James Allen Takes Top Honors at Grad Slam


Geography Professor Jennifer King contacted the editor on Friday to say, “Perhaps someone has already reported the news that Michelle Oyewole and James Allen both competed in the Grad Slam Finals this afternoon. The talks were excellent. James won the Grand Prize!!! (Why the talk that included Cookie Monster did not win we can’t be sure, but they are all winners in the Final Round!). Great visibility for Geography and IGPMS! And very good turnout by members of Geography.”

“James G. Allen, whose research uses satellite imaging to model ocean ecosystems, came away with the top prize of $2,500. Allen survived preliminary and semi-final rounds to compete against nine other graduate students in the finals April 18. ‘I needed the kind of practice necessary to do an effective three-minute talk,’ said Allen, a doctoral student in the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Marine Science. ‘Grad Slam was the perfect opportunity to get some lessons in that. It was great because one of my goals in the future is to be able to communicate science to the public’” (source).

Open to all graduate students, the Grad Slam is a campus-wide competition for the best three-minute research talk. This is a great opportunity for graduate students to share their research or explore “big ideas that matter” with the campus community. All graduate students, undergraduates, faculty, and staff are invited to attend Grad Slam events, and refreshments are available at all Grad Slam rounds.

The Grad Slam format consists of a 3-minute talk with PowerPoint slides or Prezi, academic and creative presentations are welcome, and there are up to 10 preliminary rounds. Criteria for judging include clear and effective presentation, being geared for a general university audience, and having intellectual significance; judges’ scoring rubric are shared with participants before the preliminary rounds.

There are up to ten preliminary rounds with a maximum of twelve participants each, and the top two presenters in each preliminary round advance to the semifinal rounds and receive a $50 UCSB Bookstore gift card. There are two semifinal rounds with a maximum of twelve participants each, and the top four presenters in each semifinal round advance to the final round and are invited to a VIP lunch with the Graduate Division Dean, Carol Genetti. The final round can have up to ten final contestants; the top prize is a $2,500 research fund, and the prize for two runners-up is a $1,000 research fund.

Last year’s Grad Slam rounds were a big hit, with more than 80 students presenting to large and appreciative audiences from across campus. UCSB’s Grad Slam won the 2013 Western Association of Graduate Schools (WAGS) and Educational Testing Service (ETS) Award for Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Education (source).

Editor’s note: Many thanks to Jennifer King (and, later,  Crystal Bae) for bringing this material to our attention.

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Grad Slam logo

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Dean of the Graduate Division Carol Genetti, runner-up Damien Kudela, grand-prize winner James G. Allen, and runner-up Deborah Barany (Photo Credit: Sonia Fernandez)

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Grad Slam finalist Michelle Oyewole’s presentation examined the effect of compost application on greenhouse gas emissions (Photo Credit: Sonia Fernandez)