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Evaluating fourth year student presentations

by Eva Amsen

I’m right in the middle of two days of evaluating student presentations. They’re 10 minute talks about the fourth year research projects they did. Yesterday I evaluated fifteen speakers, and today I have another fifteen. Seven other people are also evaluating over both days, and each student brings their supervisor, who also evaluates their own student as well as the other students in the same time slot.
It’s madness from a logistical point of view, but sitting in the talks is quite enjoyable. Every fifteen minutes I get to listen to another research talk, and the topics are extremely varied. Among the fifteen talks I listened to yesterday were psychological evaluations, molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, ecology, and neurology. Model systems people talked about were mice, cell culture, snails, drosophila, C. elegans, bipolar patients, and children. And I learned so much from just sitting there! I learned about auto-immune disorders I didn’t yet know, and about pollution I wasn’t familiar with, and the latest updates from the miRNA field.

So right now, I’m going to run to Second Cup to grab a coffee and get ready for the next two blocks of student presentations.

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Henry Gee March 27, 2009 - 2:52 PM

I had to do something similar “recently”:http://network.nature.com/people/henrygee/blog/2009/03/13/adventures-in-outreach . The problem was trying to set a standard from the beginning: with the first few presentations, one has little with which to compare them, so you’re forever going back to fiddle with your notes, re-evaluating them, and so on. If I hadn’t had three other judges I’d have been lost.

Eva Amsen March 27, 2009 - 5:17 PM

True! Luckily, the first batch of three students I got yesterday were very diverse, so I used those three to set the standards for everyone else. But I also had a group where all three were really good, and if that had been my first group I would have undermarked them.
Also, this post is hilariously full of typos because I was in such a rush. If I have a few minutes after my rushed lunch I might fix them.

Cath Ennis March 27, 2009 - 5:21 PM

So, does the quality of the research matter more than the quality of the presentation? Or vice versa? My Honours research project yielded no actual usable results, but my humourless supervisor wouldn’t let me call the presentation “Why all of my cells died”, even though it would have been a much more accurate description of the contents. But I still managed to get a decent grade, due to a mixture of using the right controls and giving (even if I do say so myself) an awesome talk.

Eva Amsen March 27, 2009 - 8:57 PM

It’s a combination. They’re judged on introduction(background), description of methods, results, conclusion, and answering questions. That counts the most. Then there are secondary categories that don’t count as heavily: content of the slides and presentation style. So people with very few results need to spend more time explaining what they expected to see, or suggest future experiments, so that the total amount of scientific content is the same as someone with lots of results (who might spend more time _interpreting_ results)

Eva Amsen March 27, 2009 - 8:58 PM

Lots more interesting talks today! Diabetes, Parkinson, pulldown assays, anxiety disorders, RNAi, _and more_
Weekend now!!!

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