Posted by: thediygeochemist | February 12, 2010


It looks like I will have to redo my seminar. Warning: ranting follows.

You have to get a B or better in order to get credit (and it is required for graduation). They gave me a B-. Basically, they gave me the highest grade they could give me and still not pass me. (My advisor tells me that they felt bad that they didn’t pass me because it was such a good presentation. Does this make sense to you? It sure doesn’t to me!!)

It wasn’t technical enough for them. They said I didn’t go into enough detail on methods. I couldn’t do that without breaking out some serious multi-variable calculus, and frankly, only two people in the audience would have understood it. In other words, I couldn’t make it technical enough without causing 97% of the audience to tune out–and I generally cannot bring myself to give any presentation that isn’t geared to the level of my audience.* But I’ll have to, when I do my “redo” seminar next year.

They complained that I didn’t do enough critical interpretation of the literature. That may be a valid point, though I certainly did some. I guess I don’t know what they consider “enough”. But…they also said that I had too many references. TOO MANY!!! Honestly, did they want me to do a literature search or not? Most scientific papers have 35-40 references, or more, and I had only 22.

And…they also said that next time I should do something related to my future research. Note that the official departmental handbook says that this seminar can be on anything related to chemistry, “with consent of advisor”. Well, I definitely got my advisor’s consent before I even thought about doing a seminar this year. *sigh* But I guess that wasn’t good enough for them.

I have to give a passing seminar before the end of my second year. So it looks like I’m going to spend much of my summer break putting together my next try.

*Note that, just a few days earlier, one of the evaluators complained that a visiting professor who’d given a seminar shouldn’t have been so technical–that he should have realized that it is always to aim seminars at a fairly general audience. Which is what I tried to do–make it so that anyone with a BS Chem could understand it, that is.



  1. “Too many references”? You mean there’s such a thing in *graduate school*?!

    Maybe you’re being hazed. I do hope that you receive less ambiguous guidance before your next try. Even if you don’t, however, you will probably still rock it.

  2. Argh, sorry.
    It’s annoying when the evaluators don’t even seem to know what they want.

  3. […] I went on a really cool field trip but “failed” my first attempt at giving a departmental […]

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