Course : Seminar in Biology
- Course Number
- BIOL 4001
- Section Number
- Spring 2024
- Bolin Hall, 209
- Dr. Roy C Vogtsberger
- Days & Times
- Final Exam Day/Time
- Wednesday, May 08, 2024 3:30 pm - 5:30 pm
The purpose of this seminar class is to:
1. Provide students with an opportunity to express themselves orally by preparing and presenting a seminar presentation such as would be expected at professional meetings and conventions. Seminar should help the student prepare to communicate with an audience of peers both formally and informally.
2. Provide a forum for discussion and evaluation of peer-reviewed research journal publications on current topics.
3. Examine basic concepts and current topics in biology.
4. Assess competency of biology graduating seniors in the use of microscopes.
5. Assess ability of biology graduating seniors to generate, understand, and correctly interpret data that are presented in tabular and graphical formats.
6. Assess ability of biology graduating seniors to critically and effectively read and evaluate professional literature.
7. Take the comprehensive Major Field Test in Biology.
Students enrolled in seminar will be expected to:
1. Take two proficiency exams: one that evaluates your ability to generate, understand, and correctly interpret data that are presented in tabular and graphical formats and another exam that evaluates your competency and use of microscopes.
2. Choose a peer-reviewed primary journal article published within the last TWO years involving research on some aspect of biology and get the article approved by the instructor for use in your presentation. After approval of article/topic, decide on an appropriate title for your seminar presentation and prepare flyers to announce your presentation before posting in the halls of Bolin Science Hall. Flyers should also be approved by the instructor before being posted in the halls. Presentation title should not be exactly the same as the article used as basis for your presentation.
3. Provide a reprint of the journal article to everyone in seminar ONE WEEK IN ADVANCE of your presentation day. Each student should then read the presenterâs article prior to the actual presentation and come with questions about the article or topic to ask the presenter during the question and discussion period after the presentation has been made.
4. Present a 15-minute presentation on the article and topic it concerns using Powerpoint or other appropriate presentation format. The presentation should address the following lettered items (Some possible questions to consider are also listed below each):
A. Background on the topic of the research article
1. Why is it important?
2. Any prior or related work reported on the topic?
B. Hypothesis/Problem addressed in the research article
1. Why was the research performed in the first place?
2. What was trying to be answered?
C. Methods and Procedures used
1. How was the research carried out and conducted?
1. Was the hypothesis/problem studied and answered?
2. Were there any unexpected results/problems?
1. Were appropriate conclusions drawn?
F. Critique of the work
1. Were methods appropriate for the study?
2. Was interpretation of any of the data incorrect?
3. Is there anything you suggest have been done differently?
4. What other work would you suggest be done?
After you complete your presentation, you will be expected to answer questions concerning your topic from those in attendance.
Your presentation should be one that YOU have prepared specifically for this class and should not be one that was used in any of your previous classes. In other words, DONâT recycle presentationsâ¦..prepared by you, or by anyone else! Be forewarned, if it has been determined that you have recycled a presentation for seminar or that you have committed academic dishonesty, this will be grounds for an automatic âFâ to be assigned as your grade for the course. Academic dishonesty on exams may result in a grade of zero. Students should refer to the current MSU Handbook and Activities Calendar for university policy on academic dishonesty, student rights and activities. See page 4 for the student honor creed.
5. You will be required to complete a written exercise that will assess your ability to critically and effectively read and evaluate professional literature (*see separate handout concerning the exercise at the bottom of this section). This exercise will be completed and turned in to your instructor ONE WEEK BEFORE your presentation along with the reprint of the article you have chosen to use as the basis for your oral presentation.
6. Each student will evaluate all of your fellow classmatesâ seminar presentations. Therefore, attendance at ALL seminar presentations is MANDATORY. Points will be deducted from your final grade for any days missed. We only meet one day a week for an hour, so I expect all of you to always be here for class. See page 27 of the MSU Handbook and Activities Calendar for information on class attendance policy.
The student presentations will be scheduled during the first week of classes. We will have either one or two presentations per class meeting (depending on number of students enrolled) with the first presentation being given starting in the seventh week of classes. My advice is to start working on your presentations right away in case you have any problems arise with getting your presentation together (i.e. computer problems, interlibrary loan orders, etc.)â¦..DONâT PROCRASTINATE!!
You should be able to find all of the resources you will need from libraries and the Internet. Be warned, you may have to get the library to order a specific article for you through Interlibrary Loan since many of the biological journals may not be held in our library or we may not have full text access to online versions. Therefore once again, DO NOT PROCRASTINATE in locating the journal research article that you are going to use for seminar!!! Many of the journals dealing with biology may be available online without requiring a subscription. You may be able to find sites on the Internet with images that you might want to use in your presentation, if appropriate. To find sources on the Internet, just use several of the different search engines (e.g. Google Scholar) and search for key words dealing with your topic. You should get numerous sources returned to you. Many sites may also contain links to other areas concerning the biological subject of your interest. You may also want to check âBiosisâ, âMedlineâ, or âZoological Recordâ which are sources of abstracts for peer-reviewed journal articles. Getting on the Internet and searching for information pertaining to your biological subject of interest is part of your job for seminar. Being able to successfully search and retrieve information from the Internet on any subject is a very important skill to possess. You should be familiar with all the âins and outsâ of searching the Internet and following links for a particular subject.
When you have your Powerpoint (or other format) presentation completed, always make sure that you have given it a âtrial runâ with the computer/projection set-up in our classroom where you will be giving your actual presentation. You should practice the delivery of your presentation many times over to ensure that you have it âfine-tunedâ for the time you present it to the class.
7. We will have a single Saturday morning meeting on March 4 at 9:00 A.M. in which each student will take the comprehensive Major Field Test (MFT) in Biology. This separate date/time is necessary due to the length of this standardized exam being 2 hours. YOUR ATTENDANCE ON THIS DATE TO TAKE THE EXAM IS MANDATORY! Your performance on the MFT exam will count 10% of your grade for seminar. Your grade will be based on a 180 point scale. This is taken from the fact that your total test score from the ETS Major Field Test will range anywhere from 120-200. Take pride in yourself and take it seriously! Prepare for it thoroughly and try to do your best on it.
*BIOL 4001 Seminar in Biology
Reading and Evaluating Professional Literature in Biology
You are required to type all of your answers to the questions presented in the following numbered passages on separate paper to be turned in for grading. This will include a cover page with your name, date, title of the primary research article that you chose for the basis of your oral presentation, authors of the article, journal name, volume, and pages.
Format to be followed: 1â page margins, 12 pt. font, Times New Roman, 1.5 line spacing.
- First read the introduction and chapter 1 in your textbook Writing Papers in the Biological Sciences, 3rd ed. by Victoria E. McMillan, 2001 (Moffett Library also has a copy). This should help you prepare for your search of the biological literature. Also reading the booklet, Reading Primary Literature: A Practical Guide to Evaluating Research Articles in Biology by Christopher M. Gillen, 2007 should be quite beneficial in helping you with this evaluation exercise.
- Search the professional literature and locate different journals that publish primary research articles by examining articles contained within each journal. List 3 journal titles that publish primary research articles.
- Locate the journals Nature (www.nature.com) and Science (www.sciencemag.org) either online or physically in the library. Browse the journals and identify primary and secondary articles. Write down the titles, authors, journal, year, volume, and page numbers of 3 primary articles and 3 secondary articles.
- Choose the general topic of biological research (e.g. forensic entomology, embryonic stem cell research, malaria, etc.) upon which you would like to base your presentation. Your choice may be because the topic either interests you or you simply want to learn more about it. Search the literature and become aware of all the current research that has occurred on that topic (within the last two years). List 5 current primary research articles on the topic you choose. This should be your list of articles that you have narrowed down and from which you selected the primary research article you will use as the basis of your oral presentation. From this list of 5, highlight the article you selected for your presentation with bold black lettering.
- What is the author affiliation (i.e. institutional or departmental affiliation) of the first author of your selected article? Of the senior (last) author?
- Note the organization of the article and make a list of the different sections in the order in which they appear in the article.
- Read the abstract of your selected article and summarize the main point of the research in two or three sentences.
- Examine the Literature Cited (or References Cited) section at the end of your selected article. Is any previous work of authors of your selected article cited in this section? Is there anyone in the references who is cited a lot more than other authors? If so, what does this indicate? What is the year of the most recent citation? What is the year of the oldest citation?
- Read the Introduction section of your selected article. What kind of information was provided in this section? Has there been much previous related work done in the area? How many different previous works are cited? What is the research question that is being addressed by your selected article? Is a hypothesis stated? If so, list it. Are objectives of the investigation outlined? If so, what are they?
- Read the Materials and Methods section of your selected article. Was any noteworthy preliminary work (e.g. development of new techniques, devices, optimization, etc.) devised by the authors in order to address the research question? If so, what was it (were they)?
- List and differentiate between independent, dependent, and controlled variables that were studied in your selected article. How do the authors measure the dependent variables? Were the independent variables manipulated by the investigators? Do the Materials and Methods provide enough detail for other scientists to repeat the work?
- Read the Results section of your selected article. How are the data presented in the paper? To answer this, list which of the following are used in your selected article: pictures, drawn figures, graphs, tables, text? What is the role of figures, tables, and graphs? Using your own words, briefly describe the major results that were reported in your selected article. Were all results statistically significant? In your own words, what does it mean when we say that a particular result is statistically significant? Are results that are NOT statistically significant useless? Why or why not?
- Read the Discussion section (in some instances may also include Conclusions) of your selected article. Realize that some journals and/or authors choose to include the discussion along with the reporting of the results. Therefore in those cases, there will be a combined Results and Discussion section of the paper in lieu of separate sections for each.
- How does the Discussion section differ from all of the other sections of the article? What is the role of this section? Which results do the authors of your selected article consider their most important findings? Did they discover any problems with materials and methods they used? If so, what do they suggest changing or doing differently?
- Was the original hypothesis or hypotheses of your selected article supported or rejected? Did the data support the authorsâ interpretations of the results? Do the conclusions of your selected study support, or do they contradict, conclusions from related research from the past (if there was any)? After studying and analyzing your selected article and the results presented, do you find that you have any differences in interpretation of those results when compared to those of the authors? If so, what are they?
Overall Course Grading:
Oral presentation (including attendance and reprints) 60%
Microscope proficiency exam 10%
Graphs/Tables proficiency exam 10%
Written exercise on reading & evaluating literature 10%
Major Field Test in Biology 10%
Total course grade for BIOL 4001 100%
Grading, concerning presentations:
Oral presentation 150 points
Attendance & peer evaluations 30 points
Reprint distribution 20 points
Total possible points 200 points
Your performance on the Major Field Test in Biology exam will count 10% of your grade for seminar. Your grade will be based on a 180 point scale. This is taken from the fact that your total test score from the ETS Major Field Test will range anywhere from 120-200. Take pride in yourself and take it seriously! Prepare for it thoroughly and try to do your best on it.
Each student will evaluate all of your fellow classmates’ seminar presentations. Therefore, attendance at ALL seminar presentations is MANDATORY. Points will be deducted from your final grade for any days missed. We only meet one day a week for an hour, so I expect all of you to always be here for class.
Grading of the reading and evaluating professional literature exercise (100 pts.):
The instructor will assess and grade your report based on the following breakdown:
A. Presentation of exercise report – 20 pts.
2. Contents of cover page – 5 pts.
3. Usage of complete sentences, correct spelling and grammar – 10 pts.
4. Following correct report format – 5 pts.
B. Completeness of exercise report – 80 pts.
Each student will evaluate all of your fellow classmatesâ seminar presentations. Therefore, attendance at ALL seminar presentations is MANDATORY. Points will be deducted from your final grade for any days missed. We only meet one day a week for an hour, so I expect all of you to always be here for class. See page 27 of the MSU Handbook and Activities Calendar for information on class attendance policy. If situations change concerning COVID-19 restrictions sometime during the semester, communication for class will be converted to using D2L and instructions will be given at that time as to how we will proceed with our class.
We will have a single Saturday morning meeting on March 4 at 9:00 A.M. in which each student will take the comprehensive Major Field Test (MFT) in Biology. This separate date/time is necessary due to the length of this standardized exam being 2 hours. YOUR ATTENDANCE ON THIS DATE TO TAKE THE EXAM IS MANDATORY!
To be handled on a case-by-case basis.
Note: You may not submit a paper for a grade in this class that already has been (or will be) submitted for a grade in another course, unless you obtain the explicit written permission of me and the other instructor involved in advance.
Plagiarism is the use of someone else's thoughts, words, ideas, or lines of argument in your own work without appropriate documentation (a parenthetical citation at the end and a listing in "Works Cited")-whether you use that material in a quote, paraphrase, or summary. It is a theft of intellectual property and will not be tolerated, whether intentional or not.
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