Grad slam

Grad Slam 2023 holds first in-person competition open to public since COVID-19

Doctoral student develops screening system to identify children with ADHD

March 15, 2023
Author: Julia Woock
March 15, 2023

Executive functioning skills are essential for organization, goal planning, and time management. It is also a major issue for people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD. Although tools are being developed to help with things like time management, children can go undiagnosed.

Elissa Monteiro wants to change that. Monteiro’s presentation of her related research at the March 9 Grad Slam competition earned first place and $5,000. 

Grad slam
Elissa Monteiro, School Psychology, with Provost Elizabeth Watkins after winning the 2023 Grad Slam Finals at the Alumni and Visitors Center on Thursday, March 9, 2023. (UCR/Stan Lim)

“A lot of kids with ADHD get identified later in life, even as adults,” said Monteiro, a UC Riverside doctoral student in school psychology. “My hope is that this screening system can start to identify those kids earlier in order to give them support before things get increasingly difficult.”

Hyperactivity is often what people associate with ADHD, and if people do not outwardly display hyperactivity they can go undiagnosed. But it is not the only criterion for ADHD. 

This screening system would evaluate children using executive functioning before they reach middle school.  

 “The impact is that we'll be able to identify executive function challenges earlier and thus support students' behavioral and social-emotional outcomes,” Monteiro said.

Grad Slam was March 9 at the Alumni and Visitors Center from 3-5 p.m. Graduate students had three minutes to present their research for a general audience. Participants were judged on how well they engaged the audience, how clearly they communicated key concepts, and how effectively they focused and presented their ideas.

“It’s a contest to see how well graduate students can communicate their research to a general audience and showcase their research at UCR,” said Laura McGeehan, director of academic preparation, recruitment and outreach for the graduate division, the department that hosts Grad Slam.    

UCR’s 2023 Grad Slam is the first post-COVID-19 Grad Slam to be open to the community. The previous Grad Slam in 2022 was a hybrid event and not open to the public. Turnout was more than 80 people.

Grad Slam is a UC system-wide competition in which graduate students have an opportunity to present their research, compete for prizes, network, while also receiving feedback. Each school has several competition rounds until a school-wide winner is selected. Monteiro will represent UCR at the UCOP systemwide competition May 5.

This year UC Riverside received about 30 proposals from graduate students, with about equal amounts of STEM and CHASS disciplines. UCR’s graduate division sponsors the event and prizes, which includes $5,000 for first place, $2,000 for the first runner-up, $1,000 for second runner-up, $1,000 to the audience choice award, and $250 for the honorable mentions. The Center for Ideas and Society also gave all arts, humanities, and social science participants a $50 gift card for entering the contest.  

The participants received weekly feedback and were coached by Annika Speer, UCR professor of teaching, theatre, film, and digital production.

Grad Slam final judges included Jeff Horseman, a reporter from The Press Enterprise; Maryana Carreon, program associate for The Cheech Marin Center; Ronaldo Fierro of the Riverside City Council, Ward 3; Edward Coronado, policy and advocacy advisor to Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson, Ruth Perez, the deputy superintendent of the Riverside County Office of Education, and Nicholas Adcock, president/CEO of the Greater Riverside Chamber of Commerce.

“This is an opportunity for the competitors also to bring their friends and families and the community to come in to see them present their research for a non-specialist audience. It's something that's accessible and digestible for many people,” said Karla Bonilla, graduate recruitment and outreach specialist in the Academic Preparation, Recruitment, & Outreach office.

Although Grad Slam is highly competitive, participants were warm and supportive throughout the process.

“You get this sense that no matter who moves on, you're representing UC Riverside, so they're all rooting for each other. It’s almost like a community-building event within grad students rather than a competition,” said Leah Stiff, graduate recruitment and communications specialist in Academic Preparation, Recruitment & Outreach.

McGeehan agreed.

“Students are so generous and caring with each other,” she said. “They are supportive and engage in healthy competition, while forming a cohort across disciplines during the process.”



Grad slam
Finalists at the 2023 Grad Slam Finals at the Alumni and Visitors Center on Thursday, March 9, 2023. (UCR/Stan Lim)


Meet the contestants 

  • Winner – $5,000:  Elissa Monteiro, Ph.D. in school psychology. Presentation title: “School really isn’t built for some kids”: Piloting an Executive Function Screening System” 
  • Second place – $2,000:  Samantha Robinson, Ph.D. in bioengineering. Presentation title: “Automating Drug Discovery: The Fight Against Antibiotic Resistance.”  
  • Third place – $1,000:  Samiksha Singh, Ph.D in environmental engineering. Presentation title: “Are We Drinking Microplastics?” 
  • Audience Choice Award – $1,000:  Aya Shhub, Ph.D. in special education. Presentation title: “The Forgotten Key to Becoming a Great Reader!” 

Honorable mentions- Each received $250

  • UTITOFO N INYANG, Ph.D. in comparative literature. Presentation title: “African Literature: More than Yelp Reviews.”  
  • ZARIAH TOLMAN, Ph.D. in developmental psychology. Presentation title: “Positivity Outward: An App-Based Mentorship Program for Hard-To-Reach Youth.” 
  • SHANNON BRADY, Ph.D. in psychology. Presentation title: “There's No One Way to Do Emotions!” 
  • MARINA DUNN, M.S. in engineering: data science. Presentation title: “A Long Time Ago In a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Using Machine Learning to Classify Galaxies.” 
  • SANIKA NISHANDAR, Ph.D. in mechanical engineering. Presentation title: “Systematic Exploration of Wildfire Ignition.”  
  • J KEMNER, Ph.D. in environmental science. Presentation title: “Fire- Not Always Environmental ‘Treeson’.”