Senior Seminar
(ENVI 495/MARS 495)
Spring 2013


Dr. Drew Talley Dr. Ron Kaufmann Dr. Matt Craig

Office: Shiley Center 266; x6810


Office: Shiley Center 274; x5904

kaufmann<at>sandiego<dot>edu or rkaufmann<at>gmail<dot>com

Office: Shiley Center 167; x4099

mtcraig<at>sandiego<dot>edu or matthewcraig4<at>gmail<dot>com

We 12:30-3:00, Th 10:30-12:00, Fr 1:00-2:00, or by appointment

Mo 12:30-1:30, Tu 2:30-5:00,

Fr 12:30-2:00, or by appointment

Mo 1:00-3:00, Th 9:00-11:00,

Fr 10:00-11:00, or by appointment

Course Objectives

    The objective of Senior Seminar is to learn the basic techniques for making a professional presentation in your field of study.  You will work closely with the instructor to put together a public talk on a topic of your choice that reflects your major and pathway or minor.  Each presentation will be composed using PowerPoint and presented to the public using a personal computer linked to a data projector.  Formal lecturing will be minimal.  Most of this course consists of your individual effort, with guidance from your instructor, researching, formulating, practicing and delivering your seminar.

Learning Outcomes

    After taking this course, you should be able to

Attendance/Participation (15%)
    You are required to attend and participate in all class meetings, including the seminars presented by your peers. Participation in class meetings and seminars other than your own consists of:

    1) Being involved in class discussions
    2) Offering constructive comments on your classmates' mini-presentations and seminar practice talks
    3) Asking thoughtful questions at Senior and outside seminars

    You must invite to your public presentation at least one faculty member from the department/program in which you have your emphasis, concentration, or minor (if you have one that involves classes outside the Marine Science and Environmental Studies Department).  Please contact the person as soon as you know your senior seminar date.  Let your instructor know whom you have contacted and their response.
    In addition, you must attend three outside seminars (other than Senior Seminars) held during this semester, prior to your public seminar presentation.  You must turn in one-page summaries (hard copies or by e-mail as Word or pdf documents) of all three outside seminars no later than 11:59 pm on the day of your seminar presentation.  Each summary should include a brief synopsis of the talk (content and major message) and your critical impressions of the speaker's presentation technique(s).  Attending outside seminars and evaluating them critically for content and style should help you to prepare and present your own seminar.

    Appropriate outside seminars take place at various venues within San Diego, including USD, UCSD, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, SDSU and the San Diego Natural History Museum.  Links to web sites with seminar schedules for some of these locations are included below.


Birch Aquarium

San Diego Natural History Museum

SDSU Biology Department

SDSU Geology Department

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

UCSD Division of Biological Sciences

Mini-Presentations (10%)
    Each student will choose one paper from the primary literature (i.e. an actual research paper, not someone's summary, interpretation or analysis of a paper or group of papers) and present it to the class using a PowerPoint presentation to support the talk.  Each mini-presentation will last 5 minutes and should include the major point of the paper, the methodology used, the results, the author's interpretations and conclusions and, if you wish, your views on the subject.  If this sounds like a lot of information to put into a 5-minute talk, you're right - it is.  The purpose of this exercise is to:

    1) Give you some exposure to speaking in front of a group of people,
    2) Accustom you to making points and getting your message(s) across with a few, well-chosen words
    3) Establish your proficiency with PowerPoint software, if you're not familiar with it already.

    The mini-presentation also is designed to give you a preliminary idea of any bad public speaking habits that you may want to correct before you give your actual seminar.  Papers for mini-presentations should be approved by your instructor at least one week before your mini-presentation.  The mini-presentation will count for 10% of your course grade.

Deadlines (25%)
    Apart from the seminar itself, you must meet five major deadlines:
   February 22: By this date your instructor must have approved a focused senior seminar topic and two of the primary references that will form the core of your senior seminar topic.  Be sure to start discussing potential topics with before your instructor at the beginning of the semester so that you can meet this deadline.  Any student who does not have a focused, approved topic by this deadline seriously should consider dropping the course.

    Four weeks before your seminar you should go over a rough draft of your PowerPoint presentation, including potential graphics and organizational text slides (introductory, outline or summary slides).  These slides should form the framework for your seminar.
    Three weeks before your seminar you must present to your instructor a more finished version of your PowerPoint presentation.  This should include more polished versions of graphics plus a well-organized talk outline.  By this time, you should know what you want to say and how you plan to present it.
    Two weeks before your seminar you should be prepared to read through your talk, including near-final versions of your graphics as you propose to present them.  A polished practice talk isn't required at this point, but the only things missing should be final editing of the figures and the exact text of the talk itself.  By your two-week deadline the organization and content of the talk and the number, nature and sequence of the graphics all should be in final form.
    One week before your seminar you must do at least one practice run-through of your talk with AT LEAST TWO instructors.  At this time, all graphics should be completed in their final form and the text should be finished and prepared well enough to allow you to give your practice talk without obviously reading your notes.  The purpose of this practice session is to polish your presentation and correct any potential problems.  At this point, any changes that are made should be essentially cosmetic (i.e., designed to make you and your presentation look better).
    It is very important that you take these deadlines seriously and meet the requirements for each deadline. Keeping track of the deadlines and making arrangements to meet with your instructor is your responsibility.  Your compliance with this schedule will count for 25% of your course grade.

Seminar (50%)
    You will be required to present a 15-minute seminar (followed by a question period) on a suitable topic (see below).  Four to five seminars will be presented in a single class period, beginning on Friday, April 5.  Students presenting seminars will be introduced by classmates.
    Your seminar topic should be selected in consultation with your instructor.  An appropriate topic generally falls into one of two categories: a presentation of the student's own research or a presentation of a topic on which the student hasn't worked directly.  Either is acceptable, but topics should have a strong research or policy basis.  Your seminar MUST reflect the scientific method (a question, presentation of data, interpretation of the data, conclusions following from the data, and interpretation), whether your topic is science research or policy research oriented.  YOUR SEMINAR TOPIC MUST INCORPORATE THE PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVES OF YOUR MAJOR AND PATHWAY.  Adherence to this requirement will be considered strongly in the grading of your seminar.  The seminar presentation will count for 50% of your course grade.
    Scheduling a date, time and topic for your seminar will begin as soon as possible.  Time slots will be filled on a first come/first served basis, so it is to your advantage to sign up as soon as possible.  Choose your time slot thoughtfully.  Once you have signed up for a seminar date it will NOT be changed, unless you have a VERY compelling reason (medical emergency, family tragedy, etc.).

    If you need to reschedule because you are not ready to present and have NOT presented your instructor with a valid reason, you automatically will lose one letter grade.


    Seminar titles and a topical photo should be provided to your instructor and to Kathy Andrews, the MARS/ENVI Executive Assistant, two weeks before the seminar date.  Kathy and your instructor will be responsible for preparing and distributing announcements for your seminars.

Click Here for Suggestions on Preparing a Good Senior Seminar

Attendance/Participation 15%
Mini-Presentation 10%
Meeting Deadlines  25%
Seminar 50%

Feb 1 Introduction/Course description/Do’s and Don’ts
- Topic/date signups for mini-presentations and seminars
Feb 8 No formal class meeting
- Approval of papers for mini-presentations
Feb 15, 22, Mar 1



Feb 22



Mar 1 - 29

Work on seminars - Various deadlines


Apr 5

Senior Seminars: Alyssa Beerling, Andrea Ferrer, Nick Hennrikus, Anthony Mau, Spencer Morgan


Apr 12

Senior Seminars: Paige Carey, Craig Foxhoven, Colleen Grant, Kaelin McAtee, Julie Richardson


Apr 19 

Senior Seminars: Jessica Andrade, Colin Phillips, Tom Remington, Emily Roberts, Alex Shalosky


Apr 26

Senior Seminars: Allain Andry, Amanda D'Acquisto, Brian Glass, Sara Leitheiser, Megan Stransky

May 3

Senior Seminars: Vanessie Christensen, Dano Ferons, Hayley Gross, David Martinez, Brendan Saunders

May 10 Assessment Exam

Assessment Exam
    The assessment exam (May 10) is designed to give the faculty in the Marine Science and Environmental Studies Department feedback on what you have learned in your upper division MARS/ENVI courses.  You should not study for this exam but you should take it seriously.  This exam has no bearing on your course grade but is a requirement for you to receive a grade in this course (i.e. no exam = no grade).  Not taking this exam seriously (e.g. writing “I don’t know” repeatedly or answering frivolously) will be treated as not taking the exam at all.

This page copyright 2005-2013 by Ron Kaufmann
All rights reserved
Last modified 8 Feb 2013 by Ron Kaufmann