BOSTON, MA – Bart Mnart, a PhD in comparative political biology, couldn’t help but wring his hands together gleefully during our interview in his windowless office last Tuesday.
“You are here right on time,” he says, “I just put the finishing touches on my PowerPoint.”
Two weeks ago, a scheduling conflict arose with the lecturer who had for years presented G-protein coupled receptors to the first-year medical students, and block directors had emailed Dr. Mnart asking if he could fill in.
“Naturally, I had to accept. It’s pretty much every PhD’s dream to give lectures to people who don’t understand what you are talking about.” Without much prompting, Dr. Mnart gave us a brief overview of his presentation.
“As you can see, it’s 94 slides long. Now, I intend to spend about 4 minutes on each slide in the beginning, but when there is only about 10 minutes left in the lecture, I’m going to zoom through the rest of it really fast. And when I get to slide 86, this one right here, that’s when I say, ‘This is probably the most important slide in the presentation,’ but I won’t spend any time on it. Ideally, I’ll go about 5-8 minutes past my allotted time.”
Though the cadence of the lecture was clearly important to him, Dr. Mnart assured us that he had spent an even greater amount of time on the content.
“I have to start, naturally, with the history of research in this field. That involves a lot of names and pictures of old white guys, as you can see by my first 13 slides. And those are my only pictures in the whole presentation, except molecular structures.”
“I’m sure you can appreciate that slides 34-47 are just tables. And the 10 slides before that discuss the methods of one of the studies that I drew a bunch of material from. I actually think they’ll be into that part. It’s pretty cool stuff.”
He gets to slide 56, a graph, and laughs. “Oh right! This is going to be the part where I get confused about what’s actually being shown here and spend a few minutes ‘figuring it out.’ That’s going to be great.”
Although he’s got it all figured out now, Dr. Mnart recalls struggling with a couple of key decisions early on in the slide creation process.
“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to spend time naming all the genes involved in the expression of these proteins, but I did some soul searching and knew that it just didn’t feel right not to.”
When we asked if this was going to be appropriate for medical students, Dr. Mnart waved off the concern, and insisted he had covered his assigned topic fully and completely. “It’s all the material any self-respecting PhD whose life work focuses on G-protein coupled receptors would need to know.”