Doctoral student Matt Savoca talks trash — well enough that he's just earned a spot in a prestigious University of California competition for communicating graduate research.
Building skills, highlighting research
He is one of 500 participants who have built valuable skills over the course of the competition that also shines light on how graduate students are engaged in wide-ranging — and often game-changing — discovery in fields spanning hard sciences to humanities.
“It was an honor and overwhelming,” Savoca said about winning the Davis competition.
The Ph.D. candidate — who grew up on New York’s Staten Island near what was once the world's largest garbage dump — took the stage to the Lynyrd Skynyrd song "That Smell" and presented his research on why marine animals eat plastic garbage in the ocean.
Like others, he has worked hard to boil down years of study to explain the what and why of his research for a lay audience in three minutes, TED style.
The topics of other finalists’ presentations will range from renewable nanopower and climate change to long-term cancer survival and the cost of alcohol intoxication.
Bringing expertise into public sphere
UC President Janet Napolitano explained the benefits of the competition. “When scientists and scholars are able to communicate their research without jargon, it helps them connect with colleagues outside their field, get fellowships and land career opportunities,” she said. “But even more critically, it allows them to bring their expertise into the public sphere, where we all can benefit from their knowledge.”
Napolitano will emcee the Grad Slam finale, to be judged by a panel representing leaders from industry, media and government. Winners will share in $10,000 in prize money.
The competition, hosted at the offices of LinkedIn, will be part of a daylong Workforce of the Future Summit, held in partnership with UC and the Bay Area Council. The day will also feature a panel discussion by UC, government and industry leaders on the role of the research university in cultivating the landscape of jobs and opportunity.