1 Credit (Attendance, presentation/abstract, and formal paper)
(Note: The complete sequence of Research Design, NSS Research, NS Seminar,
and NS Research Communication
count as commmunication Skills II)

1/2 credit (Attendance)

Fall 2009 - Spring 2010
Link to Schedule, Fall 2009
Link to Schedule, Spring 2010

Link to MOODLE - for attendance records

Note: Research Design (SCI 490 2 cr) students enrolled in fall, 2009 or later attend Natural Science Seminar (SCI 491, or SCI 492) as "guests" to fulfill part of the expanded requirments for Research Design.  Students who completed Research Design for 1 credit in previous years need to enroll in SCI 491 or SCI 492 for 1/2 credit.

Link to Evaluation form - (adopted August 2009)
D. Collins, Box 6017, convener, (e-mail:

Purpose and Learning Outcomes:

This seminar provides students and staff with opportunities to interact professionally in a formal setting, exchange news, ideas and theories, and explore the interrelationships among various disciplines.  Students are further given the opportunity and motivation to participate in scientific research: choosing and delimiting a suitable topic, defining the problem and forming a hypothesis where appropriate, discovering and evaluating the work of others, conducting their own investigation, evaluating the data and results, and organizing and communicating their results to others.  Discussion, questions and argument will sharpen communication and logic skills, as well as increase understanding, both for those presenting seminars as well as those attending.  An informal learning outcome is the self-confidence that students obtain presenting their research to an audience of peers and superiors for future settings.

Organization: Each student earning a major in the natural sciences and mathematics must complete Natural Science Seminar (SCI 491 or SCI 492) for half a credit.or Research Design (SCI 490) for 2 credits.  This involves fulfilling the attendance requirement at the weekly seminar.  In another semester, each student completes Natural Science Research Communication (SCI 493) for one credit.  The Seminar (SCI 491 or SCI 492) or Research Design (SCI 490) must be completed during a separate semester from the Research Communication (SCI 493).  Research Design (SCI 390) (2 credits) and Natural Science Seminar Research (SCI 486) (at least 2 credits) are required prerequisites for Research Communication (SCI 493).   These are graduation requirements for the majors in Biology, Chemistry, and the following concentrations in Environmental Studies:  Conservation Biology, Environmental Chemistry, Sustainable Agriculture, and Sustainable Forestry.  Concentrations in Environmental Policy have a choice: Internship OR Research (see WWC Catalog).   The reseach track of Environmental Policy must complete the three course sequence: (SCI 390 Research Design, SCI 486-489 Natural Sciences Seminar Research, and SCI 493 Natural Sciences Research Communication.

Presentation of a seminar and submitting the archival thesis is a graduation requirement for the science majors listed above.  Each person presenting the seminar for the graduation requirement must be registered for the course and complete the attendance requirements.   Time slots will be assigned during the Research Design class about one year prior to the presentation.  This allows time for the student to plan and complete the research well before the presentation date.  The dates for the presentation will be determined by a lottery with accommodations allowed for students' schedules for fall graduation, study abroad, internships.   In addition to getting a time slot, each student must register for NS Research Communication (SCI 493) during November or April registration.  Obtaining a time slot does not register the student for Research Communication (SCI 493).  The student must also register for SCI 493 during the semester before the time slot.  The mentor will usually be a member of the WWC science faculty (Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Studies, Mathematics/Computer Science, or Physics).  If a student wishes to work with a faculty outside a department listed above, a science faculty must be obtained to be a co-mentor and must co-sign the student's title at registration time.  Each student presenting must submit a title, signed by his/her mentor, before Monday of week 2 (Aug. 31, 2009,  ). The mentors have the responsibility during the NSS Research class to help the student choose an appropriate topic, guide the student's research and suggest questions and interpretations about the results.  The mentor will also listen to the practice sessions of the presentation.  It is nearly impossible to make a good presentation without at least a week of practice sessions.

Suitable topics should be sufficiently specific to allow in-depth study, but general enough to avoid becoming so technical that the audience cannot appreciate the study.  In addition to the necessary literature study, the topic should involve at least one of the following modes:  laboratory study, field study, mathematical modeling, or interpretation of archival data banks.  The researcher must clearly present the scientific purpose or objective(s) of the study.  The researcher is expected to follow scientific methodologies.

Each presention will need a printed abstract (40 copies) which includes the title, student's name, and mentor's name.   The abstract should be written using the following properties:

The biggest mistake students have made in the past preparation of abstracts is failure to summarize the Discussion or to indicate what the implications of the results are to the wider world.  The abstracts are published on the Internet.

A bibliography, alphabetized by first author's last name, should be printed on the reverse side of the abstract.  It is important that the bulk of the bibliography consist of recent peer-reviewed articles. The style for abstracts and bibliographies are outlined in the Research Design Handbook, by Dr. Louise Weber.

Each presenter should submit the abstract via e-mail (or an attached word processed file) to the coordinator one week before presenting the seminar.  The absolute deadline for receipt of the electronic abstract is the day before the scheduled presentation.  The evaluations will be returned to the student's mentor only after the electronic copy of an abstract has been received.   A student may revise the final abstract after the presentation with no penalty, but the deadline for revision is one week after the presentation.  Revisions are often suggested by faculty at the presentation.  The abstracts will be published on the World Wide Web along with the schedule.  The published abstracts have received international attention from students and researchers searching for research results, so publication of students' work is extremely important.  Photographs of an aspect of the student's work are encouraged to be published along with the abstracts on the Internet.  Only photos made by the presenter or under the presenter's supervision will be published.  Please send photos to dcollins vi e-mail along with a caption on who made the photo.

The mentor will introduce the seminar speaker and provide appropriate background.  Seminar presentations should be succinct - approximately 25 minutes long (including discussion with the audience) with appropriate use of slides, charts, and visuals.  Five minutes of the 25 alloted minutes should be allowed for questions.  It is important to follow the schedule and not run-over the alloted total time of 25 minutes.  Time is required for announcements and set-up between speakers.  The length of discussion and the total presentation length will be monitored by the convenor with the possibility being cut-off if the speaker goes beyond the alloted time.  This requires work and diligence and practice on the part of the presenter.

Students design their charts and visuals as well as speaking techniques following the guidelines listed in the Research Design Handbook.

Poster Announcements:

The convenor's assistant will prepare posters advertising each student's presentation based on the title of record.  The assistant will include a suitable picture to display on the poster - with the source acknowledged.  It is preferable to use pictures created by the presenters.  Please send any image to dcollins electronically at least 3 weeks prior to the date of the presentation.  The source of the picture must be included with the picture - even if the student made the picture himself/herself.


For grading purposes, presenters (SCI 493) will be assigned a letter grade, while those registered for SCI 491 or SCI 492   (no presentation) will be assigned pass/fail.  The pass/fail grade will be based on attendance.  The attendance will be recorded by means of each student filling-out a Natural Science Seminar Student Report form at the seminar.  These will be collected and returned to the presenter.  All faculty attending the talk will fill out evaluation forms, and the convener will collect these and deliver the forms to the student's mentor after the abstract has been electronically received.  All students, including those students who are presenting seminars, are expected to attend all seminar days (this means no more than two absences).  A student may make up absences by attending and reporting on a live  scientific presentation outside of the Seminar (ACS, Sigma Xi, Workshops, NCAS, etc.).  More than two absences will deduct one letter grade from the SCI 493 course for each absence beyond two.  Students enrolled in SCI 491 or SCI 492 (pass/fail) will receive a "Failure" if more than two absences occur.  Extended illness may require a repeat semester to make up.

The presentation grade will be determined from the median of the faculty evaluations.  Click here to see the form.  The presentation counts for 50% of the Research Communication grade.  The other 50% of the grade will be determined by the archival paper (Natural Science and Mathematics Senior Thesis) that is evaluated by the mentor (see below).

Expectations for attendees:

In order to obtain a grade of Pass, students are expected to arrive promptly, fill-out a student Student Speaker Report Form (essentially the same as the evaluation form), fill the seats nearest the front first, be respectfully attentive, remain until the seminar is completed, and participate in the question and answer period.  Leaving the seminar early (before 5:00) will result in an absence recorded  Missing more than two seminar days will result in a failing grade for those enrolled in the attendance, and grade deduction for those presenting.  Completing the MOODLE First Day Exercise counts as one attendance.  It closes on Feb 2, 2010.   More than one absence at mid-semester will receive a failing grade at mid-semester.  Failing at mid-semester may be made up by satisfactorily completing all the requirements before the end of the semester.  Students are expected to keep track of their own absences.  The convenor will not send reminders if students have accumulated absences.  The students attendance at the seminars will be recorded in the Warren Wilson Moodle site:  Please consult that site and let the facilitator know if there are any errors.

It is also expected that the audience conduct themselves appropriate for professional meetings.  Applause is appropriate when presenters are introduced and when presenters finish their talks.  This shows the highest respect for fellow students. Yelling and other loud vocalizations are not appropriate.

Guests, friends, and workcrew mates of the presenting students are encouraged to attend.  However, please encourage the guests to attend both seminars and to conduct themselves in a professional mannor.  Otherwise, many people leaving between the two seminars and the noise making presents a distraction.   This rule will be enforced with possible grade penalty if broken.

Expectations for presenters:

Essentially, we are looking for a scholarly presentation.  Both content and presentation style are important.  Without content of appropriate depth and substance, even the best speaking style and finest visuals will not be enough to earn a good grade.  Please see the attached evaluation form.

It is expected that the presenter practice the presentation with the mentor(s) and peers.  The main reason for this is to instill confidence, be able to anticipate questions from the audience, and to insure a scientific understanding.  The presentation is a major highlight of a student's college carreer.  It is the time to be proud of one's accomplishments.

Changing presentation date: NO!

After registration, the scheduled dates are permanently fixed.  Any rescheduling requests must be made in writing to the Division of Sciences and Environment at least two weeks prior to the scheduled time, and the division faculty will consider the extenuating circumstances and decide among three possibilities: 1) the extenuating circumstances justify rescheduling without penalty; 2) the rescheduling will be permitted with a letter-grade penalty; 3) the rescheduling will be denied.  Problems with the research (equipment, crop failure, personnel, etc), generally, should not warrant a new date.  The experimenter can still provide the background, experiment design, preliminary results, and the problems encountered.

Changing title: NO!

The seminar schedule and titles are published and distributed to a number of places at the beginning of the semester.  It becomes impossible to re-publish the titles to the distribution list.  Each student has also completed his/her research and should have a firm title by the time the semester for presentation begins.  Titles for current semester will be finalized on Monday, August 31, 2009 (Week 2).

Natural Science Senior Thesis (50%).

As stated above, 50% of the Research Communication grade is the mentor's evaluation of the Senior Thesis.  Each student in SCI 493 will submit two copies of his/her senior thesis - a formal paper reporting on the research.  The draft of the senior thesis is due to the mentor by the end of week 12 (Friday, Nov. 20, 2009).  Two copies of the final report are due to the convenor (D. Collins) at the end of week 14 (Friday, Dec. 4, 2009).  In addition one signed copy of Permission to Photocopy must be attached.  Copies of Permission to Photocopy will be available at Collins' office.  Collins will deliver one of the thesis copies to the Archives in the Pew Learning Center and Ellison Library; he will forward the 2nd copy to the mentor for evaluation.  If the grading copy is late or missing, or if the  draft is late or missing, then the mentor should make appropriate grade adjustments.  The mentor's grade report will be reported to the convenor by the beginning of week 16 (Dec. 14, 2009).  In addition, students will fill-out an evaluation form for the total Natural Science Seminar Experience.

The thesis should follow the following format:

  1. Permission to photocopy
  2. Abstract
  3. Acknowledgements - Note: the acknowledgements has often been missed in previous years.
  4. Introduction - the background of the material, survey of literature, and description of the experiment/phenomena
  5. Methods (or procedure) - the clear objectives of the investigation, the details of the experiment, the methodology of gathering the data, the problems encountered and how they were solved
  6. Results - the results should be tabulated and should include error analysis.  The results should be presented graphically as well as tables.
  7. Discussion - the scientific implications of the results should be discussed and clear answers to the objectives of the study should be presented.
  8. Literature Cited.  All the sources of content and ideas should be cited in the paper.
Further writing guidelines are listed in the Research Design Handbook, page 158.

The thesis will contain the completed study and address problems that may not have been solved in the research course.  Students should pace themselves in the Research Communication course so that they can complete both the oral presentation and the thesis before the deadline(s).

ACADEMIC HONESTY:   Perhaps more than any other endeavor, science research depends on objectivity and honesty on the part of the researcher.  Falsification of facts (making-up data), literature cited, or plagiarism, cheating, or other unethical behavior could result in an F for the assignment in question or an F for the course.  A letter describing the incident may also be sent to the Dean as part of a student's permanent record.  This course abides by the campus policy on academic honesty as stated in the WWC student handbook.