Northern Vermont University Alum Shayna Bennett Wins University of California Grad Slam!

Northern Vermont University Alum Shayna Bennett ’17 is the winner of the 2021 University of California (UC) Grad Slam! Bennett, a Ph.D. student at UC Merced studying Applied Mathematics, explained her research developing a new tool to fight invasive species in the three-minute format to win the systemwide UC Grad Slam, taking home the 2021 Slammy along with a cash prize.

 “Graduate students spend years on their thesis. The University of California (UC) Grad Slam asks: Can they explain it in just three minutes?” And Shayna did, her slam presentation winning out over nine other finalists, one each from the ten UC campuses. [You can watch it here.] “I really love trying to explain my research to a general audience,” Shayna said. “You can’t get someone excited about it if they can’t understand it.”

“As scientists we get very excited about our work, because we understand all the details. But to a general audience, those details are not going to make any sense; they are just going to be confusing,” she said. “You have to pick out the right pieces that convey how excited you are about your work, why your work is important, but in such a way that no one’s going to get confused. And it’s tricky, it’s really hard to do that.”

This was her third year taking part in the competition. Shayna placed in the top 10 her first two years at the UC Merced campus level and this year she was chosen as UC Merced Campus Champion, which earned her a spot in the systemwide slam. Campus champions get one shot to win the systemwide competition. In winning, Shayna became the first graduate student from UC Merced to win first prize in the systemwide UC Grad Slam. Congratulations, Shayna!