Smoking Cessation Talk Wins Inaugural UCSF Postdoc Slam Competition

Jin Kim presents her research during the Postdoc Slam competition
Postdoc Slam winner Jin Kim, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar at UCSF, presents her research about smoking cessation through addressing food insecurity. Photo by Noah Berger

Jin Kim, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar at UC San Francisco, won the inaugural UCSF Postdoc Slam competition for her talk titled “Promoting Smoking Cessation by Addressing Food Insecurity.”

Postdoc Slam 2016

Ten UCSF postdocs competed to explain complex research in simple language – and in three minutes or less.

Ten UCSF postdocs competed to explain complex research in simple language – and in three minutes or less – in the 2016 Postdoc Slam held Sept. 22. In front of a packed audience in Byers Auditorium, the contestants spun true tales of science ranging from cancer risk in astronauts to big molecule drug development to the protective benefits of the X chromosome.

Kim, a postdoctoral scholar in the research group of Janice Tsoh, PhD, won first place and a prize of $3,000.

“The intersection between food insecurity and smoking is not an obvious link to many people and I wanted to share that with a wider audience,” Kim said. “I’m really honored to be the only social scientist as part of this contest and I hope I conveyed the passion for the research that I do on health disparities.”

Navneet Matharu, PhD, a postdoctoral scholar in the lab of Nadav Ahituv, PhD, took home both the $1,500 runner-up and $750 people’s choice awards with her dynamic talk entitled, “How to Balance Your Satiety: From Sim(1) to Slim,” on how nucleotide changes can contribute to obesity.

“As a kid I was always more of a stage person,” Matharu said. “When I heard there was a Postdoc Slam competition here to explain research to the public in laymen’s language, I just jumped at the chance.”  

Navneet Matharu presents her research during the Postdoc Slam competition
Navneet Matharu, PhD, was the runner-up and the people's choice winner for her presentation about how nucleotide changes can contribute to obesity. Photo by Noah Berger

The 10 finalists for the competition were selected from 32 video entries by a panel of screening judges. A five-judge panel, including representatives from the University and industry, oversaw the live competition.

The other finalists in the competition were:

One of the live event judges, Mark Dresser, PhD, head of Development Sciences at Denali Therapeutics and a former UCSF graduate student, said the judges looked for a clear story that outlined the scientific problem and solution and an ability to engage with the audience.

“I think overall the presentations were excellent and informative and a great opportunity to practice communication skills that are essential for scientists to have,” he said. “I applaud everyone who entered the competition. It takes courage to do it.”

Elizabeth Watkins welcomes the crowd to the Postdoc Slam competition
Elizabeth Watkins, PhD, dean of the Graduate Division and vice chancellor of Student Academic Affairs, welcomes the attendees to the Postdoc Slam competition. Photo by Noah Berger

The other judges were Teaster Baird, PhD, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at San Francisco State University; Sylvain Cases, PhD, senior director and head of External Science and Partnering for Sanofi US West; Jennifer O’Brien, assistant vice chancellor of Public Affairs at UCSF; and Clifton Poodry, PhD, senior fellow for science education at Howard Hughes Medical Institute and former director of the Training, Workforce Development and Diversity Division at the National Institute for General Medical Science of the National Institutes of Health. Baird and Cases are former UCSF postdocs.

Elizabeth Watkins, PhD, dean of the Graduate Division and vice chancellor of Student Academic Affairs, emceed the competition. In her opening remarks, she noted that the slam was part of National Postdoc Appreciation Week and that the research enterprise would not be possible without postdocs.

“I’m thrilled and delighted at this opportunity to showcase the work of our postdocs and the breadth of research at UCSF, from cells and molecules to individuals and populations,” Watkins said. “I know they will benefit from the skills developed in trying to describe their research in three minutes.”

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