Being an undergraduate presenter in a room full of research faculty
Guest Blog by Zane Thornburg ’18
For this year’s APS March Meeting, I decided that it would be a great idea to give an oral presentation on my summer REU research with Dr. Paul Bonvallet on Osorb from this past summer. I didn’t give any thought at the time about what sort of crowd would be present in the room and would be presenting around me. On the first day of the conference, I sat down in another session and realized all the presenters were research professors mixed with an occasional graduate student or post-doc. I became very nervous for my presentation immediately and worked every night to make it better between Monday and Thursday afternoon. I thought it was done upon arrival, but I will always find ways I want to change my work.
There I was, Thursday afternoon. I showed up to the start of the session to get a feel for how all the other talks before me went, of which there were nine. I had gone through my presentation multiple times that morning in preparation so I was feeling pretty good. I was nervous the whole week about the presenter before me, because I had looked him up and it turned out he is a distinguished professor working on polymers and I have 10 weeks of experience. I became nervous for a different reason at the end of his presentation, though. He ended up going several minutes over his allotted 12 minutes, which seemed to me to increase the tension in the room, so I had to start my talk with that feeling in my head. I ended up finishing right before the 10 minute mark out of my 12 minutes, which was the fastest I had ever given the presentation. The others in the room seemed pleased with a concise talk. I received a single question at the end, which I was able to answer quickly since I had just reviewed Dr. Bonvallet’s specific aims for the project moving forward that morning.
Overall, I feel like it went really well and I encourage anyone who does any interesting research to present at this conference. Even if you don’t have years of work to report, presenting is still an exhilarating experience.