Grad Slam: Making the case for your research

The best research in the world won’t mean much to other people on campus — and the public in general — if you can’t easily explain the importance of what you’re doing.

That’s the premise behind the annual Grad Slam competition at UC Berkeley, which takes place Wednesday, April 4.

Grad students will get up on stage and have just a few minutes to make the elevator pitch for their research to three judges — and an audience of their peers. The judges will pick the top two winners from among 10 semifinalists; the audience will vote for the “people’s choice” winner.

The grad students will try to make their topics — everything from “The Ecology of Liver Fluke Disease Transmission” to “(almost) no one lives here: a genealogy of extreme depopulation in rural Spain” to “The Power of Pretext” — interesting and important to a lay person.

This skill is increasingly being taught at Berkeley and other universities because “a surprisingly large segment of the public is uncertain that college degrees are worthwhile or whether expertise is beneficial — they don’t understand how the inquiries of academics are relevant to their lives or the common good,” explains a post on the Grad Division website.

The Berkeley Grad Slam will take place from 3-5 p.m. in 309 Sproul (the Graduate Professional Development Center); it is free and open to the public. The livestream will be available at

The winner will go on to the UC systemwide Grad Slam at LinkedIn headquarters in San Francisco on May 3.