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2021 Grad Slam Finalists

This year's Grad Slam qualifying round had 26 participants. Each submitted a three-minute video pitch along with a three-slide presentation explaining their research to a general audience. 

The campus’s 2021 Grad Slam finalists are:


Cognitive and Info Sciences male grad student Jordan Ackerman, Cognitive & Information Sciences

“Rhyme Science: The Patterns of Sound”

Jordan is a fifth year Ph.D. student. His research interests are computational linguistics, corpus analysis and interface design.


Psychological Sciences female grad studentAmber Carmen Arroyo, Psychological Sciences

“Unlocking the Formula for Digital Sleep Interventions”

Amber is a fifth year Ph.D. student. Amber's research combines evidence-based methods of behavior change with technology to deliver innovative health interventions to high-risk and hard to reach populations. She works with diverse forms of data (i.e., biomarkers, wearables, EMA, surveys, anthropometrics) to gain a comprehensive view of wellbeing as it is formed through the dynamic balance of biological, psychological, and social health. This study will conduct a meta-analysis with research articles on digital interventions for sleep. Implications include optimizing digital interventions for sleep.

Shayna Bennett, Applied Mathematics

Applied Math female grad studnet“A New Tool to Fight Invasive Species”

Shayna is a fourth year Ph.D. student. She uses numerical methods for partial differential equations to understand how landscape features such as rivers, roads, and mountains, effect the spreading rate and spread pattern of invasive species.


Environmental Sciences female grad student Vicky Espinoza, Environmental Systems

Bringing the Voice of Rural Communities to California Land Use”

Vicky Espinoza is a fourth year Ph.D. student. Her research focus is on developing a community-informed land-use model for five land use lenses that will inform how and where to transition agricultural land to address groundwater over-pumping under the 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. She created a trilingual YouTube channel, CaliWaterAg, to make science and policy accessible to rural communities in English, Spanish and Hmong.


Mechanical engineering male grad studentKaren Mohammadtabar, Mechanical Engineering

“How Spacecrafts Work in Cold Space”

Karen is a fourth year Ph.D. student in the Martini Research Lab.


Psychological Sciences female grad studentSusette A. Moyers, Psychological Sciences

“Establishing Coherence in Sense of Coherence and Physical Activity”

Susette A. Moyers is a fourth year Ph.D. candidate in Psychological Sciences with an emphasis in health psychology. Her research focuses on psychological and physiological aspects of stress and coping, health outcomes related to these processes, and how lifestyle/health-related behaviors, especially physical activity and sleep, impact these relationships across populations. She is also interested in the psychological processes of health behavior change, especially physical activity initiation, maintenance, and habit formation.


Mechanical engineering female grad studentFarhana Sharmin, Mechanical Engineering

“Solar Updraft Tower: A Sustainable Energy Solution for Desert Lands"

Farhana is a second year Ph.D. student in the Fortier Research Group. She studies the global warming impacts of the Solar Updraft Tower energy system by assessing its whole life cycle and geographic effects in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. Her research gives the scientific community, energy investors and policymakers a strong base to start implementing this efficient and sustainable technology worldwide to utilize the desert lands that have no use otherwise.

Quantitative and Systems Biology female grad studentMegha Suswaram, Quantitative and Systems Biology

Sexy Voice or Bad Choice - Acoustic Communication and Evolution

Megha is a fifth year Ph.D. student. She studies the evolution of acoustic communication in animals. She sees how animals change their communication when there is man-made changes to the climate and environment and investigates how this impacts their survival, reproduction and behavior.


Physics female grad studentRitu, Physics

“Searching For Sounds: A Baby Story

Ritu is a sixth year Ph.D. candidate in physics. Her research focuses on search processes (also called foraging processes) in different contexts. This includes, among other things, studying how babies learn language and how predators use different strategies such as hunting and scavenging to search for food.


Mechanical Engineering male grad studentAzhar Vellore, Mechanical Engineering

“Small Steps to Giant Leaps”

Azhar is a sixth year Ph.D. student. In his research, he uses experimental tools to study the friction and wear behavior of a range of lubricants including solids, liquids and greases. Also, he studies novel materials and surface engineering techniques to help design energy efficient mechanical systems.