Presentation on zombie insects wins Grad Slam top award

Tori Klein, a 5th-year Ph.D student in chemistry and biochemistry, won first place and the People’s Choice Award, at the UC Santa Cruz Grad Slam held March 6 at Kuumbwa Jazz Center. 

She will represent UC Santa Cruz at the UC Office of the President’s Grad Slam May 8  in San Francisco. 

Runner up was Abel Mkulama, a first-year masters student in coastal science and policy. He won $1,500 for his presentation on how briquets can prevent deforestation and save lives in Malawi. 

Klein’s presentation “Using zombie insects to find a cure for cancer” won $3,000 for first place and an additional $750 for the People’s Choice Award.

Grad Slam, also known as the 3-Minute Thesis Challenge, gives graduate students three minutes to share their research, concisely and compellingly, with a public audience.

Klein, from Golden, Colo, said figuring out exactly how medicines from natural sources function in the human body excites her in her research. She also teaches students in elementary and middle school about genetics by showing them how to extract DNA from strawberries.

Mkulama, grew up in a remote village in Malawi where he didn’t use electricity until age 16. He said he chose UC Santa Cruz for graduate study because of the coast science and policy programs unconventional approach. “I am unconventional, so I knew here I would feel right at home,” he said.

Ten other graduate students competed for the top spots at the UCSC Grad Slam finals.