- Goal 1: Introduce first-year students to the importance of learning and academics so that we engage them in the academic culture of the University.
- Goal 2: Give first-year students an opportunity for meaningful dialogue with a faculty member to encourage positive, sustained student-faculty interactions.
- Goal 3: Introduce first-year students to the instruction, research, public service and international missions of the University and how they relate to teaching and learning in and outside the classroom so that we increase student understanding of and participation in the full mission of the University.
My advisor gave me tips on how to structure my talk: start with a compelling hook, like the trailer for the 2011 movie Contagion, then broaden out to the larger picture of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs), how a lot of these have a zoonotic origin (i.e. from animals), and why we are seeing more in recent years. This would give us a common vocabulary to then explore the rest of my talk, about Hendra virus emergence and the work I’m doing as part of my PhD research. I wanted this section to be a little more personal, by sharing my first-hand experience of field and lab work in Australia.
Using these tips, I developed a draft presentation that included lots of bat photos and a couple videos. I practiced the talk with my lab group, who gave me great feedback about where I could insert questions for the students to get them to think critically about the information I was providing (Goal 1: check) and maintain their attention over 50 minutes. They also pointed out areas where I was slipping into scientist mode, either by lapsing into jargon or not giving enough details to make a link clear. One lab member suggested including slides showing the departments we have at UGA working on wildlife, infectious disease, and public health (Goal 3: check).
Giving my actual presentation to the class went well. The students responded when I asked questions, and based on eye contact and head-nodding, seemed to follow along with what I was saying. At the end, they had a lot of questions for me, especially about the Henda virus—flying fox system and working in Australia. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to do something like this again soon, to keep sharing my research and practicing my communication skills!