Communication of Scientific Results
NBIO 850 (cross-listed: (PHYI 705/706)
One faculty member from the Cell Biology & Physiology Department or the Neurobiology Curriculum will attend each session that involves student presentations.
There are five rehearsal groups, each comprised of 4 students (Table 1). One member of each group is a senior student who took P Class last year; their job is to act as a coach/advisor during rehearsal sessions. When a member of your rehearsal group is scheduled to present in P Class, the whole rehearsal group will meet at least two days before the presentation to rehearse that student. The presenter organizes the group (email addresses are provided in Table 1) and finds a room. If possible the presenter should use a projector. What looks good on your computer screen sometimes does not project well.
For the Fall semester, each student will prepare and deliver a 10 minute talk describing his or her research. As you know, each of you is also obligated to give a formal departmental “Research in Progress” seminar this Fall, and I have organized it so that your P Class talk precedes your departmental talk. If you have a non-negotiable conflict with your assigned dates, let me know and we will find a way to work it out.
For your presentation, a good (but not ironclad) rule of thumb is 1 slide/min. Slides should illustrate the talk (this means diagrams and photos; text should be kept to a minimum). Bullets should be used wisely. A talk generally follows an outline like this:
- The larger scientific question being addressed and its general background.
- The particular question being addressed or hypothesis tested.
- Background, including results from the lab you are in. Please attribute these results to whomever did the experiments. Don't just say "our lab" or "a postdoc in the lab."
- Your results or expected results.
- A memorable, succinct summary, with graphics if possible.
- Future directions. Future directions can also be successfully intercalated into the talk instead of as a slide at the end.
- Acknowledgments, if they have not been inserted into the body of the talk.
The presenter will be introduced by a member of his or her rehearsal group. You are all expected to perform an introduction twice during the semester – once in P Class, and once at one of the formal departmental “Research in Progress” seminars. Making a relaxed, gracious, and interesting introduction, and managing the question session at the end of a talk, are skills that improve with practice. The presenter should provide the introducer with information about his or her background, including something to make the introduction more interesting—perhaps a hobby or an accomplishment.
The presenter must thank the introducer in a gracious manner. Walk to the "podium" (a table with the computer on it in 3118); stop; take a breath; look at the introducer; and attempt to be genuine, not scripted, in your thanks. (Say something other than “Thank you for that lovely introduction.” Notice what invited seminar speakers say at departmental talks.)
Scientific questions to the presenter:
Each student presentations in P Class will be followed by scientific questions. It is important for speakers-in-training to practice rephrasing and answering questions about their work in a professional and dignified way without getting flustered or becoming long-winded. It is important for audience members-in-training to develop skill in asking interesting questions without aggressive embellishments. In a professional setting, intelligent questions make your invited speaker feel welcomed and appreciated, and let them know that the audience was paying attention and was interested in the seminar.
For professional talks you should get into the habit of repeating/rephrasing the question before answering it. Repeating gives you time to think. It guarantees that you have understood the question. It makes sure everyone in the audience has heard the question. Do not, under any circumstances, start answering a question before the questioner has finished asking it. Allow them to come to a full stop before you reply!
Critique of the student’s presentation by the class:
As audience members, please be prepared to comment on the following (on paper, and verbally if time permits – remember to bring a pen or pencil to class!):
- Was the talk well organized?
- Was the speaker engaged with the audience (or did he or she face the slides and avoid looking at people)?
- Could you follow the talk easily -- was it paced properly? Too fast (common)?
- Was PPT used to best advantage? Comment on the slides, the use of space and color, use of animation, the content of the titles, the font sizes, etc.
- Could you describe the essence of the talk later to a colleague?
There will be two forms of feedback on your talk. First, you will receive written feedback from each member of the class (as detailed above). Second, I will make a video movie of your presentation and provide you with a DVD; you will meet with me for about an hour in the following week to review the written comments and the DVD in detail.
Formal public talk:
Near the end of the fall semester, each second-year student will give a formal, public “RIP” (Research in Progress) talk in the Bioinformatics or G202 Auditorium. You will be introduced by a member of your rehearsal group. You will be expected to thank the introducer graciously after arriving at the podium and getting settled, not on the way up the stairs. The introducer will also monitor and terminate the question session, keeping careful track of the time, and solving any problems (for example, difficulty with the lights).
End of semester luncheon
At the end of the semester the course will sponsor a catered lunch for the students and the faculty who have attended the class during that semester.