2016 Grad Slam Final Round: And the winner is...

by Stephanie Griffin, Funding Peer
Friday, April 15, 2016 11:07 PM

The finalists are recognized on stage by Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

After two long weeks of preliminary and semifinal rounds, 11 grad students advanced to the Grad Slam Finals to compete ​Friday for cash prizes and the chance to represent UCSB at the UC Grad Slam next week in San Francisco. These contestants worked hard to develop and polish public presentations on their graduate research and its significance, which they delivered to a packed house at Corwin Pavilion.

The finalists represented a breadth of subject matters and programs at UCSB. Beyond educating the audience on a variety of research topics, these finalists brought with them some great props, from a bubble machine to a hunting bow from Papua New Guinea. Many presentations also included suggestions for applying their research, from improving human health or the natural environment, to creating more efficient technologies, to empowering women around the world.

The Final Round also featured four esteemed judges who had the difficult job of choosing winners from this group of ​stellar presenters. The judges for the Final Round were:

  • Timothy Cheng, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
  • Matthew Hall, Associate Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer
  • Margaret Klawunn, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs
  • Linda Putnam, Department of Communication

Our Excellent Eleven Finalists were:

A closeup of the coveted Grad Slam Grand Prize trophy. Credit: Patricia MarroquinGeoff Willard | Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
"Where're Wolves?: Mapping Wolf Habitat and Wolf-Livestock Conflict Hotspots in California"
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David Hwang | Materials
"LEDs: Enablers of the Future"
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Gokh ​Amin | Global Studies
"Seven Years, Three Yemens: The Empowerment and Disenfranchisement of Yemeni Women Between 1989 and 1995"
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Nicole Leung | Biomolecular Science & Engineering
"Lighting the Path from the Eye to the Brain"
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Katherine Millage | Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
"Fishing for Benefits: Seafood Certifications in Small-Scale Fisheries"
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Sara Weinstein discusses her research into raccoons. Credit: Patricia MarroquinSara Weinstein | Ecology, Evolution & Marine Biology
"Worms in Raccoons: Worms in You?"
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Jesilyn Faust | Global Studies
"Challenging Global Responses to Violence Against Women: The Case of Amina al Falali"
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Elizabeth Hiroyasu | Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
"Fun Facts about Wild Pigs and Why We Should Care about Them"
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Savannah Dearden | Molecular, Cellular, & Developmental Biology
"Sparkling Sea-Slug Photonics: The Discovery of Nanoscopic Multi-Layer Reflectors in F. Iodinea"
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Phillip Rogers | Linguistics
"Featuring the Bituri: Linguistic Fieldwork in Papua New Guinea"
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Kendall Mills | Bren School of Environmental Science & Management
"The Market Value of Non-Market Goods: Conservation of Endangered Whale Species in the Santa Barbara Channel"
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Without further ado, the judges’ choices for the two runners-up (and winners of $2,500 cash prizes each) are:

Geoff Willard


Phillip Rogers

And the winner of the 2016 Grad Slam, including a $5,000 cash prize and a chance to win big at the UC Grad Slam against other campuses is:

Nicole Leung

Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti, left, with the winners: Nicole Leung, Champion, and Geoff Willard and Phillip Rogers, runners-up. Credit: Patricia Marroquin
This year’s Grad Slam was hugely successful, with over 80 contestants. A big thank you to the Graduate Division coordinators and corporate sponsors for making this run so smoothly!

View photos from the exciting competition below. Also, see more photos in our Facebook album, 2016 UCSB Grad Slam Finals.

Geoff Willard begins his talk with a howl. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Color and sparking sea slug photonics were the topic of Savannah Dearden's talk. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Kendall Mills discussed conservation of endangered whales in the Santa Barbara Channel. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

David Hwang spoke about LEDs. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Katherine Millage's Grad Slam talk focused on seafood certifications. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Elizabeth Hiroyasu talked about why wild pigs are important. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Jesilyn Faust discussed the case of Amina al Falali and global responses to violence against women. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Carol Genetti questions competitor Gokh Amin after her talk. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Last year's UCSB Grad Slam Champion, Danny Hieber, presents the 2016 award to Nicole Leung. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Phillip Rogers tells Dean Carol Genetti how he was attracted to UCSB because of the diversity of languages in the Linguistics Department. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Nicole Leung accepts the trophy from 2015 Grad Slam Champion Danny Hieber, while runners-up Phillip Rogers and Geoff Willard applaud. Credit: Patricia Marroquin