected road networks, and natural resource development – often cause harm to the natural habitats and the animals within them.  This is playing out as we speak with caribou herds across Canada: the activities that strengthen our communities are causing caribou populations to crash, and have resulted in it being classified as a federal "Threatened Species”.  My research aims to balance human and caribou needs within the Mackenzie River Basin, an area that covers 1/5th of Canada.  I am using spatial economic analysis and climate projection modeling to identify where the most valuable spaces for humans and caribou will be under a warming climate, and create a reserve system which maximizes caribou protection while minimizing economic losses.

Anirudha Banerjee | Chemical Engineering
"Tractor Beams" that Steer Colloidal Particles Over Millimeter Distances 
Liquid suspensions of micron-scale particles and drops play a ubiquitous role in a broad spectrum of materials of central importance to modern life. A suite of interactions has long been known and exploited to formulate such suspensions; however, all such interactions act over less than a micron in water - and often much less. In this talk I will present a versatile concept to design and engineer non-equilibrium interactions in suspensions, which are particle surface-dependent, may last for hundreds of seconds, and extend hundreds of times farther than is currently possible.

Anusha Pusuluri | Chemical Engineering
Bioengineered Molecular Missiles - The Next Gen of Precision Medicine
Much like a military mission, cancer treatments should have the ability to search, infiltrate and specifically destroy tumor tissues without affecting other healthy cells in the body. Engineering such a therapy is currently the greatest challenge in the field of cancer medicine and most FDA approved therapies are suboptimal due to deleterious side effects when administered at high doses. In my talk, I will discuss our novel dose reduction and specificity enhancement strategies in an effort to counter this problem.

Daniel Phillips | Geography
Defining the Community of Interest as a Cognitive Region
When deciding where to draw the boundaries for electoral districts, officials often strive to ensure that communities of interest are not split up but kept wholly within those boundaries. But what constitutes a community of interest is vague, with legal and academic sources describing either a thematic region with shared demographic and land-use traits, or a cognitive region that is meaningful to people and commonly agreed upon. This presentation shows how I identified communities of interest within Santa Barbara as cognitive regions--by surveying residents about the size and locational extent of their community and finding areas of agreement. I also discuss how I assessed the degree to which these regions overlap with the new city council districts.

Dominique Houston | Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology
DID I PAUSE? DIAPAUSE: A Story of Suspended Animation
Over the last century, the average person's lifespan has increased by 30 years in the United States. Unfortunately, these additional years have come at a cost; our so called "golden years" are now plagued with a multitude of degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, heart disease, and cancer. So how can we improve the quality of these golden years? My research seeks to address this by uncovering the molecular mechanisms underlying the prevention of age related degeneration in the fruit fly. 

Douglas Fabini | ​Materials
Toward Ubiquitous Solar Energy: Materials for Low Cost Conversion of Sunlight to Electricity 
In this talk, I will motivate the search for new low cost materials for the conversion of sunlight to electricity, introduce the halide perovskites as curious and promising candidates, and highlight the approaches and techniques we use to understand the structure and collective behavior of atoms, electrons, and molecules in functional solids.

Elisabeth Steel | Earth Science
Rivers Under the Ocean: How Turbidity Currents Shape our Seafloor
Turbidity currents are responsible for carrying sand and mud from shallow continental margins to deep-water and they build large submarine fans at the base of the continental slope. These systems are the rivers of the seafloor, and they can carve canyons in our oceans that rival the size of the Grand Canyon. I will focus on turbidity currents initiated by extreme river floods that have occurred recently in the Santa Barbara Channel as well as those that occurred approximately 170 million years ago in Argentina.

Evan Layher | Psychological and Brain Sciences
Your Terrible Memory Leads to Poor Decisions… “Thanks” Brain
People are generally bad at optimizing their memory-based decisions. Oftentimes consequential outcomes differ when you either falsely recognize or fail to recognize an entity of interest. In these situations, people should use decision strategies that bias responses to lessen the severity of errors. My research attempts to identify neural networks involved in shifting between decision strategies in hopes of making people better decision makers in the future.

Max Nowak  | Chemical Engineering
Breaching the Blood-Brain Barrier
The Blood-Brain Barrier (BBB) is notorious for being perhaps the most difficult biological barrier to cross. Despite extensive research on the BBB itself, very little is known about what factors influence how much or how fast something can get to the other side. This talk will discuss our work towards using a microfluidic BBB model to understand how nanoparticle properties affect their ability to cross the BBB.

Melissa Rapp | ​Education
Getting Teachers to the Highest Grade: Gendered Responses to Evaluations
Teacher expertise is the most important factor in school quality and student success. Are evaluations providing the support teachers need to improve methods?