Engaging Science Students through Research Seminar Presentations

Grenon, Muriel, Flaus, Andrew and Gorman, Adrienne (2011) Engaging Science Students through Research Seminar Presentations. [Conference Proceedings]


Biotechnology is the application of molecular biology to real world problems. Although this is one of the most dynamic areas in contemporary science, students often find the underlying scientific principles intimidating and disorienting. To address the resulting disengagement, we have created a realistic seminar programme to actively involve our second year Biotechnology class of 20 students. In semester one, students are assigned individual topic involving the application of molecular biology principles. After introductory presentation training, students research their topics and design a PowerPoint presentation to deliver their findings at weekly sessions. The full class attends each seminar and pro-active engagement is driven by grading everyone's contribution to questions, comments, and anonymous written feedback provided to the speaker. In semester two, the cycle is repeated with an assigned topic taken from a Scientific American article by a leading international researcher. This provides experience with scientific literature at a realistic entry level, as well as giving the opportunity to build on skills after the semester one feedback. A written presentation is also requested to improve scientific writing skills. The participation of guest academic staff in the audience provides fresh perspectives for every session as well as underlining relevance of the learning to local research activities. Using this format, we have achieved 100% class attendance at the presentations over two academic years, and 95% submission of written assignments. Guest academic participants comment on the high standard presentations and student's enthusiasm for discussions, even when they are not part of the assessment in semester two. Students offered very positive feedback about the programme commenting on interesting topics and the acquisition of key skills. Engaging in realistic scientific exercises allows each student to focus on achievable personal goals as well as building up core scientific skills of presenting and discussing scientific concepts.

[thumbnail of NAIRTL 5th Annual Conference.pdf]
NAIRTL 5th Annual Conference.pdf

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