Appendix D: Seminar Requirements and Guidelines


General Information
MCDB 7890/7891 is intended to introduce graduate students to the art of data presentation in the seminar setting.  Students are required to participate in the MCDB Student Seminar program for their first three years, usually a total of 6 semesters.  (MCDB 7890/7891 is not offered Summer Semester.)  More senior students are also encouraged to attend.  The seminar schedule is prepared during Summer Semester for the upcoming year.  Seminar titles must be submitted to the MCDB Office by deadlines specified (prior to the start of the term) so that a detailed schedule may be prepared for general announcement to faculty and students. 

In the case of second year presentations, pdf files of the papers to be presented must also be forwarded directly to the program office.  All papers will be made available on the course website at  Students registered for MCDB 7890/7891, and faculty moderators, will have access to these papers.  It is expected that the papers will be read prior to the seminar.

During their second and third years, students enroll in MCDB 7891 for the semesters in which they are scheduled to present.  During their first through third years, when not enrolled in MCDB 7891, students enroll in MCDB 7890, attending and evaluating the MCDB 7891 presentations.

First year students register for MCDB 7890 and present brief talks at the end of the Autumn and Spring Semesters describing their rotation experience.  If two rotations were performed during the semester, the student has the option of discussing either rotation.

All MCDB 7890/7891 students are additionally required to attend the Molecular Life Sciences Seminar Series, co-sponsored by MCDB and the Ohio State Biochemistry Program.

Second-year students give a literature-based presentation.  Second-year presentations are typically given during Autumn Semester.  The selected paper should be recent (past two years) and published in a reputable journal in the field.  It may be broadly related to the student's research area, but should not cover research on which the student's project is based.  Students should consult with their advisor about the topic and specific article they would like to present.  It is highly recommended that the student give a practice presentation to his/her lab group (including the advisor).  The advisor should be invited and encouraged to attend the seminar presentation.

Third-year students present a seminar on their doctoral research topic, reviewing problem background and presenting preliminary research results.  Third year presentations are typically given during Spring Semester.  The advisor and the advisory committee should be invited and encouraged to attend the seminar presentation.

Students attending the seminar provide an audience that asks questions and gives constructive advice to the presenter (via the evaluation form).  All MCDB 7890 students are required to complete an Evaluation Form (Appendix E of the MCDB Handbook).  This form is anonymous, so evaluations are expected to be candid and fair and should include positive and constructive criticism.

MCDB 7890.  MCDB 7890 is graded S/U, based on attendance and participation.  A grade of U will not count toward fulfillment of the course requirement.  It is expected that all students attend all presentations, unless a valid reason for absence is presented to the moderators.  

In order to encourage students to arrive on time and to avoid distractions, attendance is recorded on a sign-in sheet available only until the seminar begins.  Seminars begin promptly.  Late arrivals must see the faculty moderators after the seminar and question period in order to have their attendance recorded.

It is very important that student seminar attendees devote their full attention to the presentation.  No other activities are permitted in the audience.  Beyond merely observing the presentation, students are expected to ask questions.  Each week, the moderators assign 2-3 students at random from the class roster to ask questions in the event that questions are not readily volunteered.  If students chosen to ask questions are not present, they will be assigned to do so at the following seminar.  Questions from the audience are highly encouraged, as this aspect of the seminar is meant to clarify points and give helpful comments to the presenter.

MCDB 7891.  This course is graded A-E, based primarily on the presentation, but also on attendance.  MCDB 7891 students are subject to the same requirements with respect to attendance and participation as 7890 students.

In order to receive an A or A- grade, the student presentation should meet most of the criteria listed on the evaluation form in an excellent manner.  B+, B, or B- grades will be given when there is clear evidence of substantial effort, but the presentation falls short of expectations.  If the presentation is sloppy or confused, or if it is clear that the student does not understand the material presented, a C or lesser grade will be awarded and the presentation will have to be repeated in a succeeding semester.  Repeated presentations may not receive an A grade.

The section below, "Recommendations for Student Seminar Presenters," was created by experienced MCDB students in order to help their fellow students present clear, high quality seminars.  It is suggested that students peruse these recommendations as part of their presentation preparation.

Faculty Moderators and GA.  The student seminar is moderated and graded by two MCDB faculty members, one of which serves as coordinator.  Moderators are from the MCDB faculty, and are assigned teaching credit for this duty.  Those asked but unable to serve in a given semester will be asked to participate in a specific succeeding semester.  Failure or refusal to participate in the student seminar program may result in re-evaluation of program membership status.

We encourage students to take these seminars seriously, and no less is expected of the faculty.  Moderators should arrive on time and give the students their undivided attention.  Both faculty moderators are required to attend every seminar or arrange a substitute for those they are unable to attend.  The substitute should be an MCDB faculty member.

In general, the presentation should conform as much as possible to a typical seminar.  Excessive questions during the presentation should be avoided.  Questions after the presentation are strongly encouraged, especially questions from students.  Student questions should be accepted prior to questions from faculty.  Each week, the moderators assign 2-3 students at random from the class roster to ask questions in the event that questions are not readily volunteered.  If students chosen to ask questions are not present, they will be assigned to do so at the following seminar.

The moderators should meet with the presenting student immediately after seminar to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the presentation.  Once the discussion is completed and the student is dismissed, the moderators should discuss and assign the grade.  Grades should not be revealed until the end of the semester.  Moderators should give positive and constructive criticism, remembering that the purpose is to teach students how to present a good seminar and to become comfortable doing so.

GA's:  Students assigned GA duty provide the laser pointer, assist with set up (this necessitates early arrival), and remain available in case problems arise during the presentation.  The GA's also maintain the sign-in sheet and deliver it to the moderators just before seminar begins.  In addition, they distribute blank evaluation forms to the audience and deliver completed forms to the moderators.  The moderators give them to the presenting student after the seminar.

Recommendations for Student Seminar Presenters
This document was prepared by and for MCDB students.  It contains recommendations that are meant to help students present clear, high quality seminars.

General Information:

  • Presenters should arrive comfortably and appropriately dressed.
  • The seminar should be 35-40 minutes long, which allows time for questions at the end.
  • The presenter should arrive early to organize so that the seminar may begin on time.
  • A pointer will be provided by the GA and should be used by the presenter (practicing with one is highly recommended).
  • The presenter should orient him/herself with the audience without being in a position that blocks the view of the screen.
  • Since this is a seminar, a style that is common to teaching should not be used.  Visuals should be simple, with no paragraphs or long strings of sentences.  Points should be brief, with verbal explanation.
  • The first visual should give a brief introduction and should contain the following information:
  • Name of the presenter
  • Type of presentation (2nd year literature, or 3rd year research)
  • Title
  • Name of presenter's advisor

Introduction (8-10 minutes): At the outset, background information needs to be provided.  This includes the basis for the work that is to be presented as well as the goals.  The importance and relevance of the work should be included.

Methods/Results (8-10 minutes): Only unusual methods need to be explained in detail.  Common methods do not need to be explained in detail, but specifics that may vary should be included; e.g., antibodies and primers used should be noted.  For all methods used, there should be some explanation as to why a particular method was chosen.  Results should accompany the method.  Figures should include a title, but not a legend.  What is normally contained in a figure legend should be verbally explained.  Controls should be pointed out and other data clearly explained.  Extraneous data should be avoided (e.g., it is not necessary to show every agarose gel that accompanied a cloning).  All of the methods/results should be connected and give some story.  However, methods/results that do not directly fit the story should be included if relevant.

Discussion (8-10 minutes): Summarize the results and their relevance.  This summary should tie back in with the original basis and importance of the research.  Charts and tables would be applicable.

Conclusion/Future Directions: The conclusion should discuss the meaning of the data along with its implications.  In most cases, results will point to further research; other possible hypotheses and experiments should be proposed.  If it is a third year talk, the lab's direction may also be discussed.


Rev: February 2016