CHEM 80541 - Molecular Biophysics Seminar

This course is designed to allow students to get the most out of the seminars they attend. A major part of the course involves attending at least one Biochemistry/Biophysics seminar a week at the home campus (e.g. CCNY students should attend the Wednesday Biochemistry Seminars) and at least one seminar off-campus during the semester. Students are required to write 1-page reports on three seminars attended, at least one of which has to be an off-campus seminar. The instructor will need to be informed at least two days in advance of a seminar that a report will be written on. The report should be sent by email no later than one week after attending the seminar. As part of the final presentation, students will pick a recently published original work of research from the laboratory of one of the seminar speakers in the field of biochemistry or molecular biophysics and craft it into a brief presentation to the class.

CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity

Appreciation of progress in current problems in biochemistry and biophysics through attendance at a series of talks given by invited speakers.
Improvements in student presentation styles by listening to talks by invited experts in the field of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, broadly defined.
Improvements in student presentation styles by making one presentation based on published work.
Appreciation of biochemistry and biophysics research endeavors in the New York Metropolitan area through attendance and reports on invited seminars.

Before Attending

Do a quick PubMed or ACS journal search for the speaker. You may want to print out abstracts of several recent publications or find an appropriate review article to read. Even a small bit of background knowledge will go a long way to enhance what you get out of the seminar itself.
During the Seminar
It is good practice to keep a seminar notebook and take notes during (or directly after) the talk. Taking notes helps to focus your attention and gives you something to look back at, weeks or months later, when you remember vaguely that so-in-so said something-or-another that might be useful in your own research work. The notebook is also a handy place to clarify what you heard on the way home, record confusing terminology that you want to look up, save handy website addresses mentioned by the speaker, etc.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything that is said! At the beginning you may feel that you understand just a little, but you will learn how to glean partial information from unfamiliar topics and how to focus your attention on the important points the speaker is trying to make (even if he or she is not making them crystal clear!). Years later, you will be surprised at how much you know about topics you never studied, just by going to seminars.
It is important to take your seat before the talk starts.

Inform the instructor at least two days in advance of a seminar that you will be writing a report on. Submit a report of about 1 page to the instructor by e-mail no later than one week of attending a seminar (late reports will be marked down). Three reports will be written, one of which will be for a seminar attended outside your home campus.

Use the following format (you may want to make a template and carry it with you to each talk).

Speaker Name & Affiliation
Title of Seminar
Date & Location of Seminar
Content of the Talk
Which biochemical systems are being worked on?
Which physical or spectroscopic techniques are being used?
What is the central problem/question being addressed?
What was known generally about the problem before the speaker’s current work?
How does the speaker hope to add to or change our understanding of the problem?
What are the speaker’s principal conclusions?
Organization of the Talk
How was the talk organized? List major topics.
How effective was the presentation of the talk? Discuss the scientific level, clarity, length of the introduction, results, and conclusions. Discuss the speaking style and use of slides, overheads, etc.
What part of the talk did you enjoy the most and why?
How is the work or methodology you heard in the talk related to what you are learning in your classes or research?
How could the talk be improved?
Question and Answer Session
How well did the speaker answer questions from the audience? Describe one question and comment specifically.
How well did the speaker answer YOUR question? Describe one question and comment specifically.
Supporting Literature
Go back to the abstracts of recent papers you found in your literature search of the speaker prior to the seminar, selecting one for closer reading.
Which paper did you read? Cite the authors, title, journal, volume, pages, and date using a standard format from Biophysical Journal, Biochemistry, or another journal you read frequently.
How is the topic covered by the paper related to the seminar topic?

In consultation with the instructor, students will pick a recently published original work of research by the speaker of a seminar attended in the field of biochemistry or molecular biophysics and craft it into a brief presentation (12 minutes + 3 minutes for questions) to the class. The paper/s that will be presented need to be cleared with the instructor at least six weeks before the date of the presentation.

Molecular Biophysics does not participate in the GC Seminar Day, however students registered for this course are strongly encouraged to participate in this one day event.


Attendance of seminars at the discretion of the student within the guidelines of the course requirements.


Seminar attendance - 20%
Reports - 30%
Final presentation - 30%


The final presentation will be held on Thursday, December 8 from 9:00-12:00 AM in room 1027 of the Marshak Science Building on the CCNY campus. NOTE THE CHANGE IN VENUE.