Students' Guide to Seminar

The objectives of the seminar program for participating Ph.D. students are several:

  1. To broaden your depth of knowledge in an appropriate field of chemistry, especially an emerging area of research activity that may be relevant to your research program
  2. To connect you to the broader scientific community through a comprehensive literature search and review using library resources including on-line data bases
  3. To develop and promote strong scientific writing skills through the construction of a well organized, thoughtfully prepared extended abstract
  4. To develop and promote strong presentation skills through the construction of a well organized, thoughtfully prepared scientific presentation of approximately 40 minutes in length (followed by approximately 10 minutes of questions)
  5. To promote intellectual exchange between you, your fellow graduate students and the chemistry faculty
  6. To begin preparing you for your Research Proposal requirement
  7. To begin preparing you for professional presentations that you are likely to make many times during the course of your career.  These include presentations at professional meetings (e.g., ACS meetings), during job interviews for faculty or industrial positions, and as part of normal job functions (e.g., quarterly reviews for management).

Seminar time schedule






A. Choose a seminar topic in consultation with your research advisor and the Seminar Coordinator or designate, begin literature searching and reading

B. Present Seminar Coordinator or designate with finished extended abstract

C. Distribute your extended abstract to all faculty and graduate students. The Manager retains a copy for your student file.

D. Deliver seminar presentation to faculty and graduate students

E. Decision: The AP faculty evaluate student seminars in writing. Their comments are collected and summarized in writing by the AP Seminar Coordinator or designate who assigns a grade of "credit" or "fail" to the seminar and reports this grade promptly to the student.  The IO faculty evaluate student seminars in person. Their comments are collected and summarized by the IO Seminar Coordinator or designate, who assigns a grade of "credit" or "fail" to the seminar and reports this grade promptly to the student. 

F. Each seminar speaker is responsible for introducing the next student seminar speaker, and for serving as discussion leader in that presentation.

Faculty Expectations: Characteristics of High Quality Scientific Seminars

Fortunately, there is more than one way to prepare and deliver a high quality scientific seminar that conveys your depth of knowledge of the subject material. The faculty recognize that you are just beginning to develop your own unique style for presenting seminars, a process that will continue to develop and mature throughout your scientific career. At this stage of your development, the faculty are looking for you to demonstrate certain qualities or characteristics that accompany seminars of high quality:

  1. Your topic should be timely.  It should represent an area of recent research activity.  Emerging areas of research activity are especially appropriate. An indication of a topic’s timeliness is the number of searchable references that exist for the chosen topic as a function of date.  Are there more “hits” on SciFinder within the past 5 years than in the previous 5 years?  If the number of “hits” has increased dramatically in the past few years, then it may be an especially strong topic. For more details, see the section below entitled Choosing a Seminar Topic.
  2. Your extended abstract should be well written.  A well written extended abstract is not only an outline for the pending presentation but also a resource for information that the reader can pursue prior to attending the presentation. For detailed information, see the section below entitled Preparing Your Extended Abstract.
  3. Your seminar presentation should be well organized.  There are many acceptable ways to organize your seminar presentation.  The following suggestions are just that- suggestions.  They are not requirements.  Feel free to discuss these points with the Seminar Coordinator or designate, other faculty and senior graduate students.

A well organized presentation often begins with an introduction that sets the stage for the entire seminar.  The introduction serves to bring the audience up to speed on the chosen research topic, conveys important accomplishments and milestones in the chosen research area and can even foreshadow the remainder of the seminar by suggesting or highlighting areas of current research and/or important problems worthy of study. By the end of your introduction, the audience should know the purpose of your presentation.

In many instances, it is important to review experimental or theoretical methods of investigation, particularly if the methods utilized are specialized ones that are not readily known to scientists outside the chosen research area.

The bulk of the presentation typically focuses on research results with a detailed discussion of those results. The portions of individual research papers that you choose to emphasize and the order in which you present those results should allow for optimal audience learning. Every seminar presenter is first and foremost a teacher. Teach your audience to understand and appreciate the beauty of the science that you are reporting.

Presentations may finish with a brief summary that reinforces the salient features from your presentation. Your audience should read/hear these and feel that they have learned a lot from you.

  1. Your slides should be thoughtfully prepared. Most students use either PowerPoint slides to enhance their presentation. As a guideline, the number of slides for a talk of this length is typically about 20-25, but you may utilize a different number according to your comfort level. Your slides should be pleasant to the eyes and relatively easy to digest.  Busy slides (i.e., those with too much text and/or too many pictures) should be avoided. Well organized slides typically contain a brief title at the top, a limited amount of text and an informative image or two (e.g., picture, figure, scheme, chemical structure, graph, etc.). The slide should tell a story all by itself. Additional details and areas of emphasis are provided by the presenter in real time during the presentation. References should be present as appropriate. Font sizes for all words (text, figure captions, axis labels, etc.) should be sufficiently large that the audience can read them without struggle. 
  2. Do not plagiarize.  Lifting text, figures, schemes, etc. from journal articles, web pages  and other sources without properly crediting the original authors is considered plagiarism, a very serious offense.
  3. Your presentation should be clear and credible. Your objective is to extract the most interesting and important aspects from the literature and to report those aspects to your audience in a clear and credible manner. The faculty recognize that most Ph.D. students completing their seminar requirement will have had little or no experience making formal presentations in front of an audience, much less a learned audience of faculty and graduate students. While nerves can be difficult to completely overcome, they must be minimized in order to make a clear and credible presentation. This is best accomplished by knowing your subject matter well, by organizing the presentation in a logical manner, and by practicing your delivery prior to the formal presentation.

It is always poor form to read text directly from a slide. You should know your material well enough to articulate key concepts without reading text verbatim from a slide or note card. Face your audience when talking to them. Speak clearly and in complete sentences. Use proper grammar. Avoid slang terms. Adjust your volume to an appropriate level so that the audience can hear you without straining. A microphone can be utilized if needed. Avoid distracting mannerisms like speaking too quickly or adding “um” to the beginning of each sentence. Your talk should be presented at an appropriate level of sophistication-- advanced enough to be accessible and interesting to a majority of your learned audience; not so trivial as to be superficial. Avoid acronyms that may be unfamiliar to your audience.  If you must use multiple abbreviations that will be unfamiliar to your audience, then have these written on the blackboard ahead of time and leave them there for reference.

You should be able to answer questions related to your presentation. A question and answer (Q&A) session will immediately follow your presentation and this is considered a very important component of your overall performance. You should be able to expand upon essential aspects of your presentation and extended abstract during the Q&A period. In order to answer questions effectively, you first have to hear and understand the question. Listen carefully to an entire question before attempting to answer. If you don’t know the answer and can’t reason your way through it, then say so. Rest assured, if you have carefully studied the literature surrounding your topic, you will be able to answer most questions.

Choosing a Seminar Topic

As you begin the task of choosing a seminar topic, you must search the literature for papers relating to potential topics of interest and then read, read, read. You may initially be overwhelmed by the literature, but using knowledge gained from your research, your courses, self-study, and other seminars, you'll find large pieces to be comprehensible.  Once you find a topic that sparks your interest, read, read and read some more (critically).  Within about one week, you should be focused on a single seminar topic.  As discussed above, this topic should be timely.  Other considerations to make before choosing a seminar topic include each of the following:

  1. The topic should not be a facsimile of your research project but it can have a tangential relationship. Each faculty research advisor within the Chemistry Department will have a different set of sensitivities related to the “closeness” of a chosen seminar topic.  Students should seek approval from their research advisor as well as the graduate Seminar Coordinator or designate for their chosen topic. Topics may be rejected if they are too closely related to the student’s and/or the advisor’s research program.
  2. The topic should be exciting to you!  Individual tastes vary but the chosen topic should represent an exciting area of research for you.  If you’re excited by the science, then it’s much more likely that your audience will become excited by your presentation. Your enthusiasm will flow naturally if you’ve chosen a topic that truly interests you.
  3. Consider your pending Research Proposal.  Although your research proposal (to be completed in the semester following your successful seminar presentation) does not need to be directly related to your seminar topic, it can be.  If you’ve chosen a topic that truly excites you, you may want to continue an intellectual exploration of that area through your research proposal activities.  Attempt to become an expert in your chosen topic. This will naturally lead you to consider a set of experiments that could further advance the field in some interesting way.  While you won’t be describing those experiments in your seminar, this type of creative thinking can only benefit your breadth of knowledge and seminar presentation.

Preparing Your Extended Abstract

  1. Two weeks before your scheduled seminar, you should submit a typed copy of the next-to-final draft of your extended abstract to the Seminar Coordinator or designate.  The extended abstract is limited to 5 pages including figures but not references.
  2. A reasonable organization for your 5-page extended abstract is as follows:  (i) Background and Introduction; (ii) Results and Discussion; (iii) Conclusion and Future Directions; (iv) References.  A Methods section can also be added (typically after the introduction) if it is important to review experimental or theoretical methods of investigation.
  3. References to all review articles on the seminar topic within the last ten years must be included in the extended abstract.
  4. The extended abstract should be single-lined or 1.5- line spaced with a minimum font size of 10 pt. It should be carefully written, proof-read, and contain a bibliography. It is expected that the extended abstract will not contain all figures and data used in the oral presentation. However, all literature content to be used for the oral presentation must be cited in the extended abstract.
  5. Pay particular attention to reference style and usage [See ACS Style Guide].  The extended abstract is designed to serve as more than an outline of the presentation. It is the readers' resource for information. Results cited in the extended abstract should be keyed to specific references in the bibliography. Include the full title of articles in each reference within the bibliography.
  6. Structures, figures and equations should be selected to convey the information effectively.
  7. Do not plagiarize.  Plagiarism is “The unattributed use of the ideas, evidence, or words of another person, or the conveying of the false impression that the arguments and writing in a paper are the student’s own.” (section 9.3, 2016-2017 University of New Hampshire Students Rights, Rules and Responsibilties)
  8. Your extended abstract will be constructively criticized by the Seminar Coordinator or designate and returned to you with suggestions as quickly as possible--within 3 working days.  You are responsible for final editing, proof-reading, and distribution of the extended abstract to all faculty and graduate students one week before your seminar presentation.