Grad Slam Rules and Guidelines

(Note: UCSF's Grad Slam rules may vary slightly from Grad Slam rules in place at other UC campuses. The dates below applied to the 2019 contest and are included here for your reference.  Dates for 2020 will be similar and will be announced in the fall.)

Who is eligible?

As of March 21, 2019, you must be a current graduate student in a PhD program at UCSF. (You may be on filing fee.) You must also have advanced to candidacy no later than February 4, 2019. 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, the winner and runner-up of previous contests are not eligible to enter again.

How to enter

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

I. Declare your intent to enter the competition no later than midnight, January 8, 2019, by filling out a short online form.

II. Record a video of yourself presenting your dissertation research in three minutes or less. (See video format requirements below.)

III. No later than midnight, February 4, 2019, 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.

IV. If you are chosen as a finalist, you must give your 3-minute research presentation live at the UCSF Grad Slam event, on March 21, 2019, 4-6 p.m. at the Mission Bay campus in order to be eligible to win the competition.

Video Submissions

I. Format

a. In regard to general format, the same rules apply for the videotaped presentation as apply for the live presentation at the event on March 21. (See the rules for the live presentation below.)

b. Video should be submitted as an MP4 file if at all possible. An MOV file is also acceptable.

c. 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.

d. All video files should be named thusly: "firstname_lastname_gradslam.mp4" or ""

e. 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.

f. You may submit your single 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.

g. 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.)

II. Deadline: The deadline to upload your video entry will be Monday, February 4, at midnight. 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.

Final Live Presentations

(The cash prize winners and people's choice awardees will be decided at the live event on March 21.)

  • 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 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 March 22.
  • The judges' decision is final.

IMPORTANT: Finalists will be required to submit the final, single slide they intend to use in their live presentation no later than Thursday, March 14, so that they may be compiled for the event. Students will also be invited to submit a "theme song," which will be played for a few seconds as they are taking the stage to speak. 


I. There are two sets of judges: screening judges and final judges. The screening judges will review the video entries submitted by the deadline and choose the 7-10 finalists. The final judges will review the live presentations at the Grad Slam event on March 21 and will choose the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners from among the finalists. The judges' choices are final and binding.

II. The winner of the people's choice award will be determined by a paper ballot given to members of the audience at the March 21 live event at Mission Bay campus and to the physically present audience at the remote viewing at Parnassus campus. Each audience member will be allowed to vote only once. In the event that the "people's choice" award winner is the same as one of the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd prize winners in the contest, that individual will receive both prizes.

III. In the event any of the final judges are not able to be present at the March 21 event, the remaining judges will decide on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize winners. In the event of a tie, the chancellor will make the final decision. 

IV. The Graduate Division reserves the right to replace any judge who has to withdraw from judging the award with another qualified individual.

Judging Criteria


Comprehension and Content

Did the presentation help the audience understand the research?

Was the dissertation topic and its significance communicated using language appropriate to an educated, but non-specialist audience?

Engagement and Communication

Did the presentation make the audience want to know more about the research?


The judges may also consider the following factors...

Did the presentation provide an understanding of the background to the research question being addressed and its significance?

Did the presentation clearly describe any key results of the research including conclusions and outcomes?

Did the presentation follow a clear and logical sequence?

Did the speaker avoid scientific jargon, explain terminology and provide adequate background information to illustrate points?

Was the presentation well-paced?  Did the presenter spend adequate time on each element of their presentation, or did they rush through some elements?

Was the presenter careful not to over-generalize their research?

Did the presenter convey enthusiasm for their research?

Did the presenter capture and maintain their audience's attention?

Did the speaker have sufficient stage presence, eye contact and vocal range; maintain a steady pace, and have a confident stance?

Did the speaker's slide enhance the presentation - was it clear, legible, and concise?

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 2019).

Videotaping of Live Event

The March 21 Grad Slam live event will be photographed as well as 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.