Graduate Student Colloquiums (GSCs) and Tips to Give an Excellent Colloquium Presentation

Each student must make three Colloquium presentations--normally one each in your second, third, and fourth semesters. One must be a review of a recent journal article, while another should be a presentation of your own research--from a class project, independent study, or dissertation project research. The third presentation can be on either your own research or a journal article. These presentations can be in any order. Presentations should be roughly 20 minutes long, with 5-10 minutes for Q&A. The audience completes feedback forms (Graduate Student Colloquium Evaluation Form (PDF)) after your presentation and a faculty chair will review your performance through these. At the beginning of each semester, the graduate student colloquium representatives will determine the dates for your journal club based on the speakers' preference and availability.

The purpose of the Grad Student Colloquia is to give you practice in public speaking on scientific topics so that you will be well-prepared to give conference presentations and be able to communicate effectively in your scientific career. The audience is generally friendly, and the forms offer constructive criticism about how you may improve your presentation skills. Some potentially useful tips:

  • PRACTICE!!!!! Learn the use of the audio-visual equipment in the lecture halls and make sure there's a pointer. Make your visual aides in advance and ask some students to sit in on your run-throughs. We're only too glad to take a few minutes to help you, and this is the best time to make sure you don't stand in front of the projector or tap absentmindedly on the lectern.
  • Dress is not formal, but try to look nice. You are the center of attention.
  • The Planetary Sciences community contains many disciplines; you will be speaking to a mixed audience in terms of interest in the subject and level of understanding. Assume your audience is intelligent but keep the intricate details to a minimum.
  • When reviewing a journal article, you are not merely responsible for the contents of that particular article--be sure to look up the references cited and make sure you understand where everything came from. References are fair game in the question-and-answer session.
  • Use a large font on your visual aides, and be concise! The visual aides are there so your audience can see where you are if they fall asleep, not to display a verbatim transcript of your talk.