- Create an introduction that provides a broad perspective for the specific work being presented. For example, if you are presenting a paper on a new reverse transcriptase (RT) structure, you should provide some background on RTs in general. Don’t assume that everyone in your audience knows the background. Provide historical perspective, such as when was the first RT discovered? When was the first structure of a member of the RT family solved? Why do we care about RT? This will provide a context for introducing what is special about the paper you are presenting. Also, explain enough about the work that came immediately before your paper (often from the same research group) so that your audience understands the starting point for the paper you are presenting.
- Explain why you chose the paper you did. What do you find most interesting about it? Why is it important? Also, why is the topic interesting and important?
- Instead of simply describing the methods used, look at the methods critically, with an eye for anything interesting or unusual. Point out anything that might be generally useful. For example, did the authors use any unusual purification or expression tricks? The people in your audience, many of whom are struggling with purification and expression, may find this helpful.
- What is the most significant contribution of the specific work to the field in general?
- As much as possible, make your own cartoons and schematic diagrams – don’t copy these from the paper. When you make your own figure, you can be sure that it makes exactly the points you want, no more and no less.
- Do the results suggest any additional experiments to answer any new questions raised by the work? Hint for 2nd year grad students: These presentations can be a good source of ideas for qualifying exam topics.
- Clearly explain the significance of the results. Results by themselves are dull, unless they have significance. The significance may not be obvious to the audience, so point it out specifically. Also, try to think critically about the author’s work. For example, are there any possible alternative interpretations of the results?
- Try to appear truly interested (even excited!) about the work you are presenting. Enthusiasm is contagious, and keeps your audience interested. Can you think of anything to make your presentation unique? An unusual prop or visual aid? Make your presentation “professional”. That means, stand up in front, look directly at your audience, and don’t “read” your slides.
- Arrive at the conference room early. Make sure you can get into the room. Make sure you can make the projector work, and make sure you have everything you need for your presentation, such as a pointer.
- Practice your talk!
Meetings: Wednesdays at noon in NHB 4.202
Generally, there is a 30-45 minute presentation on a recent journal paper (or papers) or on the presenter’s own research. The emphasis is on structural work but non-structural topics in biochemistry and molecular biology are also welcome. Meetings are open to all who are interested.