Biology poster presentations a unique spin on the ‘final exam’

BUIES CREEK – Students in Dr. Karen Guzman’s Introduction to Biology Research learn very early in the semester what will be on the final exam.

It’s whatever they want it to be.

Guzman’s Biology 205 students packed the second floor of Campbell University Science Building Wednesday presenting posters that summed up a semester’s worth of studying and analyzing the published research project of their choice. The poster presentations have become a popular event in Campbell’s science circles, and the idea has even garnered national attention – local professors presented a workshop on the idea to the National Association of Biology Teachers in Tennessee in 2008.

About 65 students, most of them sophomores, presented posters to faculty and their fellow students Wednesday, with their grade determined by not only how well they knew the material, but how well they could present it and discuss it with their professors and classmates.

“During this course, they learn about various aspects of research,” Guzman said, “and since they don’t have time to be in the lab or the field, they analyze published research papers throughout the semester and present the findings as if they were their own.”

Lillington biology major Amber Patwell’s presentation dealt with a recent study in Korea on photodynamic therapy, an alternative to radiation chemotherapy, and its potential effects on tumors. Patwell, who was recently accepted into Campbell’s College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences, said Guzman and those analyzing her poster were making sure she knew the material up and down and understood the impact the study has on the medical community.

“It’s a great way to learn the material,” said Patwell, who said she gave her presentation “at least 10 times” in 90 minutes Wednesday. “You have to pinpoint things in these studies and learn everything you possibly can about it.”

Patwell said the poster took nearly the whole semester, and she said she worked on it every week leading up to Wednesday.

Selma biology pre-professional major Melissa Macias focused on a study on stem cells and cranial irradiation for her presentation, and she, too, spent the entire semester preparing for Wednesday. The future surgeon said the grading of her final exam is simple …

“If we can explain it, we’ll get a good grade,” she said.

It’s a format she says she prefers over typical multiple choice exams or essays that count as a final exam.

“It’s a research class, so this gets us used to doing, or at least studying research,” she said. “I feel like I’m definitely more informed now. I don’t actually want to do research (as a professional), but if I have to, this is good experience.”

Guzman said the students were a little apprehensive about the posters at first, but the more they learn the material, the more enthusiastic they become in trying to explain it.

“And the enthusiasm of the guests leave them with a sense of accomplishment,” she said.

Story, Photo by Billy Liggett, Assistant Director for Publications