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Grad Slam Competition

Congratulations to our Grad Slam 2024 Champion

Ambarish Varadan!

Grad Slam Champion Ambarish Varadan

Join us by livestream Friday, May 3, to cheer him on at the UC finals.

Read more about Ambarish and our top 10 finalists.


We already know that you are working hard to find answers to the world’s most important and pressing research questions. But can you distill your research into the key ’sound bites’ that will be necessary to convey its importance, usefulness, and timeliness toGrad Slam logo in blue and gold, microphone others outside your field — like faculty hiring committees, professionals, administrators, lawmakers, co-workers, friends…even your parents?

Grad Slam is a UC systemwide competition that provides you with a forum to explain the methods, results, and significance of your research via a three-minute presentation to a non-specialty audience and panel of judges.

As a participant, you will be challenged to practice and perfect your answer to the inevitable question, “What is your research about?” Along the way, you will improve your presentation and PowerPoint skills, learn more about the research your fellow graduate students are doing here at UC Merced, and compete for some great prizes.


Register HERE by February 6, 2024 by 12 p.m. (noon). Note that you will also be required to complete an Intent to Particapte form once the registration closes. This will finalize your registration and particpation in Grad Slam 2024. 


More than a competition, Grad Slam is a celebration of the accomplishments of our graduate students.

$5,000* - Campus Champion

$2,000* - First Runner-Up

$1,000* - Second Runner-Up

$250* - Top 10 Qualifiers


Check out some of our past winners and their videos. 


Registraion Deadline: February 6, 2024 by 12 p.m. (noon)

Qualifying Round: Videos due March 1, 2024

Finalists Announced: No later than March 15, 2024

Final round: April 8, 2024

UC Finals: May 3, 2024, 10:30 a.m.


**Please note that the campus will have specific rules for the Qualifying Rounds as well as the Finals Rounds. These will be made available once the registration is closed on February 6. 

Eligibility: All graduate students currently enrolled in UC Merced Master's or doctoral programs are eligible to compete. 

Collaboration: In cases of collaborative research, the presenter's contribution to the project must be clearly specified.

Grad Slam Rules:

1. Rules may vary depending on finals or quals. Please find general rules below and watch your email for specfifics if you are competing. 

2. Technical

  • Use of additional electronic media (e.g. sound and video files) must be approved in advance.
  • Submissions may not contain any copyrighted material, such as licensed graphics.

3. Visuals

  • A maximum of one PowerPoint slide, exclusive of title slide to be generated by UCOP. is allowed but is optional; no Prezi or other presentation formats
    • Students must create their PowerPoint slide themselves - they cannot ask someone else to design the slide. Use of PowerPoint templates is allowed. The slide can include visual elements (charts, visualizations, photos, clip art, etc.) created by someone other than the student, as long as the slide credits the original creator.
  • PowerPoint animation effects are allowed
  • Embedded audio and/or video clips (including but not limited to .gif, .avi, .mp4, .mp3, and .wmv file types) are not permitted unless they are deemed indispensable to the communication of the research topic. To request the inclusion of audio or video clip, participants must send both the presentation with the embedded media and a short statement of justification to the UC Grad Slam Planning Committee. Requests must be sent to at least two weeks prior to the systemwide competition.

4. Props are allowed, but need to be cleared by the program coordinators, require minimal set-up, and not produce a mess

5. Timing commences when the student engages with the audience. i(If engagement starts with a hand clap, a gesture, an audio or video clip or any other such engagement, prior to speaking, the clock begins at that time; if there is no such engagement the clock starts when the student begins speaking). Timing will end after the last word is spoken.

6. Presentations are to be spoken word (e.g. no poems, raps or songs).

7. Presentations must be conducted from the stage.

8. The presentation time will commence from the moment the presenter starts talking and/or making sounds or movements that are clearly part of the presentation. Timing will commence from the moment the student begins her/his presentation. The presentation begins at the moment the student engages with the audience (if s/he starts with a hand clap, a gesture, an audio or video clip or any other such engagement, prior to speaking, the clock begins at that time; if there is no such engagement the clock starts when the student begins speaking). Points will be deducted from the final score, beginning with one point at 3:03, and one point being taken off for every two seconds the speaker continues after that. See below: 

  • 3:03-3:04 1 point 
  • 3:05-3:06 2 points 
  • 3:07-3:08 3 points 
  • 3:09-3:10 4 points
  • 3:11-3:12 5 points
  • etc.

9. The research being presented must be related to your own graduate research at UC Merced.

10. Students invited to participate in the UC Merced final round or the systemwide final competition must present on the same subject matter.

11. The decision of the panel of judges is final. In the event of a tie, there will be a tiebreaker vote by competition officials.


All judging will occur asynchronously and synchronously during the 2024 competition. For the qualifying round (via video submissions), judging panels of faculty members will judge each video submission in two rounds according to the UC Merced Grad Slam Scorecard. The final round (in-person) will be judged by prominent members from the campus community, donors and community members. Judges are selected to ensure disciplinary diversity and every effort will be made to minimize conflicts of interest.


Contact Jen Quiralte or the Graduate Resource Center.

Presentation Examples

  1. Video from past UCOP Grad Slam Finals
  2. UC San Diego 2014 Grad Slam
  3. UC Santa Barbara 2014 Grad Slam Finals

Helpful Resources

  1. The Secret to Giving a Great TED Talk
  2. Preparing Your 3MT Presentation
  3. TED Talks
  4. 10 Most Common Rookie Mistakes in Public Speaking
  5. Top Ten Tips for Writing and Delivering Very Brief Speeches

More Presentation Resources are available here.

*All prizes are awarded in the form of a one-time fellowship after the completion of the competition.