Presenting 2018 Grad Slam Winner Yiqi Cao

Ten finalists battled for the Grad Slam Championship on 3/22/18. The competition was stiff, the crowd was raucous; but in the end, two BioEs swept the awards.

Yiqi Cao took both 1st Place and the People’s Choice awards for her presentation “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart… Again.” You can see her winning 3-minute presentation starting at 49:15 in Grad Slam 2018 Video Recording.

Second Place went to Inez Raharjo.

Cao, from Blacksburg, VA, is a member of The Desai Lab. She first became interested in science in high school where she spent much of her time doing community service such as volunteering for the library, senior home, and organizing food drives. “I gradually realized that I could make a much greater impact by developing technologies that treat or cure diseases. I decided to combine my fascination with biology (AP biology was my favorite class) and my desire to develop new technologies by pursuing a degree in Biomedical Engineering,” she said.

Among her biggest supporters, Cao names her parents, her AP biology teacher, her PI at the University of Virginia, Shayn Peirce-Cottler, and her engineering professor, Dana Elzey. “And of course my current PI, Tejal Desai,” she added with a laugh.

“I am most inspired by Tejal. She is an excellent scientist and engineer who also a keen grasp of the unmet needs in the clinic and the market. She works on projects that are scientifically interesting but also has translational potential—and this drew me to her lab,” said Cao. “She is also a role model for me in the way that she can manage a large lab, keep up with her numerous collaborations in both industry and academia, and balance it all with her family!”

Cao, a graduate of The University of Virginia and a PhD Candidate with The UC Berkeley-UCSF Graduate Program in Bioengineering, is currently researching the use of nanotopography to improve the efficacy of stents, the mesh metal tubes for opening up clogged blood vessels.

Cao’s plan is to continue her research in the lab. She is interested in developing products that can tangibly improve patient outcomes, so she is considering a few different careers for reaching that goal.

When not engrossed in her lab activities, she enjoys cooking, practicing yoga, and recently took up aerial silks. Cao also enjoy being outdoors—hiking, camping, and kayaking.

The annual Grad Slam competition at UCSF challenges graduate students to present a compelling presentation of their dissertation research in three minutes or less, using language that not only their peers but also non-specialists will understand. The intention of Grad Slam is not to dumb-down or trivialize research; rather, it is meant to incentivize students to clarify their ideas and to help others understand and appreciate the significance of their work.

Obviously, Cao excelled in conveying both her enthusiasm and the importance of her research.


Department of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences

About the School: The UCSF School of Pharmacy aims to solve the most pressing health care problems and strives to ensure that each patient receives the safest, most effective treatments. Our discoveries seed the development of novel therapies, and our researchers consistently lead the nation in NIH funding. The School’s doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) degree program, with its unique emphasis on scientific thinking, prepares students to be critical thinkers and leaders in their field.