I recently traveled to MIT as a participant in the DOW MIT ACCESS program.This is a program for underrepresented students to gain exposure to graduate program in the hope that more students will apply.
It was an informative two day event filled with workshops, meeting graduate students, hearing faculty presentations and walking tours.
Every student in the program came prepared with short powerpoint presentation on a research interest. This was a part of what they called two minute drills and it was designed to give us a little taste of presenting our ideas in a research context.
My presentation was on soft robotics and in two minutes I talked about how the research I have done at HP with a 3D printed robotic hand could be improved with soft robotics.
- Use a White Background (the grad students didn’t think you needed a lot of extra stuff going on in the background — keep it really simple)
- Number your slides (the way I took this was, think about if someone has a deep follow up question about your information in a later Q&A session, they can refer to the slide number instead of trying to describe the slide)
- Every word on your slide has the potential of distracting your audience from what you are saying. You want balance on the slide when it comes to text and enough info on the slide so that if they lose track of your voice they can quickly catch up
After the presentations and feedback we had about an hour to talk with the grad students and later that night they took us out to eat dinner at Harvard Square. We were able to ask them the hard questions like what their undergrad GPA was, what relationships looks like with friends and faculty in grad school, and how much the work load is.
It was surprising to hear them talk about the grad program which has some flexibility depending on who you choose as a faculty adviser. It turns out that advisers who are tenured tend to have a more hands off approach while new advisers and faculty members are still working towards that tenured position so they may push you a little more as they race to get research papers out. Either one of those could be very good for a student depending on their own personality and work style.