Physics Ph.D. Student Benaz Colabewala Is Grad Slam Campus Champion.

UC Merced’s Graduate Division wrapped up its annual Grad Slam Competition, announcing Physics doctoral candidate, Benaz Colabewala (Boe Mendewala) as its campus champion, on 21st May, 2020. Daughter of Jimmy and Rukshana Colabewala, Benaz was declared UC Merced’s 2020 Grad Slam Champion for her talk, ‘The Solar Solution: Upgrading Energy Technology’, where her research, with Professor Sayantani Ghosh, studies the optical properties of hybrid perovskite materials for Solar Energy and lighting applications. Benaz receives a $5,000 grand prize.

This year’s Grad Slam looked much different from the past years due to California’s shelter-in-place orders. Each finalist was tasked with submitting a video of his or her presentation instead of performing it in front of a live audience. While most didn’t have experience with the format, the entrants received individualized coaching sessions. A panel of eight judges – including UC Merced Foundation Trustees, a software engineer at Google; and Ashley Swearengin, President and CEO of the Central Valley Community Foundation – scored each video and selected the winners.

This was Benaz’s first year entering the competition. “I’m so grateful for this honour, especially considering the quality of presentations that all the finalists gave this year,” said Benaz, who grew up in Fullerton, after arriving in the US from India at five years of age. “I feel privileged to have been able to share my research in such a unique format and I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of turning a lot of technical information into a digestible and compact three-minute talk.” In the fall, Benaz will start a faculty position at Mills College in Oakland.

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