Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Some Thoughts Following Journal Club!

So last Thursday, we completed one of the most exciting parts of 20.109: Journal Club!

It was a good experience. I've done some presentations for science competitions in the past, but they've mostly been for a single audience, and not based on research done by others. For this journal club, we presented research projects somehow correlated to signaling systems to our lab class.

Here’s the paper that I discussed, about constructing a more complex genetic circuit to detect image edges: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19563759.
When making the slides, what concerned me about preparing the visuals was the content that could be cohesively covered within the time limitation. Initially, I included a ton of graphs and differential equations explaining the mathematical models that were developed in the paper. The complexity of the mathematical equations took a long time to explain properly; when I finally got around to timing my practice presentations, I kept going beyond the time limit by a few minutes. And that was by talking extremely quickly. In the end, I decided to focus on highlighting the theories and physical circuit construction over the mathematical/theoretical aspects, since it seemed more associated with what we've been learning during Module 2. As someone who enjoys visual art, the slide designing was fun to do.
My thoughts sometimes process at a different rate than my voice, so what comes out can be an incoherent jumble of words. What I expected was something along the lines of this (time stamp at 3:36, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4gXfdzs-S9Y, from Avatar the Last Airbender). 
What surprised me most was how the actual delivery went by a little better than anticipated. It was kind of like a positive feedback system, where input = power point slide, output = words that led to the next slide through positive regulation (shoutout to 20.320 here).

(from http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/feedback.html)
After practicing a few times, and becoming more familiar with slide contents, making a cohesive presentation became easier; it was certainly better than memorizing a word for word script. I think I could have fit in some of the mathematical modeling, since I realized that I had some time left after reaching the discussion aspect of the presentation. I was also somewhat worried about the questions following the presentation; but I realized that regardless of knowing the correct answer, the most important part of having this aspect was the learning process for both the audience and the presenter. What things should we, as readers, consider when looking at research papers? What are some important take home conclusions should the reader draw, and what are some possible limitations not covered in the paper discussions? The questions that were asked by fellow 20.109 peers and staff helped me consider alternative perspectives on the research I presented about, which is something really great about having Journal Club.
Now that that’s over with (along with the second 20.320 exam, which was today), off to take a quick nap, and then get to work on the module 2 report!

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