Meet the Grad Slam Finalists: Marc Pollack

UC Davis Grad Slam Finalists

Quick Summary

  • Meet Microbiology graduate student Marc Pollack.

Grad Slam Banner

Marc Pollack

Program, Degree & Year of Study:  
Microbiology, Ph.D., 5th year

Previous Degree(s) & College(s): 
Master's in Bioscience, Keck Graduate Institute
Bachelor of Science, UC Davis

Research Interest: 
Nucleic acid detection strategies/Satellite RNAs of tobacco ringspot virus

Title of Grad Slam Presentation: 
Exposing Foodborne Pathogens

What initially attracted you to your field of study?
Reading books like The Hot Zone by Richard Preston hooked me on the subject of microbes, human pathogens in particular. A slew of great science teachers and encouraging parents helped build that interest into a desire to pursue microbiology as a career.

What did you do to prepare for Grad Slam? 
I attended the Grad Slam Bootcamp. It helped me organize my thoughts and get me more focused on how I'd deliver my presentation. Beyond this, I basically just wrote up several iterations of a script and built a PowerPoint that made it simpler to visualize my points. Having a background in public speaking definitely helped - I've been participating in college debate programs for over 10 years now.

Did you encounter any obstacles while preparing for Grad Slam? How did you overcome them? 
The most difficult part was deciding what subset of my research I'd be presenting on for this. I ended up choosing this subject because it was less convoluted, making it easier to explain. Fitting my presentation to 3 minutes while including all of the major points I wanted to make was also difficult, though it was more a question of where to prioritize more time than it was simply getting everything into it.

What do you think sets you and your presentation apart from the other contestants? 
Two things. First, I think the application is more solidly established in my case. I'm helping to build what I've worked on here into an actual company, and I've had a lot of time and assistance considering why people care about this. It's not just my own personal interest in the material that's driving this research forward. Second, having a really clear and consistent metaphor and sticking to it helps. I don't have to go into much depth explaining why I'm using the metaphor or how it relates to my work. It's just readily apparent, and it grounds what can be a relatively complex subject.

What are your other passions/hobbies? 
Debate, reading, tennis, writing, and movies. I'm the coach of the UC Davis debate team. I'm Jewish and I contribute to the Davis Hillel, both as a former board member and a volunteer.

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

Secondary Categories

General News