CFCs: Bingo!

Mar 27, 2019
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Posted on behalf of Mushy:

At Uni, I was never one for the Thursday afternoon seminar from a guest speaker. As a presentation snob, I resented the often shoddy slides on show, and to be perfectly honest, I just don’t get biochemistry. All in all, this meant that I had no desire to be at about 50 % of the seminars on offer, but as a member of Rent-a-Crowd, that wasn’t an option I had.

After much moping, a friend and I decided to liven up the seminars with a game of Buzzword Bingo. The premise was simple. Each participant bought a ticket upon which a number of buzzwords were printed. Each ticket contained a random selection of 15 buzzwords from a pool of forty. Whenever the buzzword was mentioned, it got crossed off of the player’s ticket. At the end of the seminar, the person with the most correct buzzwords ticked off won the pool of entrance money. As a gesture of altruism – and naiveté – the house kept no money.

It all started as a terribly amusing ruse. The generation of the buzzword pool immediately became something of a problem, though. After selecting pleasantries such as “Thank you”, “honour”, and “pleasure”, adding a couple of colours, and then throwing in a few wildcards such as “lettuce” and “flounder”, we were left with about 20-30 buzzwords which we still had to fill. To make up this shortfall with likely suggestions, this meant that my friend and I actually had to read some of the speaker’s papers before the lecture, and produce candidates from there.

With the buzzword list complete, selling the tickets proved to be the easy part; the easily-bored graduate student will do just about anything to alleviate the tedium of sitting through the most interminable of lectures. Then the strangest thing started happening. Each Thursday, a few more people turned up. When we were in the seminars, the back half of the room – the traditional seating area of the graduate student – was actually paying attention throughout the duration of the lecture. We even encouraged the graduate students to ask questions, as it was well within the rules to try to lead the guest lecturer into saying one of your buzzwords, no matter how contrived the set-up. I was even reading a bit more of the literature!

If we ever got found out (I think that the senior faculty started getting wind of our scheme when we started selling them tickets), I already had my defense arranged. As a noble gesture, my friend and I had done what no threat from the faculty had yet achieved. Attendances were up, and the students were attentive throughout, and asking many – sometimes strangely-worded – questions of the speaker at the conclusion.

The only negative thing was that after a few years of paper-reading and attention-paying, I still don’t understand biochem…


Stu Cantrill

Chief Editor, Nature Chemistry, Springer Nature

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