Meet Grad Slam Finalist Mayowa Adegboyega

Graduate student Mayowa Adegboyega loves talking about anthropology with kids because she wants them to "see scientists as cool, chill people who are just like them." Come see for yourself just how chill when she and nine other cool finalists compete April 5 to represent UC Davis in the UC Grad Slam.

Mayowa Adegboyega

​Program and Degree: 

Anthropology, Ph.D., 4th year

Research Interests: 

Human Biological Variation, Human Evolution, Neanderthals, Virtual Reconstruction and 3-D Imaging

Grad Slam Presentation Title:

Reconstructing Human Evolution: A 3-D Jigsaw Puzzle

What initially attracted you to your field of study?

In my junior year at Howard University, I participated in the UC-HBCU Initiative Summer Program that provides opportunities for undergraduate students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities to do research at the UCs. I did my research in the Evolution and Ecology Department at UC Davis on the evolution of locomotion in coral reef fish which inspired me to look into the locomotive adaptations in humans. I wanted to understand the biological and environmental factors have led to the human body plan and how this in turn has contributed to our achievements as a species. The rest is prehistory.

How would you describe your presentation style?

I definitely use a lot of humor and I rely a lot on commonly understood concepts to explain the technical jargon.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in developing your presentation?

My biggest challenge was setting up just enough background information in the beginning so that the rest of my talk would make sense to anyone who doesn't spend hours and hours reading papers on human evolution. It was also quite tricky to figure out how to utilize my slide properly in such way that they conveyed the rest of the information that I didn't have time to expand upon.

Other than your own, which presentation in your Qualifying Round time slot impressed you the most?

I was so impressed by (fellow finalist) Divya Kernik from the Biomedical Engineering department. Her presentation went so smoothly as though she had given it a thousand times. When I received the notification that I made the final 10, I immediately scanned the pictures to see if she also made it through. My friends thought it strange that I should be so happy for a competitor.

Aside from your graduate research, what are your other passions or hobbies?

I am very passionate about science communication so I frequently volunteer for my department's outreach program. I love the idea of inspiring the next generation to be passionate about science and to see scientists as cool, chill people who are just like them and the people in their lives. I also love cooking and being in the company of friends.

Are you #TeamMayowa?
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

This story originally appeared on UC Davis Graduate Studies