UC Davis graduate student Tooka Zokaie

Meet the Grad Slam Finalists: Tooka Zokaie

Tooka Zokaie

Tooka Zokaie

​Program and Degree:
Public Health, Master's, 1st Year

Research Interests: 
Oral Health, Interprofessional Training

Grad Slam Presentation Title: 
At the Mouth of Health Access

What initially attracted you to your field of study?
I was originally interested in dentistry, but noticed that many patients at pop-up clinics in California came to the dental chair at a point of no return. I wanted to help people who did not have regular access to oral health have the resources to maintain safe habits and prevent diseases or the oral cavity. Everyone deserves the right to healthcare, and public health aims to not just help individual patients, but entire populations. I was attracted to this field because it emphasizes the importance of all social justice workers, scientists, community members, governments, policies, and healthcare systems. The ability to have a holistic understanding of how the health of people are affected have given me a greater appreciation of all fields.

How would you describe your presentation style?
Engaging, I want the audience to participate, be it through putting themselves in a scenario or following along a story!

What was the biggest challenge you faced in developing your presentation?
My biggest challenge when developing my presentation was making the slides informative yet not overwhelming. I changed the design multiple times a day to make it enhance and support my spoken words, rather than confuse or bombard! Practicing with friends, classmates, and professors helped me face this challenge and their feedback was monumental in developing my presentation.

Other than your own, which presentation in your Qualifying Round time slot impressed you the most?
(Two-time Grad Slam finalist Maci Mueller's) presentation on gene splicing to remove bull horns but keep milk growth was extremely impressive. To see fellow Aggie's completing such interesting and important work is exciting, and I cannot wait to see what research I will learn about in the final round!

Aside from your graduate research, what are your other passions or hobbies?
I love to play piano, and taught at the Davis Senior Center during my undergraduate career. In addition, I love public speaking and have participated in spoken word competitions and used to be a speech coach at St. Francis High School. While piano and speech passions have been with me since I was five years old, my hobbies are always changing, for I love trying something new. Be it joining a triathlon team, learning how to salsa dance, or taking a Thai cooking class, I always find something new and adventurous to try!

Are you #TeamTooka?
Cheer her on at the April 5 UC Davis Grad Slam Finals. The event is free and open to the public, but seats are limited so reserve your ticket via Eventbrite today.

About Grad Slam

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 should present the significance and fundamental points of their work at UC Davis in a clear, direct, and interesting manner.

Participants are judged on how well they engage the audience, how clearly they communicate key concepts and how effectively they focus and present their ideas—all in three minutes or less.

Grad Slam contests are held on each of UC’s 10 campuses from February through May. The first place winners from each campus will square off to capture the systemwide title and their share of $10,000 in prize money.

For more information on the competition, visit grad.ucdavis.edu/gradslam.

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