University of California Santa Barbara
Campaign for the University of California Santa Barbara


Interested in staying up-to-date on the latest news for UCSB graduate students? Subscribe to the UCSB GradPost.

Latest News

Translate the GradPost:

Graduate Peers Hours

Spring 2014

Academic Peer:
Torrey Trust

Mon: 1 to 4 p.m.
Tues: 1 to 4 p.m.
Wed: noon to 3 p.m. 

Diversity & Outreach Peer:
Hala Sun

Wed: 12:30 to 5 p.m.
Thurs: 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Funding Peer:
Kyle Crocco


Writing Peer:
Ryan Dippre

Tues: 10 to 11 a.m. &
2 to 6 p.m.
Wed: 9 to 11 a.m.
Thurs: 10 to 11 a.m. 
Fri: 9 to 11 a.m.

The peers sometimes hold events or attend meetings during their regular office hours. To assure you connect with your Graduate Peer Advisor, we encourage you to contact them by email and make an appointment.


Campus Map


View UCSB Graduate Student Resources in a larger map


Grad Slam Finals Recap: James Allen Is Grand Prize Winner; Deborah Barany and Damien Kudela Are Runners-Up 

Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti with the Grad Slam 2014 winners: James Allen, center, grand prize winner; and runners-up Damien Kudela and Deborah Barany. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

The three winners presenting their talks: Deborah Barany, James Allen, and Damien Kudela. Credit: Patricia MarroquinDuring the Grad Slam Final Round, 10 brave graduate students shared their 3-minute research presentations with a large crowd that filled Corwin Pavilion.

Since the majority of the presentations were similar to the participants’ semifinal round talks, I will not take up your time with another recap (you can find all of the Grad Slam recaps here: Instead, I will get straight to the point. After the 10 presenters gave their professional and inspiring talks, the judges selected the following winners:

Grand Prize Winner: James G. Allen (Marine Science), “Measuring Cells from Space: Remote Sensing of Phytoplankton Size Distribution”

Runner-Up: Deborah Barany (Dynamical Neuroscience), “The Brain in Action”

Runner-Up: Damien Kudela (Chemistry), “Smart Drugs to Stop Bleeding”

Of course, everyone was a winner in the Grad Slam Final Round, which is why I have created additional categories for the rest of the presenters, and a few others:

Credit: Patricia MarroquinBest Use of Popular Media: Leah Kuritzky

Most Impressive Comparison of Spaghetti to Brain Research: Matt Cieslak

Outstanding Use of the Angry Kid Meme: Aubrie Adams

Most Dramatic (“We Just Don’t Have Anything Else That Works!”): Michael Zakrewsky

Most Impressive Use of a Cassowary to Explain Language: Don Daniels

Best Use of Food: Michelle Oyewole

Outstanding Comparison of Language to Biology: Dibella Wdzenczny

Future Career as a DJ: Don Lubach, Associate Dean, First Year and Graduate Student Initiatives, aka DJ Donny Don

Best judges: Hannah-Beth Jackson, California State Senator; Gene Lucas, Former Executive Vice Chancellor and Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering; Michael Witherell, Vice Chancellor for Research and Professor of Physics; Denise Stephens, University Librarian; John Wiemann, Professor Emeritus of Communication; and Sarah Cline, Professor Emerita of History.

Most welcoming host: Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti

After being amazed by the Grad Slam finalists, the audience members headed outdoors for the Graduate Student Showcase Reception. The reception featured a delicious selection of foods (empanadas, mushroom-stuffed risotto cakes, quesadillas, and more) as well as a live band.

Overall, the Grad Slam and Graduate Student Showcase were a great success and a fun way to show off the incredible research that graduate students are conducting.

Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti calls for questions from the audience for the 10 finalists. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Credit: Torrey Trust


UCSB Graduate Division's Ice Cream Social Was a Tasty Affair

Photos and collage by Patricia Marroquin

For those of you who missed UCSB Graduate Division's Ice Cream Social and Sundae Bar, here's the scoop:

There were four flavors from McConnell's in 2.5-gallon tubs:
Credit: Patricia Marroquin

  • Vanilla
  • Strawberry
  • Dutchman's Chocolate
  • Salted Caramel Chip

Numerous toppings were available, including:

  • Caramel
  • Chocolate
  • Butterscotch
  • Whipped Cream
  • M&Ms
  • Reese's Pieces
  • Gummi Bears
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Sprinkles of all kinds such as Cookie Cream Crunch and Dark Chocolate Crunch

Best ice cream social-themed attire: lime sherbet-hued pants worn by Robert Hamm, Graduate Division's Coordinator of Graduate Student Professional Development.

And there were too many Graduate Division Deans scooping your ice cream.

Fun Factoid: Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti and Associate Dean Karen Myers both got their first jobs at ice cream parlors. Dean Genetti worked at a Baskin-Robbins in San Rafael, California, and Associate Dean Myers worked at Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour in Scottsdale, Arizona.

View our photo slideshow video below.

The Graduate Division thanks everyone for attending.



Grad Slam Semifinal Round 2 Recap: 5 Will Move on to Finals

The five Grad Slam competitors from Semifinal Round 2 advancing to the Finals are, from left, Matt Cieslak, Aubrie Adams, James Allen, Don Daniels, and Michael Zakrewsky. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

How can we …

Prevent wildfires?

Save dying languages?

Combat bacterial infections?

Map the entire ocean’s ecosystem?

Reduce LGBT bullying and harassment?

Find missing structures in the brain?

The 11 graduate student presenters in the second Grad Slam Semifinal round are conducting research to answer these critical questions. During the semifinal round, these incredible students amazed the audience with their professionally crafted, entertaining, and engaging presentations.

Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti calls on audience members during a question-and-answer session while the judges deliberated. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Here is a recap of the 11 presentations:

Don Daniels explained how when languages die, a window into the history, culture, and humanity of the past closes. According to Don, “Language death is a human tragedy.” His research is working to prevent the disappearance of historical languages in Papua New Guinea that were used more than 3,000 years ago.

According to Dayton Horvath, “Life is one big party (or so it seems here at UCSB sometimes). And, keeping this party going is a massive array of energy resources.” While solar power is by far the best renewable energy resource, our energy demands don’t track with the sun. Dayton’s research focuses on artificial photosynthesis as an alternative energy source. He hopes that his research will provide a solution to the increasing demand for energy.

Michael Zakrewsky shared how bacterial infections have been responsible for wiping out entire populations throughout human history (e.g., the plague). Worse yet, bacterial tumors are similar to cancer tumors in that they resist many forms of treatment. Michael is conducting research on a new arsenal of materials that will create extremely potent solutions to kill bacteria with zero irritation to the skin and zero side effects.

Aubrie Adams discussed perceptions of emoticon use by teachers. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Nate Emery flashed an image of a raging wildfire and described how wildfires have profound economic and ecological consequences. His research is looking at plants that absorb water from the fog that rolls in during the summer since these plants are less likely to catch on fire during the dry months. Nate shared that, “This foggy idea of mine will inform fire management.”

Aubrie Adams began her presentation with an image of smiling Dr. Kimo Ah Yun. However, Aubrie shared, “He might look like a nice guy, but he doesn’t come across as a nice guy in email.” Aubrie’s research explores text- and computer-based communication to understand how teachers can show caring and emotion through text. She found that with a small number of emoticon usage, teachers can show caring while still portraying competence.

Alexander Pucher started his campaign with, “My name is Alex, and I want to democratize the cloud.” Alex described how everyone uses and relies on the cloud, yet, only a few companies can afford to run the data centers that host the cloud. This leads to increased costs and decreased innovation. Alex’s research focuses on combining smaller data centers into bigger, more reliable ones in order to help smaller data centers become more competitive, to ensure fairer prices, and to increase the speed of innovation.

Carly Thomsen shared how gay rights movements often project an “Out and Proud” metronormative narrative that does not reflect the narratives of individuals in rural areas. She interviewed 51 lesbians in a rural area and found that they prefer to identify with their rural identity over their sexual identity. Carly encouraged the audience to think about the limits of metronormative narratives.

Audrey Harkness addressed parent messaging about youth sexuality. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

James Allen engaged the audience by asking everyone to take a deep breath. He then asked, “Did you know that half of the oxygen you took in came from microscopic cells in the ocean called phytoplankton?” James is using satellite photos to map plant interactions in the ocean. Rather than waiting months or years for boats to travel the entire ocean to collect data, James uses satellite imaging to create a picture of the ocean in weeks. He hopes to use the data from these images to map out entire ecosystems in the ocean.

Audrey Harkness introduced the audience to two hypothetical male students: Alex and Sam. Alex contributes to LGBT harassment and bullying, while Sam is an LGBT ally and steps in to stop the harassment. There are many factors that can contribute to students’ attitudes about sexuality and one of the important factors is parents. Audrey’s research looks at parent messaging and youth attitudes about sexuality. She hopes to develop evidence-based workshops to help all parents provide better messages to their children.

Matt Cieslak talked about an algorithm he has created to assist research into brain injury. Credit: Patricia MarroquinMira Rai Waits explained how biometrics (fingerprint mapping) were first used to hold men to their words since signatures were not very binding collateral. Once a scientist discovered that fingerprints provide accurate visual markers of identity, fingerprints were used to track diverse and unfamiliar native populations. Fingerprints then became linked to criminality. And, yet, here we are today with fingerprint scanners on our phones. Mira expressed the importance of understanding the history of biometrics and “remembering how visual markers of our body have come to control us.”

Matt Cieslak is using new neuroimaging technology to examine deep inside the white matter in the brain. He developed an algorithm that searches thousands of images of the brain to find missing structures in specific groups of individuals (e.g., adults who stutter). His research has important implications for research on brain injuries (e.g., concussions) and diseases.

After much deliberation, the judges selected the following five students to advance to the Grad Slam Final Round on Friday, April 18, at 3 p.m. in Corwin Pavilion:

James Allen

Aubrie Adams

Michael Zakrewsky

Matt Cieslak

Don Daniels


Graphic created by Torrey Trust


Grad Slam Semifinal Round 1 Recap: 5 Will Move on to Finals

Winners of Grad Slam Semifinal Round 1, who will advance to the Finals, are, from left, Leah Kuritzky, Dibella Wdzenczny, Michelle Oyewole, Damien Kudela, and Deborah Barany. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

In the first of two Grad Slam semifinal rounds, 10 presenters from a variety of disciplines wowed the audience with their research, expertise, and passion for making a difference. These graduate students are tackling important world problems such as climate change, coral reef degradation, energy inefficiency, the extinction of languages, racism, and treating diseases. Here is a recap of their presentations:   

Leah Kuritzky spoke about maximizing light efficiency and output, while reducing costs. Credit: Patricia MarroquinLeah Kuritzky was the first presenter and she started off with a bang, or rather a flash, by lighting up the room with a prototype of a laser light. Leah hopes to maximize light efficiency and output, while reducing costs, which is critical in a country where 22% of the electricity goes toward lighting. 

Haddy Kreie’s presentation juxtaposed mass media images of voodoo with more realistic representations of voodoo culture. Haddy’s research explores how the popular media images of voodoo in black culture assume and promote racial inferiority.

Philip Deslippe asked the audience to raise their hands if they practiced yoga or knew anyone who did. A large number of hands shot up in the air. Philip then explained how having such a high number of participants of yoga would not have been the case 40 years ago before yoga became mainstream and popular. Philip turned the traditional notion of yoga on its head and described how re-enculturation has made yoga a worldwide phenomenon.

Philip Deslippe addressed how re-enculturation has made yoga a worldwide phenomenon. Credit: Patricia Marroquin David Jacobson described how the human genome project, a 10-year, $3 billion study with the goal of understanding human DNA, only mapped 2% of the DNA. David asked, “What does the other 98% (the so-called non-coding DNA) do?” According to David, researchers need to map the entire web of interactions during the coding process in order to truly understand how life emerges and how diseases can be treated.

Dibella Wdzenczny showed some images that traditionally come to mind when thinking about Siberia (freezing, desolate land, tigers) and commented on the fact that people in Siberia are usually left out of the picture. What’s more problematic is that the many different languages in Siberia are disappearing as children are forced to learn Chinese and Russian in school. Since language is essential for understanding people, culture, and knowledge, Dibella believes that Siberia needs more linguists who can record languages and prevent them from extinction.

Michelle Oyewole started her presentation with two images of delicious-looking strawberries. She explained how even though these images look the same, the group of strawberries on the left gave off three times more emissions than the ones on the right. According to Michelle, “As organic agriculture continues to expand, there’s an increasing need to quantify emissions from these fields.” Michelle’s research looks as these emissions in relation to climate change and she hopes to find ways to reduce the emissions.

Deborah Barany compared the human brain to computers and described how even though we have incredibly advanced computers, like IBM’s Watson, computers are still very far behind in imitating human goal-directed actions. Deborah’s research uses a fMRI machine to study the brain. She hopes to find a way to harness thoughts and translate them into action.

Samantha Davis talked about efforts to help coral reefs recover. Credit: Patricia MarroquinDamien Kudela described how stopping bleeding has been a problem that has plagued scientists for a very long time (bandages have been traced back to ancient Greece). Damien’s research focuses on finding the “just right” dosage for blood clotting because “the quicker we can provide treatment, the more likely it is the patient will survive.”

Logan Fiorella shared how teaching is a highly dynamic process and past research fails to capture the complex nature of teaching. He designed a new model to help researchers and educators understand the many variables of the learning by teaching process.

Samantha Davis started her presentation with an image of a beautiful coral reef. Unfortunately, according to Samantha, coral reefs are dying off at an increasingly rapid pace and she believes this may be due to the coral reefs’ lack of resilience. Samantha hopes to uncover the causes of diminishing resilience in order to help coral reefs recover so that future generations can enjoy the beautiful oceans the way that we do.

After much contemplation, the judges selected the following five presenters to move on to the Grad Slam Final Round on Friday, April 18, at 3 p.m. in Corwin Pavilion:

Leah Kuritzky

Damien Kudela

Deborah Barany

Michelle Oyewole

Dibella Wdzenczny

 Graphic created by Torrey Trust


Happiness Ensues at UCSB Library Wine and Cheese Reception

About 200 grad students attended the Library Wine and Cheese Reception on Monday as part of Graduate Student Showcase. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Library staff members Alex Regan, top right, and Richard Caldwell, bottom photo, poured wine for grad students, while Housing staffer Pam Scott welcomed students. Collage credit: Patricia MarroquinGather 200 grad students into a room along with 70 bottles of wine and you have a happy place. Judging by the food and drink consumed at the UCSB Library Wine and Cheese Reception on Monday evening, a good time was had by all.

The reception is one of the many events in the Graduate Student Showcase, a two-week celebration of UCSB graduate students and their important work.

Cheese, crackers, and fruit were served at a long table inside Mary Cheadle Room on the 3rd floor of Davidson Library. In a departure this year, the wine – served with a smile by library staff members Richard Caldwell and Alex Regan – was poured out on the balcony. At the reception’s height, both Mary Cheadle Room and its balcony were packed.

At about 6:15 p.m., when it was announced that the library had run out of red wine, a groan could be heard from the crowd. But there was still white wine left, so all was good.

There are more opportunities for free food and drink this week. On Wednesday is a supersized Bagel Hour at the GSA Lounge from 8:15 to 11:15 a.m. On Thursday from 2 to 3 p.m., your Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti will scoop up ice cream at the Ice Cream Social, also in the GSA Lounge. And on Friday, you may enjoy a catered reception in Friendship Court after the Grad Slam Finals at Corwin Pavilion.The Grad Slam Finals begin at 3 p.m., with the reception immediately following.

The lively scene on the balcony of Mary Cheadle Room at Davidson Library. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

A complete schedule of events is posted on the Graduate Post’s Graduate Student Showcase page. Read  recaps of the preliminary rounds on the GradPost.

Enjoy our "Happy" musical photo slide show of the Library Wine and Cheese Reception below.



State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson to Be Judge at UCSB Grad Slam Finals on April 18; Public Is Invited

California state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson will be a special guest judge on Friday at the Grad Slam Finals.California State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson will be a special guest judge for UCSB Graduate Division’s Grad Slam Finals on Friday afternoon at Corwin Pavilion, it was confirmed on Monday. The public is invited to attend.  

The Grad Slam is part of the 2nd annual Graduate Student Showcase, a two-week series of events that celebrates UC Santa Barbara’s exceptional graduate students. The events range from performances, presentations, and poster sessions to tours, exhibitions, and open houses – all of which highlight the work of the university’s graduate students.

The Showcase’s signature event is the national award-winning Grad Slam, a campus-wide competition for the best three-minute talk about research or other big ideas by a graduate student.

With the advent of TedX, the three-minute talk is rapidly catching on as an ideal format for the communication of graduate research to a general audience. Longer than an elevator talk, but shorter than a conference presentation, in three minutes students must encapsulate the central points of their research and convey them in a clear, direct, and interesting manner. Students gain experience constructing a tight professional presentation and delivering it with confidence.  They also have the opportunity to practice sharing their ideas with a wider audience, an important professional skill for communicating with employers, granting agencies, investors, CEOs, reporters, policymakers, and others.

In its inaugural year last year, the UCSB Grad Slam was honored with the 2013 Western Association of Graduate Schools (WAGS) and Educational Testing Service (ETS) Award for Excellence and Innovation in Graduate Education. This year, UC San Diego adopted UCSB’s idea, initiating its own Grad Slam competition.

Nearly 70 grad students competed in 10 preliminary Grad Slam rounds held last week at UC Santa Barbara. The student presenters came from nearly 40 disciplines across the campus, ranging from Music to Materials; Physics to Film and Media Studies; Communication to Computer Science; and Sociology to Spanish and Portuguese. The talks were entertaining, informative, enlightening, and impressive. Some of the more amusing titles: "Let Them Eat Ketchup" (History); "Kidney Punch" (Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology); "How Pizza Explains Yoga" (Religious Studies); "I Have the Foggiest Idea" (Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology); and "What Makes Grumpy Cat More Popular Than the Higgs Boson?"  (Dynamical Neuroscience).

After two semifinal rounds this week, 10 students will advance to the Finals on Friday.

“The Grad Slam Final Round is the cream of the crop,” said UCSB Graduate Division Dean Carol Genetti, “a window into the groundbreaking research of our very best students, presented in a fun, accessible, and exciting way.” The Grad Slam grand prize winner will receive a $2,500 research award; and two runners-up will receive $1,000 each.

In addition to Senator Jackson, who represents state Senate District 19 (Santa Barbara County and a portion of Ventura County), other judges for the Finals are: Denise Stephens, University Librarian; Michael Witherell, Vice Chancellor for Research; Sarah Cline, Professor Emerita of History; John Weimann, Professor Emeritus of Communication; and Gene Lucas, Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering and former Executive Vice Chancellor.

The public is invited to attend both the two Semifinal Grad Slam rounds and the Grad Slam Finals. The Semifinals are on Tuesday, April 15, from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Student Resource Building (SRB) Multipurpose Room and Wednesday, April 16, from 11 a.m. to noon in Engineering Science Building (ESB) 1001.

The Grad Slam Finals will be held on Friday, April 18, from 3 to 4 p.m. in Corwin Pavilion, and will be followed by the Graduate Student Showcase Reception in Friendship Court outside the pavilion.

A complete schedule of events is posted on the Graduate Post’s Graduate Student Showcase page. Read   recaps of the preliminary rounds on the GradPost. For more information, contact Robert Hamm, Coordinator of Graduate Student Professional Development, at 805-893-2671 or


Grad Slam Semifinals: The Showdown Continues


Grad Slam 2014 bracket2014 Grad Slam "April Awesomeness" Bracket: Who Will Advance?

While basketball has “March Madness,” the UCSB Graduate Division has “April Awesomeness,” (also known as the Graduate Student Showcase). For two weeks of April, graduate students from a variety of disciplines show off their incredible research, expertise, projects, and performances. One of the capstone events of the Graduate Student Showcase is the Grad Slam.

Last week, 64 students gave a combined total of 192 minutes of presentations (give or take a few minutes for students who went under or over the 3-minute time limit) during the 10 preliminary Grad Slam rounds. Their talks covered a broad range of topics, including: understanding the brain, developing alternative energy sources, documenting and saving dying languages, understanding culture and identity, improving teaching and learning, exploring online communication, curing diseases, designing new technologies to provide better healthcare, examining the power of music on socialization, and using reading as a tool for emotional growth. To read more about each of the 10 Grad Slam preliminary rounds, visit:

This week, the Grad Slam continues with two Semifinal Rounds:

Semifinal Round 1: Tuesday, April 15, 4 - 5 p.m., Student Resource Building Multipurpose Room

Semifinal Round 2: Wednesday, April 16, 11 a.m. - noon, ESB 1001

Here are the list of semifinalists and their presentation titles:

Semifinal Round 1

  • Philip Deslippe, Religious Studies, "How Pizza Explains Yoga"
  • Deborah Barany, Dynamical Neuroscience, "The Brain in Action" 
  • Samantha Davis, Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, "Why are Coral Reefs Disappearing?"
  • Logan Fiorella, Psychological & Brain Sciences, "Is Teaching Really the Best Way to Learn?"
  • Haddy Kreie, Theater & Dance, "Celebrating Mourning: Memorializations of Vodun and Slavery in West Africa"
  • Damien Kudela, Chemistry, "A Safe and Effective Nanotherapeutic to Control the Coagulation Cascade During Trauma"
  • Leah Kuritzky, Materials, "The Promise of Laser Lighting"
  • David Jacobson, Physics, "Genetic Regulation: What the Human Genome Project Didn’t Tell Us"
  • Michelle Oyewole, Geography, "Too Much of a Good Thing? Effect of Compost Application on Greenhouse Gas Emissions"
  • Dibella Wdzenczny, Linguistics, "Capturing Tongues in the Tundra"

Semifinal Round 2:

  • James G. Allen, Marine Science, "Measuring Cells from Space: Remote Sensing of Phytoplankton Size Distribution"
  • Aubrie Adams, Communication, "Student Perceptions of Teacher :) Emoticon Usage"
  • Matt Cieslak, Psychological and Brain Sciences, "Searching the Brain for Missing Parts"
  • Don Daniels, Linguistics, "Reconstructing Proto-Sogeram"
  • Nate Emery, Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology, "I Have the Foggiest Idea"
  • Audrey Harkness, Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology, "Having 'The Talk': The Importance of Parent-Child Communication about Sexual Orientation in the Development of Youth Sexual Orientation Attitudes and Behaviors"
  • Dayton Horvath, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, "Don’t Stop the Solar Fuels Party"
  • Alexander Pucher, Computer Science, "Solon: Democratizing the Cloud"
  • Carly Thomsen, Feminist Studies, "Re-thinking Gay Rights Strategies: Perspectives from LGBTQ Women in the Rural Midwest"
  • Mira Rai Waits, History of Art and Architecture, "Mapping the Finger: The Colonial History of Biometrics"
  • Michael Zakrewsky, Chemical Engineering, "New Arsenal of Materials for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacterial Infections"

The top five presenters from each round will advance to the Grad Slam Final Round on Friday, April 18, at 3 p.m. in Corwin Pavilion and compete for a $2,500 grand prize. Stay tuned for an updated Grad Slam "April Awesomeness" bracket and more information about the Grad Slam Final Round.


Grad Slam Round Ten: Grumpy Cats, Flashy Males, Solar Fuels, and More

Winners of Grad Slam Round Ten, who will advance to the Semifinals, are, from left, David Jacobson of Physics and Dayton Horvath of Chemistry and Biochemistry. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Friday, April 11, 3 to 4 p.m., Elings 1605

Graduate Division Associate Dean Karen Myers helps the judges get settled in. They are, from left, Lisa Sedgwick, Hsiu-Zu Ho, and Kathy Foltz. Credit: Patricia MarroquinHere is what you missed at Round 10 of the Grad Slam.


The Grad Slam features three-minute presentations of student research. 

The top two presenters from the preliminary round advance to the Semifinal round. And the top four receive $50 gift cards for the UCSB bookstore. In this case, all five competitors received gift cards. 

Ryan’s Picks

Best Use of Grumpy Cat: Arturo Deza

Best Soundtrack: Emily Ellis

Best Reference to a Drag Racing Prius Since That Jason Bateman Movie: Dayton Horvath

Arturo Deza said Grumpy Cat has more virality than Peter Higgs. Credit Patricia MarroquinMost Successful Attempt to Raise My Suspicions About the Human Genome Project: David Jacobson

Best Recovery from a Malfunctioning Video Slide: Travis Seifman

Shortest Talk: Arturo Deza (2:48) 

Judges' Picks

David Jacobson (Advances to Semifinal round)

Dayton Horvath (Advances to Semifinal round)

Travis Seifman

Emily Ellis

Arturo Deza

Presentation Summaries

What Makes Grumpy Cat More Popular Than the Higgs Boson?  Arturo Deza, Dynamical Neuroscience

Emily Ellis talked about how some male Ostracods create flashy displays to attract females. Credit: Patricia MarroquinThis presentation explored how, from the perspective of visual psychology and computer vision, viral content on the Internet can be predicted. Arturo likes the idea of immortalizing an idea with an equation, and he wants to do that for the issue of virality, a relative property that addresses how ideas diffuse themselves around the world. By combining computer vision (a low-level data collection method) with visual psychology (a higher-level collection method), Arturo is able to determine with some confidence the relative attributes that lead to virality.

The Evolution of the Flashy Male Display in Ostracoda, Emily Ellis, Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology

Certain male Ostracods create flashy displays to attract females, not unlike human males who use Axe body spray, with the exception that the male Ostracods don’t lose friends in the process. Emily is attempting to create a phylogenetic tree of signaling and nonsignalling species to show how this has evolved. Ostracods produce light to protect themselves with predators (predators get suspicious about glowing food) and a small subset of them also produces it for mating purposes. By examining patterns of mating displays and tracing their origins, Emily hopes to identify the evolutionary roots of these displays.

Don’t Stop the Solar Fuels Party, Dayton Horvath, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry

Life, according to Dayton, is one big party. Energy resources keep this party rolling, and our best source of energy is the sun. Unfortunately, the variation in daily power demands makes capturing and using the energy of the sun rather inefficient for human purposes. Dayton is looking for renewable, low-cost power through solar energy. Using the model of chemical bonds involved in photosynthesis, he wonders if this can be done on a larger scale. This may be the key to sustainable energy in the future. 

Genetic Regulation: What the Human Genome Project Didn’t Tell Us, David Jacobson, Physics

Travis Seifman discussed street processions as political goodwill gestures. Credit: Patricia MarroquinThe Human Genome Project, according to David, has not unlocked the full story of our complexity as organisms. Only about 2% of the gene codes for proteins, so what does the rest of this non-coding DNA do? It may be serving as a vast regulatory machinery for when to enact the 22,000 genes that we have. David is exploring this through his focus on specially structured RNAs called ribostructures. If we want to get a really detailed understanding of how life emerges, we need to understand these regulatory mechanisms and how they contribute to the web of interactions that make life happen.

Performing Ryukyu: Early Modern Street Processions as Political Acts, Travis Seifman, History

This presentation explored street processions as performed by embassies from the Ryukyu Kingdom in the 17th to 19th centuries. It has become standard practice for new ambassadors to a country to be treated to a political goodwill gesture, such as travel in a limo or a horse-drawn carriage. But Travis argues that these gestures are more than they appear, that they are not just for show but a powerful political act. Using the traveling representatives of the Ryukyu Kingdom of the 1870s as an example, Travis shows that these processions can convey powerful political meanings such as prestige, respect, and indications of a nation’s modernity. 

For information on other events, visit the Graduate Student Showcase 2014 page.

Previous Grad Slam 2014 coverage

Grad Slam Round One Recap: Topics Range From Hearts to Handprints, Liberia to Light

Grad Slam Round Two Recap: Music and Poetry and Yoga, Oh My :-)

Grad Slam Round Three Recap: Clapping, Compost, Kids' Music, and More

Grad Slam Round Four Recap: Everyone's a Winner

Grad Slam Round Five Recap: Sex, Drugs, and Lasers

Grad Slam Round Six Recap: Writing, Repatriation, the Rural Midwest, and More

Grad Slam Round Seven Recap: Fog, Flow, Fathers, and More

Grad Slam Round Eight Recap: Speakers Take Audience Into a Cloud, Under Water, Across West Africa

Grad Slam Round Nine Recap: Maintaining Health, Drinking Wine, Treating Acne, and More

Round Ten competitors listen to a question from the audience. Credit: Patricia Marroquin


Grad Slam Round Nine Recap: Maintaining Health, Drinking Wine, Treating Acne, and More

The winners of Grad Slam Round Nine, who will advance to the Semifinals, are Samantha Davis of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology; and Michael Zakrewsky of Chemical Engineering. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Judges for Round Nine were, from left, Chuck Bazerman, Laura Lambert, and Ben Zhao. Credit: Patricia MarroquinFriday, April 11, 11 a.m. to noon, Student Resource Building Multipurpose Room.

Here is what you may have missed at the ninth round of the Grad Slam. 


The Grad Slam features three-minute presentations of student research. 

The top two presenters from the preliminary round advance to the Semifinal round (and the top four receive $50 gift cards for the UCSB bookstore).

Hala’s Picks

Bren student Eric Edwards used a soda bottle with three straws in it to demonstrate open access. Credit: Patricia MarroquinMost Calm: Samantha Davis 

Best Use of Props: Eric Edwards

Best Dance Moves: Daniel Ervin

Best Shoes and Socks: Brian J. Griffith

Best Use of Coconut Oil: Michael Zakrewsky

Fastest: Michael Zakrewsky (2:48)

Best Personal Story: Michele N. Zugnoni

Judges’ Picks

Samantha Davis  (advances to Semifinal round)

Michael Zakrewsky  (advances to Semifinal round)

Daniel Ervin

Eric Edwards

Presentation Summaries

Samantha Davis focused on disappearing coral reefs. Credit: Patricia MarroquinCoral Reef Recovery...or Not?, Samantha Davis, Ecology, and Marine Biology

Samantha discussed how coral reefs are disappearing due to a variety of threats and disturbances, such as tropical storms, thermal bleaching, and coral-eating predators. Samantha pointed out that by 2030, 60% of coral reefs will be lost, and that future generations would not have a chance to see these beautiful ocean coral reefs. Coral reefs can be recovered, but recently, the speed of recovery has been slow. Samantha explained that reefs are lacking resilience, which is the "ability to resist change and recover from disturbance." Specifically, reefs have lost resilience due to macro-algaes taking up space in the ocean. Currently, only a few fish eat these macro algaes, but due to overfishing of these fish, balancing the ecosystem is at risk. In her research, Samantha examines the reefs in Moorea, French Polynesia to find out the critical processes that determine whether a coral reef will be able to recover after a disturbance.

Economic Incentives in Collective Groundwater Management, Eric Edwards, Bren

Eric's research focuses on how to reduce the overexploitation of openly accessed groundwater through more effective management at the institutional level. He discussed the economics of groundwater, and how the availability of groundwater, which is used as a resource for irrigation and drinking, could be at risk. With changing precipitation patterns due to climate change, Eric calls for protection of this valuable resource. Moreover, his research in Kansas, which involves a heterogeneous aquifer and has faster water movement, has showed positive signs of effective management.Daniel Ervin of Geography did a little dance during his three-minute talk. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Cheeseburgers, Central Americans, and Carbon 12: One New Technique for Two Old Problems, Daniel Ervin, Geography

Daniel presented his dissertation project on using Stable Isotope Ratio Analysis (SIRA), a geological technique, to help track people's daily diets. His target population is Latino immigrants in California, and he plans to conduct surveys about their health, diet, exercise, etc. Further, by using SIRA, he plans to count the carbon-12 intake (e.g., corn and sugar cane) and nitrogen-15 (e.g., animal products). His research aims to provide an alternative way to measure people's diet to help maintain a healthy body and lifestyle. 

Bringing Bacchus to the People: Viti-Viniculture, Autarky, and Mass Spectacle in Fascist Italy, 1922 - 1945, Brian J. Griffith, History

Brian's research is about examining the roles played by Italy's table grape- anBrian Griffith spoke about his research into the table grape and wine production industries from the 1920s to 1940s. Credit: Patricia Marroquind wine-production industries within Italian Fascism's efforts. These efforts were made to develop a widespread sense of national belonging in both Italy and its colonies, and to establish a synchronized community of consumption under the auspices of the Fascist state. Brian hypothesizes that by promoting Italy's enological heritage through its various programs and popular outreaches, such as the National Festival of the Grape, Italians will be encouraged to consume domestic Italian grapes and wines, as well as strengthen and solidify their ethnic and regional identities, traditions, and cultures.

New Arsenal of Materials for Combating Antibiotic Resistant Bacterial Infections, Michael Zakrewsky, Chemical Engineering

Michael presented a new alternative solution to treating bacterial infections, such as chronic wounds and acnes. He discussed how bacterias can form tumors in human bodies, and how current treatment using antibiotics have been questioned due to many side effects. His research explores the use of table salt (sodium chloride), Vitamin B, and coconut oil, as an alternative way to treat bacterial infection, starting at the skin level, which he claims as more effectiv

Michele Zugnoni told the audience that creativity saved her. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

e than many chemicals. He is hopeful that in a few years, this alternative method will be open to the market, delivering a safer way to treat bacteria.

Levels of Alienation: Assessing the Effects of a Creative Writing Program on a Population of Incarcerated Adolescent Boys, Michele N. Zugnoni, Education

Michele shared about how creative writing and self-reflection can help empower many incarcerated adolescent boys, who feel alienated from society. Her project seeks to understand the level of alienation of 20 adolescent males and to promote "healing" by adapting a self-reflective writing program, which involves poetry, essay, song, and short story writing tasks. Michele hopes to increase knowledge of the influence of creativity on the perceptions of alienation among adolescents labeled “delinquent.”

For information on other events, visit the Graduate Student Showcase 2014 page.

Previous Grad Slam 2014 coverage

Grad Slam Round One Recap: Topics Range From Hearts to Handprints, Liberia to Light

Grad Slam Round Two Recap: Music and Poetry and Yoga, Oh My :-)

Grad Slam Round Three Recap: Clapping, Compost, Kids' Music, and More

Grad Slam Round Four Recap: Everyone's a Winner

Grad Slam Round Five Recap: Sex, Drugs, and Lasers

Grad Slam Round Six Recap: Writing, Repatriation, the Rural Midwest, and More

Grad Slam Round Seven Recap: Fog, Flow, Fathers, and More

Grad Slam Round Eight Recap: Speakers Take Audience Into a Cloud, Under Water, Across West Africa

While the judges deliberated, Round Nine competitors answered questions not only from the audience members, but also from one another. Credit: Patricia Marroquin


Grad Slam Round Eight Recap: Speakers Take Audience Into a Cloud, Under Water, Across West Africa

Round Eight of the Grad Slam produced four winners, who will advance to the Semifinals. They are, from left, James Allen of Marine Science; Lindsey Peavey of Bren; Haddy Kreie of Theater and Dance; and Alexander Pucher of Computer Science. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

About 80 people attended Round Eight, including 55 undergraduates from Associate Dean Don Lubach's class. Credit: Patricia MarroquinThursday, April 10, 5 to 6 p.m., Santa Rosa Formal Lounge.

Welcome to the review of the eighth round of the Grad Slam. Unlike previous rounds, this round set a precedent by sending four presenters to the Semifinal round. It was also different in that it was held in the lounge of an undergrad dormitory, giving undergraduates an opportunity to hear about graduate student research. More than 80 people attended this round, including 55 of those were undergraduates in Associate Dean Don Lubach's Education class.

The Basics

The Grad Slam features three-minute presentations of student research. 

The top two presenters from the preliminary round advance to the Semifinal round (and the top four receive $50 gift cards for the UCSB bookstore). In this case, however, all top four presenters will be advancing to the Semifinal round.


Graduate Division Associate Dean Karen Myers addresses a packed Santa Rosa Formal Lounge for Round Eight of the Grad Slam. Credit: Patricia MarroquinKyle’s Picks

Best Dress: Haddy Kreie

Best Future in Politics: Alexander Pulcher

Best Visuals: James Allen

Funniest: Lindsey E. Peavey

Most Improved Title: “Sea Turtle Hunger Games” (changed from Lindsey Peavey’s original title of “Insights into the Trophic Roles of Eastern Pacific Olive Ridley Sea Turtles from Compound-Specific Isotope Analysis of Amino Acids”)


Judges’ Picks

James Allen (advances to Semifinal round)

James Allen talked about the use of satellites to study phytoplankton. Credit: Patricia MarroquinHaddy Kreie (advances to Semifinal round)

Lindsey Peavey (advances to Semifinal round)

Alexander Pucher (advances to Semifinal round)


Presentation Summaries

Measuring Cells from Space: Remote Sensing of Phytoplankton Size Distribution, James G. Allen, Marine Science

James said half of what we breathe comes from phytoplankton. Phytoplankton is also responsible for taking carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year. However, we don’t know by how much. Scientists are measuring this by sailing around the oceans to help determine its role in climate change. However, there is an easier way to measure the carbon dioxide uptake by phytoplankton. Answer: Use satellites. Satellites can measure size and distribution of phytoplankton and measure the whole planet in a week to nine days.

Haddy Kreie will travel to Ouidah, Benin. To find out what she learned, she said, you'll have to attend Grad Slam 2015. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Celebrating Mourning: Memorializations of Vodun and Slavery in West Africa, Haddy Kreie, Theater and Dance

Haddy showed popular images of voodoo and explained these images do not show a realistic portrayal of the religion or of black culture, making black culture hypersexualized. Her research investigates how these distorted images affect our perceptions of voodoo and black culture. Voodoo came from Africa, where there are now memorials to slavery in Africa and she will research if these memorials are exploitive and misrepresentative just like the popular media images of voodoo.

Numbers DO Lie: Rethinking Inequality and the “Achievement Gap,” Grayson Maas, Anthropology

Grayson stated that there is a so-called “achievement gap” in education between minorities and the majority culture. However, this achievement gap problem is in reality a framing problem. We frame the gap in terms of deficit explanations for individuals rather than pointing the finger at the inadequacy of the system that is biased against the non-majority culture. Ability groupings are often determined by the English ability level of students, which works against second-language speakers of English. So he will investigate how this ability grouping affects children’s success in school.

Lindsey Peavey talked about her research into sea turtles, and their importance for a healthy ecosystem. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Sea Turtle Hunger Games, Lindsey E. Peavey, Bren

Alexander Pucher wants to make small local Cloud providers competitive again. Credit: Patricia MarroquinLindsey stated that she is a vegetarian but we wouldn’t know this unless we followed her around all day and observed what she are. However, an easier method would be to take a sample of her skin and test it. This method works for sea turtles too. Sea turtles also happen to be an important part of a healthy sea ecosystem. However, sea turtle numbers have declined. So she is studying sea turtles food habits, collecting and analyzing sea turtles skin tissue to determine their place in the food web. She discovered that Costa Rican turtles are eating the best. She will use this information to provide the best protection measures for all sea turtles in the future and improve the ecosystem.

Solon: Democratizing the Cloud, Alexander Pucher, Computer Science

Alexander wants to democratize the cloud. We all use the cloud every day by using email, Facebook, and Netflix. Many of our phone apps use the cloud to store information since our phone memories are so small. However, data centers that run the cloud are so expensive that only places like Google and Microsoft can own them. Therefore, they have more power in the market. Alexander wants to make small local providers competitive again. He wants to link up smaller data centers to provide more competition and make the market more democratic.

Anna Simon discussed her research into molecular machines. Credit: Patricia Marroquin

Mimicking Nature to Engineer Ultrasensitive Molecular Machines, Anna Simon, Biomolecular Science and Engineering

Anna stated that hemoglobin spreads oxygen around the body. Hemoglobin uses a mechanism known as cooperativity to be more efficient. This method of cooperativity could also be used to help detect toxins and pathogens. But we need to make molecular machines do this work. Since this field of research is new, these applications are decades in the future.

Disclaimer: Apologies to any presenters if I misrepresented your research. I only had three minutes to summarize.

For information on other events, visit the Graduate Student Showcase 2014 page.


Grayson Maas talked about his research into the so-called educational "achievement gap." Credit: Patricia Marroquin

The Grad Slam Round Eight crowd at Santa Rosa Formal Lounge can be seen in this panorama by Joshua Munsch.

Previous Grad Slam 2014 coverage

Grad Slam Round One Recap: Topics Range From Hearts to Handprints, Liberia to Light

Grad Slam Round Two Recap: Music and Poetry and Yoga, Oh My :-)

Grad Slam Round Three Recap: Clapping, Compost, Kids' Music, and More

Grad Slam Round Four Recap: Everyone's a Winner

Grad Slam Round Five Recap: Sex, Drugs, and Lasers

Grad Slam Round Six Recap: Writing, Repatriation, the Rural Midwest, and More

Grad Slam Round Seven Recap: Fog, Flow, Fathers, and More

Grad Slam Round Eight speakers took questions from the audience while the judges deliberated. Credit: Patricia Marroquin