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Meet the Grad Slam Finalists: Don Gibson

Don Gibson with tomato plants.
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 - 5:00pm

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Don Gibson

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

Previous Degree(s) & College(s): 
B.S. Biotechnology, UC Davis

Research Interest: 
Understanding genetic controls of plant root development.

Title of Grad Slam Presentation: 
Finding a Better Root

What initially attracted you to your field of study?
The hidden part of the plant, its roots, is a mysterious organ. Why some plants are able to survive and thrive in a drought or live with very little nutrients is still an open question. If we can understand how roots respond to these problems we can select the next generation of crops with better roots to prosper in a changing climate.

What did you do to prepare for Grad Slam? 
First, I had great lab-mates willing to hear one too many practices of my talk. Secondly, feedback from my professor and non-academic friends really helped with crafting my talk into something relevant.

Did you encounter any obstacles while preparing for Grad Slam? How did you overcome them? 
Plant roots can be very complex so getting a good image and figure were the first big obstacles. I created a new diagram and looked for the most easy to understand image of my tomato roots.

What do you think sets you and your presentation apart from the other contestants? 
As a plant biologist at UC Davis, I hope to show how our scientific community is using natural variation in wild plant species to make crops more resilient in a changing climate.

What are your other passions/hobbies? 
Outside of the lab I am often volunteering with local political organizations to bring progressive change to my community in Sacramento. Also I play soccer, and you can often find me cheering loudly at Sacramento Republic FC games.

UC Grad Slam is an annual contest in which master’s and Ph.D. students across UC campuses – in disciplines ranging from hard sciences to humanities – compete to sum up their research for a general audience. Students present the significance and fundamental points of their work at UC Davis in a clear, direct and interesting manner.

Over 80 master's and doctoral students from across UC Davis' 99 graduate programs submitted proposals for this year's competition, which kicked off with a qualifying round on February 28 at the ARC. Faculty and staff from across UC Davis volunteered to serve on the judging panels.

The finalists will compete against each other at the UC Davis Final Round at the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art on April 14 from 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm. The event is free and open to the public, and is co-sponsored by the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art. Registration is now open at

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