Our 10 Finalists in Abbreviated Grad Slam

10 mugshots in UC Davis Grad Slam graphic
UC Davis’ 2020 Grad Slam finalists, from left: Top row — Lindsay Cameron, Fatima Hussain, Paul Kasemsap, Ellen Lai and Kayce Mastrup. Bottom row — Morgan Matson, Amelia Munson, Kristina Rodriguez, Claire Shaw and Peter Torres.

Quick Summary

  • Annual competition calls on master’s and Ph.D. students to explain their research in three-minute presentations
  • Coronavirus outbreak made in-person finals impossible, and the organizers alternatives proved too challenging
  • Not all is lost: Finalists will split the prize money — receiving $625 each

As far as we’re concerned, they all hit grand slams in the 2020 Grad Slam. They are the 10 finalists, and will always have that honor — and some prize money, too.

But there won’t be a finals competition, due to the coronavirus outbreak. The finals had been scheduled for Tuesday, April 7, amid National Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week. The winner would have advanced to the systemwide Grad Slam — but it, too, has been canceled.

In the Grad Slam, master’s and Ph.D. students from all disciplines are invited to sum up their research for presentation to a general audience, covering the significance and fundamental points of their work in a clear, direct and interesting manner, in three minutes or less. Each UC then sends its campus winner to the systemwide Grad Slam.

“We’re truly saddened by the event’s cancellation,” said Jean-Pierre Deplanque, vice provost and dean UC Davis Graduate Studies, which sponsors the campus competition. “This year’s participants have worked tirelessly to develop and refine their research presentations, but the rapidly changing situation made it impossible to proceed with an in-person event.” 

Alternatives prove too challenging

While alternative competition formats were explored, the planning committee ultimately decided to cancel due to a variety of factors, including scheduling challenges, resource and technology constraints, and general uncertainty about the evolving coronavirus situation and its impact on academic and administrative operations.

The 2020 campus Grad Slam drew more than 90 proposals. Faculty and staff volunteer judges assessed the participants in preliminary rounds Feb. 10 and 13 on the Davis and Sacramento campuses, and chose the 10 finalists, listed here with their disciplines, college or school, and topics:

  • Lindsay Cameron, Ph.D. in Neuroscience, College of Biological Sciences — “Rethinking Psychedelics: Using Psychedelics and Nonhallucinogenic Analogs to Treat Neuropsychiatric Disorders”
  • Fatima Hussain, Ph.D. in Chemistry, College of Letters and Science — “Waste Wise”
  • Paul Kasemsap, Ph.D. in Horticulture and Agronomy, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences — “Mission N-Possible”
  • Ellen Lai, Ph.D. in Integrative Genetics and Genomics, College of Biological Sciences — “Why Are Cows So Lame?”
  • Kayce Mastrup, Ph.D. in Education, School of Education —
  • “Storied Identities: The Journey of Eight Preservice Mathematics Teachers”
  • Morgan Matson, Ph.D. in Chemistry, College of Letters and Science — “Zap! Electrifying Bacteria for a Better Future”
  • Amelia Munson, Ph.D. in Animal Behavior, College of Biological Sciences — “Sesame Street Smarts: Understanding the Effects of Developmental Stress on Later Behavior”
  • Kristina Rodriguez, Master’s of Science in Nursing Science and Health Care Leadership, Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing — “Resilience and Burnout Among Intensive Care Unit Nurses: The Development of a Debriefing Resource Tool”
  • Claire Shaw, Ph.D. in Animal Biology, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences — “Meet Your Microbiome”
  • Peter Torres, Ph.D. in Linguistics, College of Letters and Science — “We Can, We Should, We Must, We Shall and We Will Fight the Opioid Crisis”

Organizers said the prize money — contributed by Graduate Studies, the Office of Public Scholarship and Engagement, and Global Affairs — will be split equally among the finalists, giving each of them $625.

In addition, Global Affairs presented its Global Education for All designation to Hussain and Kasemsap for their exploration of globally relevant research topics. Global Education for All is a campus goal that aims to provide 100 percent of undergraduate, graduate and professional students with global learning opportunities that change their lives and our world.

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