Graduate Division

2021 Grad Slam Finalists

2019 Gradslam Finalists

Congratulations to our 2021 Grad Slam Top Ten Finalists!  Join us on March 4th to cheer them on as they go head-to-head in our campus finals.  

Meet the Grad Slam Judges!

Join us for a unique opportunity to see some of UCI's top graduate scholars show off their impressive research in a competition setting. Virtual seats for this special event are limited and we want YOU to be here! Click here to reserve your spot! 

We started off with 50 impressive semifinals contestants and now we're down to the final 10! Click below to learn about each presenter. The winner will earn the right to crowned "2021 UCI Grad Slam Champion"!

Ashley Hope

Ashley Hope

Degree Program

MD

Research

Eight thousand years ago, the Sumerians of lower Mesopotamia grew "joy plants", red flowers with seeds that were soon hungrily demanded by emperors all over the continent. From the opium poppy came laudanum, then morphine, and now synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which have precipitated the opioid crisis into an ongoing public health emergency. Unfortunately, treatment of opioid use disorder presents with a constellation of challenges including a lack of definitive treatment options, the dynamics of opioid neurobiology, and the societal stigma associated with addiction. The multifactorial etiology of opioid use disorder necessitates an interdisciplinary approach to its treatment.

 

The Reflections Project explores literature and performance as a medium for healing by promoting understanding, connection, and awareness. A play reading of selected scenes from Long Day's Journey into Night is followed by an audience discussion with a panel of medical professionals. This play won the 1957 Pulitzer Prize for Eugene O'Neill's depiction of the Tyrone family struggling with the fallout of morphine addiction. Audience responses from patients, their friends and family, as well as medical professionals found the play reading and panel discussion effective in improving the audience's understanding of addiction and willingness to participate in treatment. These preliminary findings show that the Reflections Project can be used as a model for using literature and performance to explore complex public health issues and medical questions.

 

Bio

Ashley is a second-year medical student and SoCal native from San Diego. She studied literature and molecular biology at UCLA, where she taught a seminar on performance as literary analysis. Now she is working to grow the presence of medical humanities at UCI. In particular, she is interested in literature and performance as a medium of reflection for healthcare workers to process the experience of practicing medicine, as well as a platform for exploration to bridge the medical and general community. She plans to pursue graduate work in literature in addition to her medical degree and to work in academic medicine in the future.

Daniel Azzam

Degree Program

MD/MBA

Research

This study fills the spatiotemporal gaps in dry eye disease (DED) epidemiology by using Google Trends as a novel digital epidemiological tool for geographically mapping DED in relation to environmental risk factors.

Methods: We designed a cross-sectional study analyzing Google Trends data of online interest in dry eye search terms across the United States from 2004-2019. We incorporated national climate data to generate heat maps comparing geographic, temporal, and environmental relationships of DED.

Results: Our results illustrated a tremendous increase in DED interest more than double since 2004, with a forecasted growth of an additional 57% by 2025 and 441% by 2040. The strongest environmental predictors of DED interest were urban population (r = 0.56, P < 0.001) and seasonality, with the highest DED interest in Winter (P = 0.0196) and lowest in the Fall (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: Our study used a novel digital epidemiological approach to localize hot spots of US DED. Importantly, urban population and seasonality were the strongest risk factors of DED searches. Our work paves the way for disease surveillance through online population metrics to guide resource allocation.

Bio

Daniel Azzam is a medical student, scientific researcher and writer, and professional freestyle soccer athlete. With nearly a decade writing scientific articles for journals on the mind, brain, and eyes, and possessing a creative style from several freestyle soccer and sports articles in the Daily Bruin, Daniel has a refreshingly energetic voice that shines through in his book Diary of a Med Student. Daniel completed his undergraduate studies in Neuroscience, Spanish Language, and Biomedical Research at UCLA. Currently, he is finishing the final stages of his MD and MBA degrees at UC Irvine before pursuing his dreams of becoming an eye surgeon at the Tufts University New England Eye Center. He has over a dozen peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals on topics ranging from eye surgery to treatments for brain cancer. Daniel lives as a passionate explorer, ultramarathon runner, and scientist who dreams of discovering novel methods for improving medical services to patients across the globe.

Hamsi Radhakrishnan

Hamsi Radhakrishnan

Degree Program

Neurobiology and Behavior/Mathematical Computational and Systems Biology, PhD

Research

We know that the human brain has hundreds of billions of cells. The way these cells are organized in relation to each other define almost everything about what it means to be human. The size and number of these cells change with age, disease and even just individual differences, making being able to count them incredibly valuable. However, doing so- in a live human- is not trivial at all (especially if said human wants to keep their brain inside their head). Traditional MR Imaging has been really useful in helping us peek into the brain and study its various structural properties; however, the level of detail this kind of imaging allows is nowhere near adequate for us to be able parse out individual cells. My research uses a special kind of MRI, called diffusion weighted imaging, which tracks the movement of water molecules in the brain. Since the number, shape, and size of different cells in the brain influence the flow of water, this technique may have the potential to be able to estimate the population of different types of cells in different parts of the brain- an endeavor that has immense clinical and translational potential.

Bio

Hamsi (hum-see) Radhakrishnan is a PhD Candidate in Dr. Craig Stark’s Lab in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior. She uses MRI to understand how the structural properties of the brain change with age, disease, and cognitive differences. She also serves as the co-chair for the K-12 Ambassador Committee in the Center for Neurobiology of Learning and Memory, where they host events to get children excited about science! When not doing science and outreach, she enjoys poetry, cooking, board games, and watching especially terrible romantic comedies (the cheesier the better, obviously).    

Jessica Vidmark

Jessica Vidmark

Degree Program

Biomedical Engineering, PhD

Research

When traditional medications for children with movement disorders aren’t effective, a method called deep brain stimulation (DBS) can help by targeting the source of the symptoms. DBS is a clinical treatment that sends electrical pulses into deep brain regions through implanted electrodes, “blocking” unhealthy brain activity – when accurate stimulation settings are used. However, although DBS has been used for decades, its mechanisms are still not well understood, making it difficult to determine these ideal stimulation settings for each patient. Hence, I use DBS electrodes as a tool to track the brain’s response to stimulations, called evoked potentials (EPs). The existence of an EP infers that there is a neural connection between the stimulated and recording regions; its delay helps us understand the pathway of the neural propagation; and its amplitude reflects the magnitude of the neural response, inferring e.g. which stimulation settings or locations this pathway is the most susceptible to. Studying the brain in this manner helps us understand the connectivity of the brain, as well as deep brain stimulation itself, which in turn will allow us to provide ideal treatments.

Bio

Jessica Vidmark is a 3rd year Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. student in the Sanger Lab. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Florida Institute of Technology with summa cum laude honors and the Faculty Honors Award, and graduated from the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden with a Master’s degree in Medical Engineering. Jessica is investigating neural connectivity in deep brain regions, with the goal to provide the most effective treatment possible for children with movement disorders.

Leslie Heid

Degree Program

Mathematical, Computational & Systems Biology

Research

If every cell contains the exact same blueprints, why do they all act differently? Why don't the cells of the stomach wall look and act the same as the skin cells on the bottom of your feet? The answer is epigenetics and DNA methylation. As an embryo grows, it reaches a point where the cells realize they need to differentiate, to become a heart, a nervous system, a skeleton. Methyl groups are attached at various points along the DNA strand, where they either prevent or promote the expression of specific genes. Pseudotime is the process of determining the age of a cell based on its place in a biological process. No one has done this based on methylation signatures, yet. If we can identify nascent, half-methylated strands of DNA through methylation pseudotime, pinpointing the moment when a cell is most susceptible to making fate changes, it may be possible to change the cell fate transition by rewriting a cell's methylation signature. We could then redirect the cells to perform new or different tasks. One day, we might even be able to grow a replacement liver or lung from just a few cells swabbed from a patient's inner cheek.

Bio

Leslie, who grew up in Pennsylvania, moved to California to pursue higher education and in 2020 achieved a BA in Applied Mathematics with a focus on Physics from CSU Fullerton.  Having now entered her PhD graduate phase, Leslie is looking forward to working on a wide range of lab projects through MCSB; already she has developed an equation for determining psuedotime in DNA methylation and is now playing with really cool lasers in the Barty Lab.  She is currently employed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, modeling mission communications needs for the Deep Space Network.  Leslie’s favorite number is 41 and her favorite people in the world are her husband and adorable four-year-old daughter.

Poonam S.Ahuja

Degree Program

MSBA

Research

PPH is one of the largest causes of maternal morbidity and mortality worldwide and USA. By predicting mothers at risk for PPH, prophylactic measures can help avoid maternal morbidity and mortality.

Objective: To utilize ML techniques to identify patients at risk for PPH. Study Design: We will do analysis of retrospective data of women delivering in a particular period. Collect all variables from the medical records. The outcome would be PPH, defined as a blood loss of ≥ 1000 mL at the time of delivery. Adopt supervised learning with regression, tree and kernel-based ML methods to create classification models based upon training and testing sets. Models will be tuned to get overall better accuracy and sensitivity.

Results: Currently due to lack of access to patient data, considering PHI* policy, I do not have direct results of my own analysis. While doing secondary research analysis, found very few studies on this. Taking cues, I plan to validate the same and explore the scalability of this globally.

Conclusion: PPH can be predicted using ML and SM. Further application may assist doctors to be prepared and triage at-risk women. *protected health information.

Bio

Poonam S. Ahuja is a student at University of California, Irvine, currently pursuing her Master’s in Business Analytics. She received her bachelor's degree in Pharmaceutical Sciences and master's degree in Management Sciences from University of Mumbai, India.  She has received many laurels and recognition as a testament to her desire to grow within her field. She is very closely tied to healthcare and its delivery to the patients. She finds immense opportunity to use analytics, digital health innovation and technology for improving patient care. With a diversified cultural, educational, and work experience, she aspires to move ahead, climb up the ladder of knowledge and give back to the society by continuing to work in the ancillary service to healthcare.

Sharin Jacob

Sharin Rawhiya Jacob

Degree Program

Education, PhD

Research

Learning computer science (CS) provides access not only to high-paying jobs, but also the power and influence that comes from designing the technologies, entertainment, and businesses of tomorrow. Unfortunately, multilingual students do not have the same access to CS as native English speakers. We represent the first team in the country to develop a CS curriculum designed to help predominantly Latinx, multilingual students from low-income backgrounds learn CS. Upper elementary students code in a child-friendly language that helps them learn about foundational CS concepts. More importantly, we added culturally responsive materials and linguistic scaffolding to help students develop CS and language skills. We are rolling this curriculum out to all 4,000 fourth grade students in the district, eventually reaching Santa Ana’s 53,000 students. In elementary school there is no dedicated time for CS instruction during the school day. Our project provides a protected 50 minutes of CS instruction weekly for all fourth grade students in the district. This initiative will provide early CS exposure to diverse students and build our nation's diverse talent in the field.

Bio

Sharin Jacob is a PhD in Education candidate at the University of California, Irvine. Her research interests bring together theory from the learning sciences, computer science education, and applied linguistics to examine the linguistic and sociocultural factors that help multilingual students succeed in mastering computational thinking. She has five years’ experience teaching English as a Second Language, where she taught all levels of proficiency, including sheltered math and science to newcomers. She was recently awarded the UCI Public Impact Distinguished Fellowship for her commitment to bringing actionable change for multilingual students in computing.

Sirui Wan

Sirui Wan

Degree Program

Education, PhD

Research

When students make self-evaluations, they may not only use information from interindividual comparisons with others (i.e., social comparison), but also use information from intraindividual comparisons across domains such as math and language arts (i.e., dimensional comparison). Dimensional comparisons play a key role in specialization, and it may have implications for education policies and interventions aimed at promoting students’ motivation in school and cultivating talent development. However, there is a lack of empirical work on investigating the developmental changes in dimensional comparisons and the mechanisms underlying such changes.To help address this gap, my research focuses on changes in dimensional comparisons during K-12. I found that students’ reliance on dimensional comparisons to form motivational beliefs increases across the K-12 school years. In addition, I found that the increase in dimensional comparisons may result from 1) the increase in students’ ability to make dimensional comparisons or/and 2) the increase in their tendency to use dimensional comparison information in ability self-evaluation.

Bio

Sirui was born and raised in a small town in the middle area of China. Prior to pursuing his Ph.D. in Education, Sirui earned an bachelor’s degree in Engineering from Harbin Institute of Technology and a M.S. degree in Psychology from Beijing Normal University, and worked as an engineer in China. As a first generation student, he has a strong passion for contributing to knowledge about how to best support all students’ learning and reduce inequities in educational outcomes. His research focuses on understanding the developmental processes underlying achievement development in skill-based domains, and using evidence from educational research to improve student success.

Tauhid Sayeed Bin Kashem

Tauhid Sayeed Bin Kashem

Degree Program

Political Science, PhD

Research

Why do countries that are uncommitted to international and domestic refugee protection laws nonetheless protect refugees? I formulate an answer to this question by comparing the responses of five Southeast Asian countries to the 2017 Rohingya refugee crisis. Existing research assumes that the protection of refugees, either through asylum or aid, is an international public good and that, if countries are not integrated into a formal regime for cooperation, like the UN refugee regime, they would withhold adequate protection from refugees. And yet, states frequently engage in international cooperation over the provision of refugee protection even when they are not bound by the international refugee regime to do so. By building on theories of international regime complexity, I argue that international cooperation on refugee protection may be nested in or run parallel to other international regimes of cooperation. I hypothesize that states’ interest in granting protection to refugees is structured by whether doing so will advance their interest in a parallel regime they are invested in, and if domestic institutions can leverage that issue-linkage.

Bio

Tauhid Bin Kashem is a PhD candidate in the department of political science at the University of California, Irvine. In his dissertation, he examines why some countries host large numbers of refugees even when they do not have a legal obligation to do so. He studies how domestic bureaucratic organizations adapt and consequently produce bottom-up changes in global norms on refugee protection. He specializes in the politics of international regimes, bureaucratic organizations, migration and refugee policies, with a regional focus on South and Southeast Asia. In the past, Mr. Kashem has published on the politics of vote-buying in Bangladesh. For adventure, he enjoys trekking in the mountains of Nepal, and has spent a season as a farmer’s apprentice in Maine.

Ying Huang

Ying Huang

Degree Program

Materials Science and Engineering, PhD

Research

Carbon dioxide emission is increasing dramatically. Global temperature is raising every year, wildfires are destroying the forests, and polar bears are losing their home. The earth may not be suitable for human to live on in the future. What can be the solution? Hydrogen. Hydrogen can be produced from renewable energy. When hydrogen reacts with oxygen to generate power, water produced. No CO2. Fuel cell is an efficient device to use hydrogen. In 2014, Toyota introduced a fuel cell car to the public. It is called “Mirai”, meaning FUTURE in Japanese. Fancy car, very expensive – fuel cell uses Platinum-based materials to help hydrogen reacts with oxygen to create electricity. Platinum is expensive; it stops the wide application of fuel cell. Iron can help. Scientists have found that iron-based materials also facilitate the reaction happen.

Bio

Ying Huang is a Ph.D. candidate studying Materials Science and Engineering in Prof. Iryna Zenyuk’s group. Ying earned her master’s degree from Rice University, where she developed her interest in energy materials. Her current research is to make catalysts in the fuel cell more cheerful and less expensive. She wants to help in diversifying the energy options and decreasing greenhouse gases emission.