2019 Grad Slam Names Top Three Finalists

Past Tides
March 15, 2019 By Jackie Connor

First place winner will move onto Systemwide Competition.

The Cove @ UCI was a-buzz with graduate students from campus for the fifth annual UCI Grad Slam competition held by UCI’s Graduate Division. Grad Slam provides graduate students the opportunity to present some of UCI’s highly complex research via a three-minute pitch to a panel of judges who determine the competition’s top three winners.

2019 Grad Slam first place winner Rachel Rosenzweig presents her research during the UCI’s fifth annual Grad Slam competition. Photo: Amy Vong

Rachel Rosenzweig, materials science and engineering grad student, won first place, a prize of $2,000 and will move on to represent UCI in a systemwide Grad Slam competition held at the LinkedIn campus in San Francisco on May 10.

Her research presentation, “Superbug Kryptonite: Tiny Solution to a Huge Threat,” focused on engineering nature-inspired, antimicrobial surface coatings for medical devices. Rosenzweig’s research incorporates nanoimprint lithography, a low-cost technique that heats up a material’s surface and stamps physically tailored nano-scale structures onto the material’s own surface without the added use of chemicals or drugs.

“I am grateful that UCI Graduate Division, my advisor professor Albert Yee, collaborators and lab alumnae provided me with countless science communication training and mentoring that advanced me to the UC-wide Grad Slam competition. I am excited to represent UCI and educate the public about multidisciplinary research,” said Rosenzweig.

Rosenzweig’s presentation highlighted that there are almost 2 million annual cases of hospital-acquired infections from contaminated devices, which leads to 99,000 deaths and $20 billion in healthcare costs within the U.S. During her pitch, she cited the World Health Organization’s declaration that anti-microbial resistance as a “dominant threat to global health” with annual death rates predicted to surpass cancer by 2050.

“I want to keep communicating not only the importance of the research, but also of the diverse team and multidisciplinary approach,” said Rosenzweig. “It’s important for the public to recognize that science and engineering doesn’t solve problems by one person alone. It is built upon work done globally and creative ideas evolve from multidisciplinary communication. The work discussed during my pitch involves a team from the Henry Samueli School of Engineering, School of Physical Sciences, School of Medicine, and collaborators at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Molecular Foundry.”

Peter the Anteater and a group of grad student finalists from UCI’s 2019 Grad Slam. Photo: Amy Vong

Stephanie Hachey, molecular biology and biochemistry grad student won second place and received $750 for her research on rapid testing of a variety of drugs on tumor cells via “tumor on a chip” technology. The one-of-a-kind technology incorporates living blood vessels that feed the growing tumor just as it occurs inside the human body.

Jessica Yaros, neurobiology grad student, took home third place and received $500 for her research on facial recognition technology that involves a new way of honing in on memory processing mechanisms used for same-and-other-race face recognition. Her technology aims to be utilized in the criminal justice system within the context of eyewitness testimony.

To view the Grad Slam finals on May 10, watch them live here. Check out Applied Innovation’s upcoming events.

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