Grad Slam Rules and Guidelines

(Note: UCSF's Grad Slam rules may vary slightly from Grad Slam rules in place at other UC campuses.)

Who is Eligible?

  • As of April 3, 2024, you must be a current UCSF PhD student. (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, winners of monetary prizes are not eligible to enter again.

How to Enter

Graduate students wishing to compete in the Grad Slam competition must follow these steps:

  1. Declare your intent to enter the competition no later than midnight, January 31, 2024, by filling out a short online form. (Form will be posted here in the coming weeks.) 
  2. Record a video of yourself presenting your dissertation research in three minutes or less. (See video format requirements below.)
  3. No later than midnight, February 13, 2024, upload your video to a designated UCSF Box account. Only those individuals who have completed Step I above will be invited to upload their entry to the UCSF Box account.
  4. If you are chosen as a finalist, you must give your 3-minute research presentation in person at the UCSF Grad Slam event, on April 3, 2024, 4-6 p.m. at the Mission Bay campus in order to be eligible to win the competition.

Be sure to review the judging criteria, check out the resources to help you craft an accessible 3-minute talk, and sign up for the Grad Slam Prep Workshop with Bri McWhorter (Feb. 1, 10 - 11:30 a.m. PT via Zoom).

Video Submissions


  1. In regard to general format, the same rules apply for the videotaped presentation as apply for the live presentation at the event on April 4. (See the rules for the live presentation below.)
  2. Video should be submitted as an MP4 file if at all possible. An MOV file is also acceptable.
  3. Your final, live presentation may differ slightly from your video presentation, as you will have practiced and improved it; however, the subject matter should be the same.
  4. All video files should be named with this convention: "firstname_lastname_gradslam.mp4" or ""
  5. At the very beginning of your video, please state your full name and the title of your presentation.  The time it takes to do this will not be counted against the three minutes you may take to present your research.
  6. You may submit your single, optional slide as a separate file if you wish, or use the slide as a backdrop. It does not need to be visible in the video submission. You may also elect not to submit or use a slide with your video. (If you are selected as a finalist, you will be asked to submit a slide.)
  7. You will not be judged on your skills as a videographer, and you do not need to use professional video equipment. As long as the judges can see your image, and the audio is clear and understandable, that is sufficient. (You may get help creating your video if you like.)
  8. You are not required to memorize your talk for the video submission. However, if you do read your talk (off a screen or paper), remember that you are also being judged on your presentation skills and your ability to engage an audience!


The deadline to upload your video entry will be Tuesday, February 13, 11:59 p.m. PST. The video you submit will only be shared with the screening judges. It will not be shown or used in any other way without your written permission.

Rules for Final Live Presentations

(The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners and people's choice awardee will be decided at the live event on April 3.)

  • Your presentation must be based on your own, original dissertation research.
  • Only ONE, single, static PowerPoint slide is permitted. Your slide does not need to have your name on it; the Graduate Division will create a slide that includes the finalist's name, program, mentor, and title of the presentation. Ideally, your slide will enhance your presentation, but the slide is not the focus of the contest.
  • No slide transitions or animations of any kind are allowed.
  • The slide is to be presented from the beginning of your talk.
  • No additional media (e.g. sound or video files) are permitted.
  • No props (e.g. costumes, musical instruments, laboratory equipment) are permitted.
  • Presentations will be timed and will be limited to three minutes. Competitors exceeding three minutes will be automatically disqualified and may be asked to leave the stage.
  • Presentations are to be spoken word (i.e. not sung or otherwise performed).
  • Presentations must be made on the stage, in person, at the live event on April 3.
  • The judges' decision is final.

See the criteria judges will use to evaluate the video submissions and live presentations. 

IMPORTANT: Finalists will be required to submit the final, single slide they intend to use in their live presentation by a designated deadline (TBD) in March, so that they may be compiled for the event. Students will also be invited to choose a short clip of "walk-up music" which will be played for a few seconds as they are taking the stage to speak.

Prizes and Incentives

The First Prize winner will receive $4,000; the Second Prize winner will receive $2,000; and the Third Prize winner will receive $1,000. The people's choice awardee will receive $750. (Winnings may be taxable.) Additionally, each eligible student who enters the contest by submitting a video presentation that meets the guidelines and addresses the basic contest criteria, will receive a $50 Amazon gift card (to be distributed in February 2024).

Videotaping of Live Event

The April 3 Grad Slam live event will be photographed as well as live streamed and videotaped. By entering the contest, you agree to allow the UCSF Graduate Division to use the resulting photographs and/or video, which may include your image or presentation, in publicity surrounding the contest and/or in other contexts, such as websites, promotional materials, etc. (The initial video entries will not be shared with anyone except the screening judges.)

The Graduate Division reserves the right to cancel this contest if fewer than 20 entries are received.