Annual Campus Grad Slam Showcases UCLA Samueli Student Researchers

Soulamaine B - Shelby Vixler

UCLA Samueli/Shelby Vixler

UCLA Samueli graduate student researchers Soulaïmane Bentaleb (left) and Shelby Vexler placed second and third, respectively, at the annual campus-wide UCLA Grad Slam.

May 22, 2024

UCLA Samueli Newsroom

Soulaïmane Bentaleb and Shelby Vexler — two graduate student researchers at the UCLA Samueli School of Engineering — placed second and third, respectively, at the annual campus-wide UCLA Grad Slam last month.

The duo were among 10 graduate student finalists chosen to present their research in a three-minute talk to a panel of judges and audience members at the UCLA Meyer & Renee Luskin Conference Center. Researchers across all disciplines competed for the chance to represent UCLA at the UC Grad Slam Final May 3 in San Francisco.

Bioengineering master’s student Bentaleb was awarded second place for his novel model examining brainwave activity in epileptic patients: Automated and Personalized Detection of Epileptic Activity in Resting State. His research uses machine learning to individualize brainwave activity assessments and determine which part of the brain is triggering a patient’s seizures. Bentaleb, who said he entered the competition to practice public speaking, received a $3,000 prize. He is a member of distinguished professor Wentai Liu’s Biomimetic Research Lab.

The third-place with a $2,000 prize went to chemistry doctoral student Shelby Vexler for her presentation: From Foe to Friend: Viruses that Fight Bacteria. Vexler looks at the possibilities of making genetic and chemical modifications to bacteriophages, viruses that could be used as “tiny assassins” to attack bacteria that cause infections. She is a graduate researcher in the lab of Irene Chen, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. Vexler said she participated in the competition to improve her communication skills in explaining scientific topics to a broad audience.

First place winner, Melis Câker — a neuroscience graduate student — received a $5,000 prize and represented UCLA at the UC Grad Slam Final. 

Also presenting at the campus finals was mechanical engineering graduate student Jungmin Lee, who shared his research on mimicking brain synapses within electrical circuits in order to decrease the power requirements of AI models: Toward Sustainable Artificial Intelligence – A Brain’s Way of Computing. He is a member of mechanical and aerospace engineering professor Yong Chen’s research group. 

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