Archive for March, 2015

A Week Out Of Class

Last week I was not in class.  Not because I wanted to skip but because I was at a conference.  Our group went to a regional meeting in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  I  was there to give a ten minute presentation, compete in the intercollegiate quiz bowl competition, act as a symposium moderator, and go to some of the talks.  I have been going to meetings like this for a few years now and I noticed a few different things this time, maybe even because of this class.

There is usually an address by the President of the National society while there is a cash bar and heavy snacks.   The way they did it this year had people bustling, eating, looking for drinks and moving in and out of the room.  The president demanded that people eat but the crowd never calmed down.  They went from a reluctant audience to an entirely uncooperative audience.  By this time the President had already addressed several other regional branches so you would think he would have found a way to engage the audience, but no.  It was challenging to pay attention while the crowd was so unsettled.

Next up, my talk in the 10 minute PhD student oral presentation competition.  I had a lovely spot in the line up since my co-advisor organized the program, 16th of 18 talks in one afternoon.  Luckily by the time I got there, the ac had been figured out.  I went into the competition thinking about how I could make my agricultural project interesting to a general entomological audience.  I had nice pictures, a very brief outline of the talk, two short videos, and a great attitude.  Of course by the time I got up there dry mouth set in and I thought I boggled a whole bunch of words.  My lab mates told me they didn’t even notice.  I guess that my brain was processing way faster than my pace of speech.  I had practiced the talk before we left for the conference and got some great feedback.  Unfortunately I had to come up with a title months ago for the conference and everything started with a different focus insect.  I figured this out in the talk right before mine.  I started out telling them that this would not be like the other presentations and the research was in progress, more on that later.  It was a good set up, I ran with it and was able to maintain the logic of my research in an applied manner.  Tying back my data to the potentially more sustainable practices.  I gave them a natural enemy, with a fantastic picture, a video of them at work, survey information, and even some toxicity screening of my own.  In the end I tied all of it back to working with bees and my questions slide was a video of bees landing almost on the camera at the hive entrance.  My slides were colorful, coordinated, and clear, and I was able to do more than just read what I had written.  The audience looked attentive, interested and comfortable.  Then came “I would be more than happy to answer any questions that you may have.”  Clapping, then nothing, at all.  Not crushing, a little disappointed though.


I mentioned that my results and everything are a work in progress.  I had a stat here and there and I did a boatload of work.  Despite getting that clearly into the presentation and across to my audience, it was evidently not what the competition was looking for from a PhD student presentation.  Judging information and criteria are generally not available to the participants.  I found out later that the Judges were looking for the most boring IMRAD format of a presentation possible.  Not only that, but the projects and the participants were all but done with every aspect of their research.  Some had already defended.  I felt kind of naive and a little defeated.  I guess I will just have to beat everyone my way next year when I have more data!  Consequently the quiz bowl team that I captain swept the two rounds of competition later that night!


I hope this isn’t too boring.  The last part of the conference involved me acting as a moderator for a symposium of general submitted papers.  I have moderated a symposium before but it was one that I organized for the students, and was less formal.  This started out with introducing the student award winner, my girlfriend, and rolling into talk after talk 13 minutes at the time.  I bring this up because I had to capitalize on body language.  It turns out that when a 6’6″ guy in a dark gray suit stands up in the front of the room during your talk, you take notice.  Even if you have an impressive lab of your own back home.  This is one of those situations where people will make a hand motion to let the speaker know that they are running out of time.  This met with all kinds of reactions.  People were scanning the audience and looking back to their right to check their slides and would either flinch, nod, or look like something was horribly wrong.  Typically though by the time I stood up they had been pressured enough to wrap things up.  A point of pride during my presentation was how I handled my time warning with only a slight nod and kept rolling.  I guess practice kept me on pace there.  While I did miss class I was observing and reflecting the whole time.

Awkward Circles

Well that went better.  Last week we did an exercise that I had a preview of in Dean DePauw’s class.  Last time it was just a little too awkward for me.  In the exercise we form a circle and get taught some noise and motion, almost always some complex and silly thing.  It gets awkward fast, but this time it was a little easier for me.  I think it’s because we know each other in this class.  Looking at it from a teaching or training perspective is interesting.  Even the most silly series of gestures and noises requires interaction and training to get someone else to “master” it.  Some people are really in tune to their teacher and pick up the cues with enthusiasm.  Others are too weirded out or embarrassed to embrace things, a reluctant audience.  Persistence on the part of the teacher is required here.  Some will break their movement and noises into components of a sequence until the student can begin to pick up on it.  Others will simply repeat their sequence albeit slower than normal.

Maybe I could have done something like that with the undergraduates yesterday.  I had to give a talk about my research and how it ties in to some management techniques related to the class’ focus.  I think I was off of my game when I had to sit for an hour and a half before I just had to pop up and talk.  If I had been in on the planning I would liked to have introduced some of the techniques that my advisor did through the lecture.  Introducing them through my research would have been much more effective and entertaining than a vocabulary lesson.  Either way I got a chance to see where the talk stands before I tweak it for the upcoming competition.  I don’t know why, but when I recycle material things get stale for me.  Which is unfortunate since I will talk about this research for the next couple of years.


P.S. -The next week we did it again.  I still got the uncomfortable feelings but I did find myself smiling at the silliness and that helped to make me less reluctant.