Last Friday afternoon, biology students held a research poster fair in Heuer Auditorium.
Each poster reflected the work of a team of students. Last Friday, each team had one presenter stationed at its poster to answer questions and respond to comments from other students, biology professors and a few folks — including me, History Professor Gerry Berg, Julie Hemstreet from the Honors Program, and some others — who were the “guinea pig” audience. Next week, they’ll repeat the fair with other team members taking the role of presenter. If you’re on campus on Friday afternoon at 1:30, go by — you’ll learn about some interesting work!
Here’s what struck me as I moved around the room. There’s nothing like presenting your work to an actual audience to sharpen your thinking. It’s one thing to talk about your academic work with your professor and fellow students, who of course are an essential audience; they can offer you insights and challenges because they are working right alongside you and know a lot of what you know. But presenting your work to an audience “cold,” to people who are smart and attentive but simply haven’t been thinking about your topic for the last several weeks and who have not necessarily read all the same things you have, forces you to clarify your thoughts, focus on what really matters, and think on your feet.
And really, how much of anybody”s work life ends up consisting of precisely that, in any field?
It was informative to talk with the students and gratifying to see them presenting their work in a poised and professional manner. Even better, there were moments when you could see the students developing new perspectives on their material in light of the conversations they were having. It was fun to be part of it!