Scripps graduate student Eric Keen gives a presentation at the inaugural Grad SLAM.

2014 Grad SLAM!

Scripps Oceanography grad students excel at competitive speaking event

UC San Diego’s inaugural Grad SLAM event highlighted the impact of graduate student research being conducted at this stellar university.

Modeled after “TED talks,” the Grad SLAM competitive speaking showcase invited UC San Diego graduate students from all departments to share their research in three-minute presentations. A small panel of academically diverse faculty and staff judged the Grad SLAM competitors, and offered cash prizes of up to $2,500 to winners. Grad SLAM participants competed in preliminary rounds with a select number advancing to the finals April 9.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego students Eric Keen, Heather Page, and Matthew Leslie competed in the Grad SLAM, and all three walked away with prizes of $50 for placing in the top three of their categories during the preliminary round. One of the top criteria for winning presentations was making complex information easily understandable and accessible to a general audience. Page placed second and Leslie placed third in their respective rounds. Keen’s presentation on pelagic ecology in fjords, titled “Learning to Listen: Field Ecology in a Threatened Fjord,” earned a first place finish and advancement to the finals.

UC San Diego Executive Vice Chancellor Suresh Subramani kicked off the final round of the Grad SLAM with a welcome that emphasized the importance of graduate students sharing their research with the world. “The best communicators are the ones who get things done,” said Subramani.

With UC San Diego’s prominence as a student-centric research university, Subramani noted the importance of students practicing their communication strategies, especially in events such as Grad SLAM. “Being a good communicator requires a constant honing of skills,” said Subramani.

Following Subramani’s welcome, the ten finalists, including Keen, gave three-minute presentations. Research topics ranged from Alzheimer’s prevention studies and the plight of wild pollinators, to aviation safety studies and the benefits of exercise on HIV patients. After the judges tallied the scores, the winners were announced: Patrick Metz of Biomedical Sciences won first place and $2,500 with his presentation, “Remembering an Infection: How to make a Lasting Immune Response,” Sarah Jurick of Clinical Psychology received second place and $1,000 with her presentation, “Alzheimer’s: The Path to Prevention,” and Benjamin Rubin of Biological Sciences received third place and $1,000 with his presentation, “The Green Machine.” 

For more information on the Grad SLAM event, please visit:

Related Image Gallery: 2014 Grad SLAM!

About Scripps Oceanography

Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego is one of the world’s most important centers for global earth science research and education. In its second century of discovery, Scripps scientists work to understand and protect the planet, and investigate our oceans, Earth, and atmosphere to find solutions to our greatest environmental challenges. Scripps offers unparalleled education and training for the next generation of scientific and environmental leaders through its undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs. The institution also operates a fleet of four oceanographic research vessels, and is home to Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the public exploration center that welcomes 500,000 visitors each year.

About UC San Diego

At the University of California San Diego, we embrace a culture of exploration and experimentation. Established in 1960, UC San Diego has been shaped by exceptional scholars who aren’t afraid to look deeper, challenge expectations and redefine conventional wisdom. As one of the top 15 research universities in the world, we are driving innovation and change to advance society, propel economic growth and make our world a better place. Learn more at

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