Grad Slam

The annual Grad Slam competition at UCSF challenges PhD students to present a compelling presentation of their dissertation research in three minutes or less, using language that not only their peers but also non-specialists will understand. The intention of Grad Slam is meant to incentivize students to clarify their ideas and to help others understand and appreciate the significance of their work.

The Main Event

The 2024 Grad Slam contest at UCSF will culminate in an exciting event on Wednesday, April 3, 4 to 6 p.m. PDT, featuring talks by 10 PhD student finalists. It's a celebration not only of the finalists and contest winner, but also of graduate research at UCSF and of scientific inquiry. As 2014 finalist Laura Simpson said, "This is the closest thing UCSF has to a football game!"

Join us in person at Genentech Hall at Mission Bay, or tune into the YouTube live stream. Live and remote audiences will be able to vote for the "People's Choice" audience award.

find event details


The following prizes will be awarded at the event in April:

  • First Prize: $4,000 cash award
  • Second Prize: $2,000 cash award
  • Third Prize: $1,000 cash award
  • People's Choice: $750 cash award

The First Prize winner of the Grad Slam competition at UCSF will be invited to compete in the UC system-wide Grad Slam in May. 

Why Enter?

Being able to present your research in a concise way to a non-specialist or non-scientist is a crucial skill for all graduate students to have. Having such a skill at the ready will help you with eventual job interviews and will help you to network at conferences and other events. It may even help you get funding for your ideas, and it will make you a better advocate for research, science, and education.

Being a finalist or winner of the Grad Slam contest will look great on your CV! The Grad Slam competition will be well publicized, so finalists and awardees may get media attention as well. Additionally, each finalist will receive a professionally-edited video of their talk, to use as they wish. Finally, that prize money could help you get to a conference you want to attend or just to take a vacation! It'll be yours to spend any way you like. 

As an added incentive, and to recognize the effort involved in developing a talk and submitting a video, we will offer a $50 Amazon gift card to each eligible student who enters the contest with a video presentation that meets the contest guidelines and criteria.

Who Can Enter?

  • You must be a current UCSF graduate student in a PhD program at the time of the live contest. (You may be on filing fee.)
  • You must have advanced to candidacy no later than February 13, 2024.
  • UCSF alumni are not eligible.
  • Your presentation must be based on your own, original dissertation research.
  • Students who entered the contest or who were finalists in previous years ARE eligible to enter again; however, students who won monetary prizes in  previous contests are not eligible to enter again.

How to Enter

Step 1: Declare your intent to enter by completing a simple online form by January 31. You will then be invited to upload a video of your 3-minute talk.

Step 2: Prepare. Attend the virtual Grad Slam Prep Workshop with Bri McWhorter on February 1, 10-11:30 a.m. PST. Review the contest rules and guidelines, and the judging criteria. Check out these online resources to help you craft an accessible 3-minute talk. Watch some of the winning talks from past live competitions.

Step 3:  Submit a video of your 3-minute talk by the February 13 deadline.

Amazon gift cards ($50) for all eligible video entries will be distributed electronically after the video submission deadline.


There are two sets of judges for the contest. A panel of screening judges will review the initial video entries. These judges will choose the finalists to compete in the live event. A separate panel of five judges will choose the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners at the live event in the spring. The people's choice winner will be decided by the live and remote viewing audience at the event.

When will I know if I'm chosen as a finalist?

The 7-10 finalists will be announced in the first week of March. 


Questions may be directed to Erik Rotman, communications coordinator of the Graduate Division.