I am feeling about as bad as possible about my little pre-med life right now. Tonight I had to give a presentation for my biological chemistry class. We had to do posters presenting a scientific journal article from some area of biochem. My article was about a protein from a bacteria that lives in sulfuric hot springs. It was all p-chem equations and graphs, and a subject I know nothing about, so I totally went out on a limb! I learned a lot and was really psyched to show my poster. Sure, my comprehension of some aspects might have been a little on the feeble side, but I’m not a hard core chem major, and I still had plenty to say!
Anyway, our prof turned it into a DEFENSE rather than a mere presentation. As he went over my poster, rather than asking me to explain what I’d found, he grilled me on the things that raised questions, in his expert opinion. So, I lost my composure and could barely read my own graphs.
Anyway, I’m taking this class at the school I graduated from way back when, as an English and religion major. (Carleton, which is an hour from where I live in Minneapolis, so I have to drive there for all the classes, including tonight’s disaster). Since I was an English major, and this is my FIRST science presentation since 6th grade, I just didn’t know what the ideal focus would be… still, I tried my best!
Well, a lot of the other students are senior chem majors. They’ve been doing this forever, and they are total groupies! Apparently there is a hip way to do a presentation. It does NOT involve my little English-major method of collecting and summarizing the evidence to prove a point.
So I feel like crap. I would have done my presentation differently if only I’d known.
Well, I emailed my prof a few minutes ago and tried to give a better answer to one of his questions. I offered to revise that section of the presentation. Does that seem like a good idea? I hope it doesn’t offend him, or seem impertinent.
Ok, that’s my rant. Oh, and somehow I have to recover my motivation to study for next week’s final exam.
Hey, I’m sorry this post is so long!
The most important thing is that you learned a few things. First, you learned about a fascinating subject and second, you learned how to handle some tough questions. Believe me, when I stand up in the Mortality and Morbidity conference and tell why I screwed up, the questions are nasty and difficult.Most of the attending surgeons just hang you out to dry and emphasize my stupidity and inexperience. Any practice that you have before, is good practice.
All experience in this business is good experience (as long as you are still standing). Shake it off, make a list of things that you know now but didn’t know earlier and give yourself a pat on the back for tackling a difficult subject that stretched you. Good professors force you to stretch yourself. You may fall short but you pushed the envelope anyway.
I remember my best friend from graduate school getting nailed by one of the professors on a paper presentation. He was the first presentor and I was second. This professor just stood there and kept peppering him with questions that he knew my friend could not answer. There were many of us in the audience who were actually angry at what the professor was doing. When I gave my presentation, I made sure that I did a few things differently and I was prepared for the barage. I didn’t get one.
While you feel badly now, you have many things to be proud of. You did the assignment, you learned what to do differently and you grew as a scientist. As you go through medical practice, you are going to make mistakes and your patients are going to suffer and maybe die because of your mistakes. It is better to make the mistakes at your level and in some cases, at my level than to make them when you are an attending physician because you just don’t know something.
Make you list of learning points and chalk this one up to experience. Laugh at yourself and keep moving forward. Sure this lesson was painful but all of the best lessons are. Also, you have chosen a scientific discipline (medicine) as your career. As soon as you did that, you became a scientist so you can’t hide behind being an English major. You, as a physician, will have to use science as one of your tools to help your patients. Make those science majors help you will your talks and you can help them with grammar and composition. Ask for help and you will get it. This is another lession that you HAVE to learn before you get into medical school.
The only person that you MAKE you feel stupid, it YOU. Not knowing something is NOT the same is being stupid, but not learning from your mistakes is. Again, you have had the opportunity watch other folks present and learn what you need to do so that the next presentation that you do will be excellent. Also, pull one of those science majors aside and ask them to critique you before you do your next presentation. Ask the professor for some pointers so that you will be better next time. Ask and you will get some help!
I vividly remember doing my first surgical case with an attending physician who had a reputation for being nasty. He is a well-know perfectionist with a volatile temper. When I went into the OR, the first thing I said was, “Be gentle with me Dr. K, I am a virgin.” and everyone including Dr. K laughed. He actually turned out to be one of my best teachers.
Good going on having the boldness to stretch yourself and learn. Laugh at this one and chalk up the learning points. Keep laughing at yourself and keep moving forward.
I think you’re doing a good job of bouncing back, here. It’s never out of line to go back to a professor and say, gee, I didn’t do this the way you wanted it. How can I do better? If you want, you could even go see him and say you think maybe your approach to the presentation was wrong and ask for some guidance as to how to put a scientific presentation together. You could turn this professor into an ally instead of a detractor if you show you really want to learn and improve–not just to get the grade, but to really have this skill under your belt.
But if you have finals coming up right now, I’d say see if you can shake this off and just refocus your energies on that. That’s your next chance to show what you’ve learned, so give it everything you’ve got! Stuff like this happens to everyone, so don’t beat yourself up over it.
Sounds like you did the right thing after. I think we all have moments like that and all you can do is learn from them. Keep up the good work!
Research presentations are fun, and yet, intimidating. I just did a presentation last month here at WVSOM, and the day before I was to present, one of the instructors told me he was going to come up with some tough questions for me to answer.
So I went home, reviewed my presentation, and came up with every conceivable question I could imagine. Luckily, I hit the nail on the head, and when he tried to challenge me with questions, I had the answers right off the bat.
But, it is not at all unusual for there to be someone at a presentation that is determined to challenge every point you make. Take it with a grain of salt and go on, learning how to deal with the pressure and stress, and appreciating the opportunities you may have in the future to present. For every person who questions your information, someone else is learning from what you presented. And most of all, be as well prepared as possible, and admit if you don’t know something. One of the things I did wrong was apologize for having to read the descriptions of some histology slides, and one of my many mentors told me that I had nothing to apologize for, and that one should never apologize when presenting.
Sounds like you did fine emailing your professor afterwards and asking for advice. Keep the faith. . . and keep up the good work!
Sorry you had it rough. That happens, you just have to roll with the punches and get back up and move on. Look for the lessons you can take away from the whole experience and forget the rest of it.
My gosh, thanks for all these responses! I appreciate it so much. And I know I learned a lot from this experience, so I’m trying not to feel bad about it. In a few weeks I’ll be glad for the experience I’ve gained, rather than fretting about the problems. And I learned a LOT of chemistry.
It’s strange to feel so bad about this, because it reminds me of when I first went back to take post-bacc classes, and I got a bad grade on a gen chem test. It really threw me off! But I got past it, and then later, in other classes, when I wouldn’t do so well on a test, I got tougher and learned how to not worry about it too much. Well, I can see that with a presentation it is the same idea. Since I’m inexperienced I’m not surprised I had some things to learn. And I think once I’ve gained some confidence and strategies in this area I will enjoy it, because I like talking to people. Reading some of your responses reminded me of that! I know it is challenging for everyone.
I haven’t heard back from my prof yet, but that’s fine. He’s always slow to answer emails, and I’d rather not have this be some kind of emergency. If he thinks I can and should make revisions I will, but if not I’m moving on! I don’t think it was a bad presentation, although maybe a naive one. And he knows I worked hard on it, because I spent a long time in his office asking him questions beforehand.
Well, anyway, enough of that. Today was my last day of classes EVER as a premed, so I’ve got some celebrating to do!
Thanks again. It is great to know such nice people here on OPM! It’s a good reality check too.
Congratulations on completing your last pre-med class!
Now go out and celebrate! You’ve earned it!
Congrats Andrea! Great job!
Hey, thanks! Not only for the congratulations, but for listening to my boring complaints about that presentation…
Things this week are much improved. I got some good feedback from my prof and I’m going to talk with him later about how to do good presentations. Then I will fill everyone here in on ALL the details of that conversation. (Ha! Just kidding. I will spare you.)
Jeez, I hate those frapping poster presentations. I just did one Tuesday. Our prof takes off for the littlest things. Those posters are truly the scourge of America.
I may be strange but I like them – any chance I get to speak in public (love it!) – it’s the Leo in me for sure.
What was your poster on?
I have to say I’m none too pleased to see this thread continuing to limp along like it is–if we could cut out my whiney beginning I wouldn’t mind, but otherwise I’m pretty embarrased!
I got away with an A- on the poster. I almost fainted, considering I was expecting a D+. I had some good reason for expecting that too! First, my poster contained a completely gratuitious, handmade picture of a tryptophan amino acid right in the middle of it (which we’re supposed to have memorized, and needn’t bother illustrating). I had other plans for that space but had run out of time… and that tryptophan looked really dumb compared to the computer generated graphics other people had on their posters. Then, I wrote the whole thing in really plain English, not in sciencese. But that meant that when my prof started asking me questions, and I got flustered, I couldn’t just read some mumbo-jumbo right off the poster, and then explain it, because there was no mumbo jumbo. I’d made it all way too basic.
The lesson is–sometimes it is not bad to include some long-winded jargon in your poster, since it will give you something to rattle off when you are nervous and are asked a question! And you won’t stand there feeling like a dork. Luckily, we apparently weren’t graded on our level of dorkiness this time around.
Yeah, presentations can be fun, but you gotta know what you’re talking about. In his comments, my prof mentioned that I seemed “flustered by basic questions.”