School of Pharmacy shows out in Grad Slam storytelling competition

Three students with ties to the School of Pharmacy were finalists in UCSF’s Grad Slam 2024, an event held in honor of National Graduate Student Appreciation Week that challenges graduate students to explain their research to an audience of non-experts in just three minutes.

In a Grad Slam first, Sydney Williams, a Pharmaceutical Sciences and Pharmacogenomics (PSPG) PhD student, and Reuben Hogan, a Biophysics (BP) PhD student, tied for third place, each taking home $1,000. Williams also won the People’s Choice Award, which earned her an extra $750.

Sydney Williams speaks on stage in front of screen

PhD student Williams tied for third place.

Under the guidance of faculty advisor Aparna Lakkaraju, PhD, Williams captured the audience’s attention with her presentation “Rabs: Delivery Drivers of the Eye,” likening the proteins Rab GTPases to the UPS delivery drivers of the eye as she discussed their role in healthy vision and potential mechanisms to treat some forms of blindness.

Working under the mentorship of Nevan Krogan, PhD, director of the Quantitative Biosciences Institute, Hogan showcased his research in his presentation “Protein Folding is Pretty Sweet,” borrowing from Swedish furniture maker IKEA to craft metaphors describing how sugars in cells can make some proteins misfold, a process that is at the core of Alzheimer’s disease.

Another standout among the 10 PhD students who presented their research as part of the annual science storytelling competition was Chad Altobelli, a Chemistry and Chemical Biology (CCB) PhD student, whose faculty advisor is Michelle Arkin, PhD, chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Watch the talks

UCSF Grad Slam: This is Your Brain on Your Mother Tongue


School of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, QBC, CCB, PSPG, Biophysics

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.