The Chemical Engineering Third-Year Talk is an opportunity for you during your PhD to give a presentation to a body of ChemEs who:
- know the format of the talk intimately
- have some understanding of the research which goes on in your lab already and
- have camaraderie within the department, so that you can be assured that they want you to succeed in giving a great talk!
Attending the talks is a good way to keep up-to-date on the types of work going on in the department and find classmates who may be good collaborators or who have struggled with similar technical problems.
The third year talks are relatively short; the presentation and questioning should be no more than 30 minutes. The department standard is to hold questions until the end of the talk. It is critical that you manage your time throughout, practicing to ensure that you are on track to leave enough time for valuable questions. It is typically expected that the presentation has a strong motivating portion, details of the project and results, and a direction for future work.
Depending on the pace of your research, the third year talk can seem to come too early or too late to different students. Let’s say you fall into the category where the talk has seem to come too early. You really only just got your system working and you only have preliminary data. You may choose to spend more time on background and experimental design, as well as tell an interesting story of troubleshooting that may be extremely helpful to peers!
On the other hand, if a student has wrapped up one project already and is working on a spinoff from that project, they may feel they have too much data for a 20-25 minute presentation. In this scenario, it is highly advised that the student pare down their work to a single coherent story with an excellent start-to-finish trajectory, and simply hint at other relevant work if at all. It is best to avoid the trap of using the third year talk as a forum to convince your classmates that you are a hard worker and have done a lot of science since coming to MIT.