Q&A With Rebecca Riley
Rebecca Riley Flourishing After Grad Slam 2020 Win
UCI is a special place where innovative research takes place every day. It is a place where leaders are shaped for the future and life-changing discoveries are made. Whether it’s research to find a cure for cancer or an effort to finally support long term life on Mars, big things are happening at UCI. Rebecca Riley was the UCI Grad Slam 2020 winner and successfully defended her PhD in the summer of 2021.
You just successfully defended your PhD: congratulations! How has the PhD experience changed you?
Thank you! I like to think it hasn’t changed me too much. To earn a PhD, you have to become totally engrossed in the minutiae of your field, and it can be easy to lose sight of where you fit into the process of scientific discovery. I tried to make sure that didn’t happen. I still love particle physics and am in awe of the mysteries it reveals about our Universe. I’m less reverent towards the giants of physics now, though.
You won UCI Grad Slam 2020 – congratulations! How has the experience helped you in your real life?
Very personally, actually. My Grad Slam pitch allowed my family and friends to connect with and understand what I do — I didn’t expect that. Before Grad Slam, most of the people in my life thought my work was completely beyond their comprehension. Now they ask, “Tell me about that funky particle you study. It’s so cool!”
If you had advice or tips to give this year’s Grad Slam finalists, what would you say?
Do you remember the “wow” moment that sparked your journey to grad school? Aim to tap into the wonder and fascination that first made you fall in love with your field and telegraph that to your audience. That’s where the magic of a great pitch happens.