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The SURF Talk Book
This publication from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) helps undergraduates prepare oral presentations to communicate their science research—and can also provide advice for faculty members who require their students to give end-of-course talks. Created for students in Caltech’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, the manual provides guidelines for preparing a 15-minute professional-quality presentation for an audience that could include peers, mentors, faculty, alumni, parents, and staff. Chapter 1 gives tips for using analogies to connect new information to old and for presenting statistical information in ways the audience can understand. “What they [members of the audience] understand at the end of your talk is the message,” the publication says. Chapter 2 contains guidelines for designing charts, graphs, maps, and tables, and for using overheads, slides, and computer-projected slide shows. Chapter 3 provides advice on organizing the presentation. It recommends using a “hook”—a story, anecdote, question, or puzzle—to draw the audience into the topic and then organizing the body of the talk into three to five key ideas that flow logically and smoothly from one to the next. Chapter 4 offers guidelines, ideas, and techniques (including tips on rehearsing and relaxing) to help students polish their talks. Chapter 5 explains how to prepare and execute a poster presentation. It notes that the same type of thinking is needed for an oral or a poster presentation or for a written paper: Concentrate on the essential points of the message and use the communication methods that support the chosen forum.
Program Director: Christina Smolke, Ph.D.
Award Years: 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006
Summary: The California Institute of Technology is a private research university in Pasadena, California. Its HHMI-funded initiatives include:
- An interdisciplinary training program in synthetic biology (the application of engineering design principles to the construction of biological systems);
- An undergraduate course-assistant program, which provides opportunities for Caltech undergraduates to participate in developing science and engineering courses and labs;
- The creation of interdisciplinary undergraduate lab courses (in physical biology, biomolecular engineering, and neuroscience and neurophysiology) that reflect the core interdisciplinary strengths of research at Caltech;
- Support for women and underrepresented minority students in biology and chemistry who participate in the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program, which gives undergraduates a chance to do research in faculty laboratories;
- Support for the MURF program, which is directed toward giving gifted underrepresented undergraduate students from other universities summer research experiences in Caltech laboratories;
- The Caltech Precollege Science Initiative (CAPSI), which has produced science modules for secondary school students and inquiry-based science courses for teachers; and
- The creation or expansion of two outreach programs:
- The California Classroom Connection (CCC), a student-run organization that matches Caltech students, postdoctoral researchers, and staff volunteers with teachers in the area’s public schools to enhance science instruction in grades 6-12; and
- The Caltech Research Connection (CRC), which brings approximately 15 students from public high schools into Caltech labs to conduct research.