Skip to main content

Grad Slam Finalist Profile: Integrative Genetics and Genomics Ph.D. Student Ellen Lai

Graduate student Ellen Lai
Wednesday, April 29, 2020 (All day)

Meet Ellen Lai, Integrative Genetics and Genomics Graduate Student and Grad Slam Finalist

Ellen Lai

Program, Degree & Year of Study
Integrative Genetics and Genomics Ph.D. candidate, 4th year

Research Interests
Quantitative genetics applied to animal breeding, sustainable animal agriculture

Previous Degree(s) & College(s)
MS in Animal Biology and BS in Animal Science, both from UC Davis

Title of Grad Slam Presentation
Why are cows so lame?

Describe your presentation style in three words.
Hopefully not boring

What did you do to prepare for Grad Slam? 
I bribed my labmates and friends to listen to my talk (too) many times with homemade cookies.

What initially attracted you to your field of study? 
I learned through my undergraduate in Animal Science about using genetics as a tool for breeding more sustainable livestock that are more efficient at producing meat and milk and are healthier (i.e. better welfare).

What do you like to do in your free time? 
Bake, craft, play with my dog, oil painting, read

Do you have any mentors who helped you develop your interest and strength in research communication? If so, how did they help you?
Sheila Montgomery, the Public Engagement Manager at the Powerhouse Science Center, who taught the workshops I attended for the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center Science Communication fellowship. She gave me a strong foundation for effective science communication, and her endless enthusiasm and creativity were infectious and inspiring!

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? 
In 10 years, I hope I'll be working a job that has some science communication component, whether it be as an outreach scientist in industry, or a professor with an appointment in extension. (Extension is fostering the conversation between researchers at a university, industry, and the public.) That, and living in a house that has a gas stove, a convection oven, and a large yard for my dogs.

About This Year's Final Round

Due to the shelter-in-place order and the ongoing Coronavirus situation, UC Davis Graduate Studies chose to cancel the 2020 UC Davis Grad Slam final round event on April 7. 

Though the event’s cancellation draws this year’s competition to a close, Graduate Studies is eager to continue rewarding and recognizing the efforts of this year’s finalists. Graduate Studies, along with Grad Slam sponsors Public Scholarship and Engagement and Global Affairs, will be awarding each of the ten finalists a prize amount of $625. 

Graduate Studies will also be highlighting each of the finalists in web profiles and working with campus partners to identify alternative ways in which their contributions to society might be publicly recognized and celebrated over the course of the next year. 

For more information about UC Davis Grad Slam, visit the Grad Slam website or contact Kathryn Raley, Program and Event Manager for Graduate Studies, at

UC Davis Grad Slam Sponsors

Graduate Studies would like to thank this year's UC Davis Grad Slam sponsors for their generosity and support.

The Office of Research serves as the primary campus resource for matters related to research and technology commercialization. OR provides services and resources to simulate research, facilitate collaborations,  optimize infrastructure, ensure compliance and  translate innovations into commercial applications for societal benefit. Learn more by visiting the UC Davis Office of Research website.

Public Scholarship and Engagement (PSE) is fostering a culture of engagement at UC Davis that increases the university’s impact through mutually-beneficial relationships that have local, regional, statewide, and global reach. We envision UC Davis research, teaching and learning that serves society and makes a positive difference in the world. Learn more by visiting the Public Scholarship and Engagement website.

Global Affairs brings the world to UC Davis, welcoming more than 10,000 international students, scholars and leaders, and hosting programs that inspire global curiosity, understanding and engagement. Compelled by the valuable outcomes of thinking globally, we make transformative opportunities a reality by supporting the thousands of students and faculty learning and researching globally—and by facilitating collaborations that tackle the world’s most pressing challenges through more than 150 global partnerships.

Putting our vision of a UC Davis community that engages, thrives, and leads in this interconnected world into action, Global Affairs is in pursuit of an ambitious goal: Global Education for All.

About Graduate Studies

Graduate Studies at UC Davis includes over 100 dynamic degree programs and a diverse and interactive student body from around the world. Known for our state-of-the-art research facilities, productive laboratories and progressive spirit – UC Davis offers collaborative and interdisciplinary curricula through graduate groups and designated emphasis options, bringing students and faculty of different academic disciplines together to address real-world challenges.
UC Davis graduate students and postdoctoral scholars become leaders in their fields: researchers, teachers, politicians, mentors and entrepreneurs. They go on to guide, define and impact change within our global community.

For information on Graduate Studies’ current strategic initiatives, visit the Graduate Studies strategic plan page.