Introducing the 2021 Grad Slam Champion: Logan Kozal

by Matthew Choi, Graduate Division Marketing and Communications Intern
Tuesday, March 09, 2021 10:00 AM

And then there was one...
Logan Kozal “Mussels” Into First Place at the First-Ever Virtual Grad Slam

“Hot Dads and Super Moms? Musseling up against Marine Heatwaves” was the quirky title for this year’s winning 3-minute talk from this year’s UCSB Grad Slam Champion Logan Kozal, a graduate student in the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology.

Logan was among ten graduate student finalists who participated in the first-ever virtual UCSB Grad Slam Final Round, live-streamed on UC Santa Barbara’s YouTube channel on March 8. The 3-minute research presentations ranged from the study of private system design, navigation patterns in the brain of a live mouse diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, to tracking wildfire threats in Central California, and searching for life on other planets.

Logan’s research on the heatwave-mitigating impact of mussel “parenting” on the depleting green shell population won over the judges and the Grad Slam Grand Prize of $5,000. Runners-up Deeksha Dangwal (Computer Science), Nora Wolcott (Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology), and Katelyn Zigner (Geography) were each awarded $2,500; with the audience voting online for Danae Hernandez Cortes (Economics) to win the 2021 People’s Choice Award of $1,500. Each of the ten finalists also took home $750 and a Sonos speaker.

The ten finalists were selected from over 50 video submissions sent during the qualifying round last month. Their talks were then judged by a distinguished Final Round Judging Panel made up of campus leaders that included UCSB Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn, Vice Chancellor for Research Joe Incandela, Executive Vice Chancellor David Marshall, College of Creative Studies Dean Gerardo Aldana, with special guest judge Dr. Carol Genetti, Grad Slam founder and UCSB Graduate Dean Emerita who now serves as New York University Abu Dhabi’s Vice Provost for Graduate and Postdoctoral Programs.

The competition’s format may have been adapted to the digital space for this year’s competition, but this year’s Final Round remained an incredible showcase of innovative ideas from finalists from across disciplines on campus. Greta Koumarianou (Chemistry and Biochemistry) pondered on methods to look for life on other planets, while Viktoriya Babenko (Psychology and Brain Sciences) commented on the stresses faced on the modern planet Earth. Kelsey Dowdy (Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology) played the flute in her talk while addressing landscape degradation through the weed Arundo donax. Her fellow EEMB scholar Emily Hardison discussed the diet changes of Opaleye fish within a changing climate in the show’s opening talk titled “Feeding Nemo.” Nora Kassner (History) argued to expand the definition of family to include queer foster parents through her presentation on the historical impact of the Fulton v. City of Philadelphia case. 

Throughout the program, Interim Graduate Dean Leila J. Rupp made her own live stream debut as Final Round emcee with inspiring opening remarks and lively post-presentation Q&A sessions with each presenter. The discussions with the Dean revealed common threads among the presenters -- like a love for UCSB’s Campus Point and a longing to return to campus to see colleagues and advisors in person. 

Before the winners were announced, viewers were able to dig deeper into the research with questions directed at the 10 finalists who answered one by one. Audience members were treated to a cameo appearance by George Degen, the 2019 Grad Slam Champion, who announced the People’s Choice Award tallied from viewer voting  conducted during the live stream. 

We wish Logan all the best as she represents UC Santa Barbara at the UC-wide Grad Slam on May 7th

Learn more about the 2021 UCSB Grad Slam competition here.