CB 399: Science Presentation as a Performing Art Spring 2011

Intellectual Unit: Building a Better Scientist

Science Presentation as a Performing Art
Course Faculty: Nancy Houfek, Head of Voice & Speech at the American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theater Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University; David Van Vactor, Professor in Cell Biology at HMS; Fred Winston, Professor of Genetics at HMS; Richard Losick, Professor of Biology at Harvard University; Leah Brault, Curriculum Fellow in Genetics; Narveen Jandu, Instructor and Curriculum Fellow in Cell Biology; and Ondra Kielbasa, Curriculum Fellow in Cell Biology

Curriculum Fellow: Latishya Steele, Latishya_steele@hms.harvard.edu

Effective communication of scientific knowledge is an essential component of any career in the sciences. The “Science Presentation as a Performing Art” nanocourse is designed to meet a critical and unfulfilled need for oral science communication training. The first day of the course is a four-hour introductory lecture and workshop that is open to the Harvard community. Drawing from her background in theater performance, Ms. Houfek will teach specific techniques that can be easily and effectively implemented to improve the quality and effectiveness of science presentations, ranging from body language, gesture, and movement, to vocal clarity, operative words, and the use of metaphor, analogy, and storytelling. Dr. Van Vactor will contribute his scientific and teaching expertise to further inform the discussion of effective science presentation with a focus on scientific content. He will give a short presentation on a research question, which will be evaluated by Ms. Houfek and members of the audience. Dr. Van Vactor will give his presentation a second time, incorporating the techniques that Ms. Houfek has presented and the feedback he received.

The second session of the nanocourse is a 3.5-hour session where groups of five or six students each will be given the opportunity to give brief scientific presentations and receive specific, critical feedback from Drs. Losick, Van Vactor, or Winston to improve their presentation skills. In addition, all students will act as audience in the second session, learning from Ms. Houfek’s techniques both how to improve their own specific speaking skills and how to promote and develop speaking skills amongst their colleagues so that they can apply their learning to train other classmates, colleagues, and members of student organizations outside of the scope of the nanocourse .


First Meeting: Monday, May 9, 10 am – 2pm
Location: Goldenson 122

Second Meetings (students must choose only ONE of the following times)*:
     May 24, 10 am – 1:30 pm, Location: TMEC Building, Rm. 448 
     May 26, 2 – 5:30 pm NOW 4:30 pm, Location: TMEC Building, Rm. L-008 (please note time change)
     May 27, 10 am – 1:30 pm, Location: TMEC Building, Rm. 448

AS OF APRIL 26, 2011: There is the possibility of adding a fourth session, depending on demand. If you cannot attend any of the three dates above or if your first choice of those dates is full, please add yourself to the "WAITLIST" below:


Each second session of this nanocourse can accommodate up to 6 students. For the second session, please be prepared to give a five-minute scientific presentation in PowerPoint. As you prepare your presentation, we encourage you to consider the spectrum of audiences to whom and contexts within which you could be speaking. Examples include: departmental seminar to expert/peer scientists; job seminar to scientists not in your field; lay audiences who are interested in science; interested students who are not very knowledgeable about science. In giving your presentation, please be sure to mention which audience you chose. Faculty leaders and other audience members will provide feedback on both content and delivery to enhance your presentation skills, and then you will have a second five-minute period to incorporate some of the suggestions into a repeat performance. An audio recording of each speaker’s presentation will be provided to that presenter.

Following the second session in which you will present, you will have 48 hours to re-design your presentation.  In order to receive credit for this nanocourse, you must attend the second session, perform both presentations, AND resubmit your PowerPoint presentation.