I gave a talk yesterday for a class I’m in. I mentioned yesterday that I was planning to do it on the chalkboard (as opposed to doing it with powerpoint), because I could use the practice writing and speaking simultaneously for my oral (and in general, because I think powerpoint is a terrible way to teach for the most part). Plus, the professor had challenged us to step away from powerpoint and try the board, so I took him up on it. The talk went really well, and there was a very lively discussion afterwards (the point of the discussion-based class). I love the class, it’s all about reading classical papers, and discussing what makes a “classic”. Not only do we discuss the philosophy of science, but we do a lot of deep down digging in the literature, to try to trace ideas back way past their “origins”. For example, while Darwin was the one who published the major compendium on Evolution, which became what we consider a “Classic” work, he sure wasn’t the first person to think and write about organisms changing and adapting. With that viewpoint, each student picks a topic, and digs through the literature. Then each week a different student presents their findings. We also send out readings for the class. It’s really great fun, and since the class is full of people with a very diverse range of interests, I’m learning a lot, not only about the topics, but about how science works. I should also mention that this course is run by an extremely famous (in my field) emeritus professor, who is an extremely well respected researcher, and who teaches tons of units, just because he can. He has very strong convictions that the younger generation is lazy and doesn’t “do their homework” properly. Every time I go to the class, I learn even more from him, and it is amazing – beyond just learning about subjects I’ve never thought about before, the insights he provides about the scientific community and academia in general are something you can only get from interacting with these sort of icons.
That being said, I thought my talk went pretty well. And then I woke up to this email, from the professor (edited to remove my and his names and nothing else):
I forgot to praise E for having the courage to ignore powerpoint and stand and deliver at the chalkboard which she did brilliantly, without even using notes. E, that was the best student presentation I have ever seen and you had the audience fully engaged. Really well done. thank you.
Well I guess I did a good job. Just have to channel whatever it was that I did yesterday when I take my oral exam, then. Honestly I’m floored, to have that come from this particular professor, who really has seen it all, is really an honor. I did use notes, though I guess I didn’t make it obvious? Anyway, I think this just means that when I’m not in utter freak-out mode, I’m actually pretty good at presenting. If you’re looking for me, just look on “Cloud 9” – that’s where I’ll be for a while. When I showed my advisor that email, he suggested I frame it. Just wanted to share the happiness.