Developing Student Presentation Skills: Hugh Gallagher

Phil Gay


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Interview Participants
Today is our last class, so we have our last four presentations today. And I'm not sure if I remember the order off the top of my head. We start out with geothermal energy, and after that we have, Bose condensates and then astrophysics, cosmology, black holes and entropy, and engineering applications. Alright, fantastic. Thermal physics, you cover, you know,
the three laws of thermal dynamics: energy, why time sort of flows in one direction and not in the other, about the increase in entropy, entropy is kind of the central concept of course. The cool thing about this particular topic is that it touches on so many other branches of science, so many branches of physics, chemistry, biology, you know, you name it. These ideas come into play.
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One of the things that I didn't realize when I was, you know, 19 years old taking this kind of courses is that as a scientist whether you're doing theory or you're doing experimental work, in any branch of science you have to be a good scientist, you have to the mathematical rigor, you have to have all that kind of stuff.
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But, at the end of the day, you have to be able to take whatever you did and present it to other people.
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I started to focus on some of the meta-skills that you have to have as a scientist that apply to all these other fields too.
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And if you're a graduate student, giving a practice talk is one of the hardest things you have to do because you're in a room with three post-docs, the older graduate students, the professor. And those practice talks can take, even for a 30 minute talk can take four hours. 'Why did you do that? Why didn't you label that?'
You know, so they really rake you over the coals, but you know that they're on your side. They're there to help you so that when you go out and give this talk for people that don't know you, you know, it goes smoothly. So, the practice talks were videotaped, the real talks were videotaped. So, all the students will be asked to view their practice talk and to view their real talk
and to give some thought as to what they think, you know, improved the most between the two. And looking at some of the differences between the practice talks and video talks are really stark in terms of how much the students have improved. A lot of it is just the extra confidence of doing it for a second time.
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With the online markup they can get feedback from a wider group of people than they could if they have to get everyone in the same room for an hour or two. To make something possible that wasn't there before.
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