Second Annual Postdoc Slam Competition

Note: CTSI PRESCIENT fellow (TL1 postdoc) Christy Sheehy, PhD, won the runner-up prize and People's Choice Award for “The Eye: A Window Into Our Brain.”

By Mitzi Baker via

Christy Sheehy
hristy Sheehy, PhD, delivers her talk “The Eye: A Window Into Our Brain,” which won the runner-up and People’s Choice awards at the second annual Postdoc Slam competition. Photo by Susan Merrell


The competition, held in front of a packed Byers Auditorium in Genentech Hall at Mission Bay on Sept. 19, challenged postdocs to describe their complex, nuanced research in three minutes or less, using language that non-specialists can understand.

“Our purpose in running this contest, and its sister event for graduate students, is to incentivize our early-career researchers to hone their communications skills,” said Elizabeth Watkins, PhD, dean of the Graduate Division and vice chancellor of Student Academic Affairs. The event was organized and hosted by the Office for Postdoctoral Scholars, part of the UCSF Graduate Division.

“Now, perhaps more than ever, the University and the entire research enterprise need people who can successfully advocate for science, and defend the cause – and the funding – of scientific research,” she said.

The more than one thousand postdoctoral fellows at UCSF are often the unsung heroes of the research enterprise, doing much of the hands-on work as well as acting as second mentors to graduate students.


Christy Sheehy, PhD, claimed both the $1,500 runner-up prize and the $750 People’s Choice award for her engaging presentation “The Eye: A Window Into Our Brain.”

“In neurology, we are often left with asking patients how they are feeling, reporting their symptoms … and we are left to determine what went wrong,” said Sheehy, who is a postdoctoral scholar in the lab of Ari Green, MD, the medical director of the UCSF Multiple Sclerosis Center.

“Imagine waiting for a heart disease patient until after they have had a stroke or heart attack to start figuring out what’s going wrong. Neurological tools really have to catch up and that’s where my project comes in.”

She gave a tantalizing peek into her work designing and building one of the world’s most sensitive eye trackers. It measures the tiny movements at the back of the eye to assess brain health in a way that is far less expensive and easier than current brain imaging methods.

“I love teaching and sharing my passion for research with others, so this event was the perfect opportunity to do just that,” said Sheehy.

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