University of Houston visit

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the University of Houston. When our lab was still at Rice I went to a talk or two at UH but never really got much chance to interact with the research groups there. So it was great fun to talk evolutionary genetics with Tim Cooper and his lab, social amoebae with Elizabeth Ostrowski, evolutionary networks with Ricardo Azevedo, behavior and morphology with Tony Frankino, ant behavior with Blaine Cole, and food and art with Dan Graur (over dinner).

The audience for my talk was mostly biologists, not necessarily in my field of study, many of whom may not have been ecologists or evolutionary biologists. So I used the opportunity to develop what will hopefully become my job talk. I’ve been inspired by Will Ratcliff’s “Morgan Freeman” philosophy for scientific talks. The idea is that it should be a story, presented with engaging images, and it’s your job to guide the audience through that story with an easy-to-understand narrative.

One thing I’ve learned: making slides is no substitute for actually practicing a talk. Even if you mentally run through your narrative as you make slides, when you actually get to talking you’ll inevitably discover places where the narrative isn’t as clear as you thought it was.

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