Posted by: thebylog | February 9, 2006

Sitting in on a Seminar

If you aren’t or never have been a graduate student, chances are you’ve never sat in on an academic colloquium. Don’t worry, your life is not lacking because of it.

They are, essentially, opportunities for researchers to present their research and opportunities for graduate students and professors to enrich themselves professionally by seeing the work of others and, if they’re lucky, learn something that will help them in their own research. Or in the case of graduate students, give them ideas of things that would be interesting to research.

But there’s one big problem with many of these presentations. You can’t understand them!

One of the key things I learned in Speech class was to always take your audience into consideration when you design your talk. So first of all, knowing that half of the audience will be graduate students should give some direction to folks preparing a talk.

You might think that the professors understand all of the technicalities presented, but even that’s not true. In academic research, people specialize. Everyone becomes an expert in their very narrow specialty. But as a result, even other academics in the same field (Statistics) might not follow a presentation in which the speaker is talking about “COMBINING DETERMINISTIC AND STOCHASTIC MODELS FOR MODELING, ESTIMATION AND PREDICTION OF SPATIAL-TEMPORAL ENVIRONMENTAL PROCESSES.” This is the title of our colloquium today.

But I’m just a first-year grad student. Don’t take it from me. I didn’t know that colloquia should be accessible to graduate students. But just yesterday, a senior faculty member said that most of the talks given here aren’t good, one of the main reasons being their lack of accessibility.

For the record, when I have time and the topic is not something that I’m expressly disinterested in, I go. I certainly believe they are positive in the life of a graduate student. I just wish I could understand more.



  1. Sounds like something in which I’d fall asleep.

    The Baritone

  2. Ditto what The Baritone said. I hadn’t realized you were a Dilbert reader. Should have guessed that.


  3. Actually, good advice for anyone addressing any group, to make sure the terms are clarified and the specialized subjects explained in real-people concepts.

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