Thursday, November 6, 2014

Journal Club Nerves

I really, really don't like giving presentations. I seem to have inherited an attractive trait from my mother that involves my entire face turning red within a minute or two of me addressing an audience of more than two people. You could even call it positive feedback since as soon as I feel myself turning red I get more embarrassed and the redness grows. I have a lot of other unfortunate habits related to public speaking such as speaking incredibly quickly (and I've been told that I already talk unnaturally fast to begin with) and fidgeting with my clothes, but at least I've been able to improve on those with time. The red face, not so much. So needless to say, I was less than thrilled when we were told that 109 involves not one, but two oral presentations.

That unpleasant butterflies-in-stomach feeling only increased the weekend before journal club, as I took notes on the paper I'd chosen and tried not to think about how impossible it was going to be for me to coherently explain all of the interesting work this lab had done. But, the paper was really interesting - it described a new method to screen for gene expression when composing large or complex genetic systems. The project I worked on this summer also involved optimizing synthetic biology, a different aspect of it, but it definitely gave me an appreciation for the kind of research that isn't necessarily proving anything incredibly exciting but can be used to improve the field as a whole. The fact that I was actually intrigued by the work presented in the paper made the act of relaying this information to a group of peers a bit less terrifying. Also, I was really pleased when I realized that being in the smaller lab section meant I only had to stand in front of seven people (plus the teaching staff, but that was unavoidable).

Overall, I think it went better than I expected. I still got red, and I still spoke a little too fast - I cut off a solid minute from when I timed myself practicing to when I presented to the class - but I managed to get the general gist of the paper across without having a panic attack, so I'd call that a success. In the future I'll keep working on improving my bad habits, and I also want to do a better job of synthesizing the information presented by other people as they speak so that I can contribute to the Q+A more. 

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