Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The timeline of my journal club presentation

T-minus two weeks: 
Two hours before Wednesday lecture, Krystal frantically waves to me during recitation to check my phone. “I’m going to sign you up for Journal Club presentations on M1D6,” the text reads. Oops, forgot about that. I check my schedule, and of course it’s the day of my biochemistry exam. All the spots are already filled up for Day 9 presentations, so I decide that I’ll just suck it up and start the presentation early.

T-minus 1.5 weeks: 
I realize that Day 6 presentations get to read journals related to disease detection, and I grow a little more content with presenting on Day 6. Although I’m a bioengineering major, I’ve thought about pursuing public health, being involved in preventive health measures and, like my friend nicely put it, “being a mother to the entire world.”

I wanted a journal article that was related to a disease that I’ve heard of, so naturally, “Comparison of the Sensitivity of Laboratory Diagnostic Methods from a Well-Characterized Outbreak of Mumps in New York City” was the best choice. I glanced over the abstract, and printed it out for further reading later.

T-minus 1 week: 
I read through the article for the first time, highlighting all the words I don’t understand. By the end of the article, my highlighter is practically dead (thank goodness for Wikipedia). The journal article talks about a particular outbreak of the mumps, which I find intriguing. Unfortunately, I find myself getting sidetracked, reading other articles about mumps outbreaks, and then an info sheet about the MMR vaccine, and then an article about people who don’t believe in vaccines.

T-minus 2 days: 
“What happened between T-minus 1 week, and T-minus 2 days?” you may ask. Well, I’m not entirely sure. It probably went to a little bit of biochemistry studying, and a heavy sprinkling of those random MIT things that pop up out of nowhere.

At this point, every minute of my day is blocked out—showering, eating, and sleeping included. My two hours blocked out for working on the journal club presentation are not nearly enough time to finish the figures in my presentation, so I siphon off a couple hours from “sleep” and continue working.

T-minus 24 hours: 
“Thank goodness I’m not in the T/R section,” is all I can think as I groggily get through my morning. Every free minute of my day seems to be consumed by biochemistry studying, or PowerPoint-ing. I’m scrambling to figure out why MMR vaccinated individuals would be less sensitive to IgM detection, even though the vaccine should result in IgM in those individuals’ serum samples. It just seems so counterintuitive. Finally, after thousands of Google searches (or maybe more like 20), I discover that it’s because IgM levels decrease after second exposure. I don’t know why the author of the journal paper wouldn't just explain that in the paper. 

T-minus 12 hours: 
It’s 1am, and my roommate’s asleep. I’m whispering to myself as I rehearse the presentation, deciding what to cut or keep for my precious ten minutes of informing the public about mumps detection methodology. 

T-minus 4 hours: 
Somehow squeezed that biochemistry exam into my schedule!

T-minus 0 minutes to T-plus 10 minutes:
I’m not terrified of public speaking, but I am still nervous because this is the first time I'm presenting on scientific research. I have to know the topic inside and out, and for once, the questions that people asked me had a right or wrong answer. As I reflect, I think that although I could have spaced out my preparation time better, I was pleased with the outcome. The nerves wore off as I started talking, and I went through the presentation just as I had rehearsed.  Someone even asked me a question about why MMR vaccinated individuals were less likely to be diagnosed with the mumps via IgM detection assays!

Especially after this journal club presentation, I have decided that I much prefer a presentation over a test. For me, the amount of work I put into a presentation correlates to my confidence when presenting, which then (hopefully) correlates to the overall success of the presentation. I loved becoming an expert on MMR detection, and it's inched me closer towards wanting to learn more about public health. 

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