Sunday, May 4, 2008

Impressions from the Central California Research Symposium

Kara Ward shares her experience attending the 29th Annual Central California Research Symposium held recently on campus.

Overall Impression:

The 29th annual CCRS symposium, held at Cal State-Fresno, was without doubt an experience to remember. Although I cannot say that it was my preferred activity for the afternoon, I can definitely say that when I left the symposium I had acquired a greater knowledge of how many undergraduate and graduate science talks and public presentations progress. I myself have not attended many of the weekly Friday Biology seminars they have here at Fresno State so it was definitely a treat to attend this symposium and I was actually very interested in seeing work produced by my peers.

Out of the six presentations that were actually presented to us, it was apparent that each presenter had a different angle and strategy in the planning and preparation of his or her presentation. Of the six presentations, a few presenters actually did an excellent job in presenting their topic thoroughly in the sparse time allotted to them. These few presenters stood out because of their ability to utilize all of their skills to present a complete presentation. Others, however, failed in many areas such as utilizing their allotted time efficiently, in using the correct grammar and speech necessary to give a public presentation, and most importantly, in presenting the material and data in a manner that we the audience could understand. It is my opinion that these presenters would defiantly [sic] benefit from more practice and possible lessons in how to give public presentations. I can definitely understand that they had to present a lot of information and data in a very short time, but more practice on the presentation itself may have produced much smoother delivery and pace. It was apparent that many of the presenters were nervous and a public speaking course could and would serve them well. Overall my assessment of this symposium is fair, and based on my experience attending this symposium, I would positively attend next year should I be afforded the opportunity and recommend that all science majors do the same.

Critique 1: The Identification of Brachyuran Megalopae of the San Francisco Bay Estuary

Presented by: Vanessa Gonzales

I chose this presentation to critique because I had heard a few things about the Chinese mitten crab in prior classes; however I had never actually been presented with such detailed facts about the crab’s lifecycle and I was extremely intrigued by it. I liked the flow of the presentation and appreciated how she began her talk explaining the problem before going into the details of the experiment. I thought Gonzales did and great job of explaining how the presence of the crabs negatively affected the habitat by competition with and predation of some of the native species; however, I would have liked her to speak a little more about some of the native species which were affected. I also thought that the presenter did an excellent job of providing graphs, charts and tables which illustrated the facts and stressed the points that she was trying to make. As I stated earlier, I feel that the presenter did a great job of going through all of the important stages in the life cycle of the crab. This background information would be vital to know prior to being able to understand the full extent of the problem at hand as well as understanding how the experiment was set up and I feel that she was wise to include it. As the presentation continued and Gonzales entered the research portion of the presentation, I felt that she entered into somewhat of a read and speak mode. By read and speak mode I mean that it almost seemed like she was just reading lines from her note cards and it was apparent that she may have gotten lost in her notes, because between every sentence she would say phrases akin to “um” and “like”. Aside from these minor areas, I felt that the presenter did a good job of presenting the information in an organized manor. The presentation flowed and each section was explained well by Gonzales who utilized her time well.

Critique 2: Potential Impacts of Selenium on California Red-Legged Frog (Rana draytonii)

Presented by: Foung Vang

I chose this presentation to critique because I had never heard of the primary organism of this study, the Red-Legged Frog, and just the name was enough to warrant my interest. After reading the abstract, provided by the presenter, my initial thoughts went to the Zebrafish experiment we conducted in our Developmental Biology lab in which we treated the fish with varying amounts of ethanol. Based on my experiences with the Zebrafish lab, I knew that most experiments monitoring early development are quite interesting and could really go either way so I was definitely interested in seeing the outcome of this experiment. Overall I felt that there were some strong areas of the presentation as well as some weak areas. The weak areas in the presentation for me, was the lack of background information on the frogs as well as the lack of graphics and illustrations. Where the presenter did a great job of providing us with a background of selenium and the issues presented by selenium in the environment, he hardly spoke at all about the history and life cycle of the frogs. It almost seemed as if the presenter was too eager to begin the discussion of the hypothesis and results section of the experiment, but in doing so, the presentation came off as being unbalanced and dry. Although this lecture presented a lot of facts and data, I still felt as if something was lacking in the overall presentation. Perhaps the problem for this presenter was merely a time management issue, trying to put too much information in a twelve minute presentation; however, this should not be an excuse. My overall assessment of this talk was that it was very informative and the presenter was well spoken, however, I still would have preferred a little more background information on the target organism as well as a little more visual stimulation.


Steven Miller May 5, 2008 at 2:41 PM  

I enjoyed the CCRS this year but I don't know if you attended last year's CCRS or not, but I thought the speakers that were relatively related to the life sciences were dramatically more prepared last year than they were this year (and more enthusiastic). Did anyone go to last year's CCRS and know what I mean?

Madhu May 5, 2008 at 2:52 PM  

Interesting observation, Steven. I wasn't able to take in enough of the talks this year to make that comparison with last year.

On the other hand, one of my grad students gave a talk last year, and I'd worked hard with him to get it in good shape. So that alone might have pulled up the average quality of the talks, right?! :-))

Steven Miller May 5, 2008 at 7:03 PM  

Haha. Probably! I wasn't exactly expecting jokes and continuous entertainment from the speakers. But a majority of them, did not project their voice and were fairly monotone. Even for the presentations I liked, the speaker did not seem to excited about their subject. Which, after hours and hours and hours of research, I'd hope you would be, or else, why do it?


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