Thursday, 2 October 2014

Secrets to a Successful Undergraduate Seminar Presentation

As a graduate of a renowned university in Nigeria, with distinction in seminar presentation and an overall score of over 80%, you can take it from me that I am informed when it comes to seminar presentations. Based on my experience and with interaction with friends who had distinction too, I have been able to put together factors I believe you need to put into consideration when preparing your undergraduate seminar presentation.

1) A good topic: the most important thing is to have at least three good topics. I would advice you research properly before taking these topics to your supervisors for approval. You may want to sit down to consult the internet and textbooks to find topics you would be able to work on and also comprehend easily. Don't just get any topic approved. Make sure you get good topics, there is nothing more pleasing than getting your topic approved once and even with good comments too. It could be frustrating if none of your topics fail to get approval on three or more occasions, so do your research properly.

2) Sourcing for materials: after your topic has been approved, the next thing for you is to research on the topic properly. In this era of technological advancement, if you know how to use Facebook, twitter, instagram and so on, definitely you would know how to download PDFs, DOC and PPT files from the internet. However, the internet is not your only source of information, you can consult the library for books, journals or other materials. The only problem is that, if you are presenting on a topic that involves statistical data, you would want to supply data that is most recent. Although, textbooks or materials from the library can still help widen the scope of your knowledge.

3) Interaction with supervisor: to some people, this is not an important factor but take it from me, I would say have a solid rapport  with your supervisor. The reason is very simple. They know most of these things and they are in the best position to give you advice based on their experience. Remember, many have passed through that route, so they know better. Take for instance, I believed in story telling which was becoming apparent in my powerpoint presentation but my supervisor looked at it and said, "you don't need all these, just make it simple". Let me point out that your attitude to work would really determine your level of interaction. Combining lectures with supervisions, research amidst others could make them very busy, so don't get frustrated when you are told to come back several times. You know what you are looking for, so just keep going till you get it.

4) Concise powerpoint slides: now that you have all your materials ready and also having good conversations with your supervisor. It's time to prepare your slides for the presentation. There are different ways of preparing your powerpoint slides, you can prepare your report from materials sourced from the internet or other sources and harness your points for the slides from the report or harness the points directly from the materials and prepare the report later. For me, the first option is a better one because it would save you from unnecessary stress later. When your slides are ready, you could have 30 or more slides but that is not a problem. What you need to do is to sit and remove what is not needed. You can reduce it to between 15 and 18 slides. I have witnessed presentations of 11 slides and that of up to 30 slides. Time is a crucial factor. You could be given between 10 and 15 minutes. You would not want to load yourself with numerous slides. Let me say this, the time given to you is not the time to display your grammatical prowess. Nobody is interested in listening to long words that have just been added to the dictionary. Just teach, impart and leave. If you want to add a little bit of humour, that is fine but be snappy with it and get back to business. Remember, you are only doing that to ease off boredom from the audience and not trying to kick start a comedy show. Your powerpoints should have a clear and not a dull background. Your abstract is a summary of your work from beginning to the end. It should not be too lengthy, usually between 200 and 350 words, depending on the departmental format. Make sure you justify your abstract and maintain a font size of 12, Times New Roman and 1.5 line spacing. Your conclusion should be short and simple. Infact, a conclusion of 5 lines would do. Reference is a top priority. Usually, there are several standards for referencing a work; APA, MLA, ISO, Chicago and so on. Your choice of reference style would be based on the departmental format. So obtain a departmental format before you proceed. Reference correctly and be consistent. It is an academic offence  to have a poorly referenced work. Also your in-text reference must all be cited in the bibliography.

5) Confidence level: Be as confident as possible. Be very knowledgeable on the topic. Do your research properly by reading wide. Questions from the audience or lecturers could come from anywhere, although most questions would focus on your presentation. Be well prepared. The issue of being confident to face a crowd could sometimes be a difficult thing. But you have to get over it. You could be a shy type of person or have the fear of public. They could easily be overcomed after a long habit of presenting to a large crowd. However, extreme cases may involve the help of a psychologist or counsellor. Practice before the presentation day, present aloud to yourself and to your friends. Let them access you. Know your mistakes, correct them and proceed to the big event. While presenting, carry your audience along. Do not stand still, looking at the slides. Do not back the audience. Make yourself flexible and relaxed. Make use of gestures and point to the slides. Illustrate your diagrams, tables and graphs properly.

I have been able to highlight few points above. In addition, your dress code and your language is very important. Dress decently and avoid the use of slangs or informal words. A suit would be best but not a must that you is also good. Do not sag or wear baggy or oversized wears. Be warned! Also note that your overall seminar is into two parts; your presentation and your report. You would be graded while presenting and when you have finally submitted the reports. An average score would be calculated to determine your score in percentage. I wish you all the best.

If you are an undergraduate or a postgraduate who had delivered a seminar before, please share your experience with us below. We would also welcome opinions on what we may have left behind.

Thursday, 10 April 2014


Maize (Zea mays) is a cereal of the family Poaceae (Graminae) and also one of the main staple foods of people living in many countries of the world (Komolafe et al., 1979). Maize originated from South America (Mexico) and it is grown in wide range of environmental conditions due to its adoptability. This constrains cause considerable yield reduction. Among different biotic factors, insect pests and diseases play a vital role in affecting the productivity.

Maize is currently the most important cereal grown in the world ahead of Rice and wheat (FAO, 2010) and is particularly important in Nigeria for human and livestock consumption. The value of this crop to man is however reduced by field and storage pest attack. Bacteria and fungi as well as other microbes are known to cause infections in the field. Fungi are particularly important in storage. They rank second as the cause of post-harvest deterioration and loss of maize (Ominski et al., 1994) and could cause about 50-80% of damage on farmers maize during the storage period under favourable conditions (Kossou and Aho, 1993).


Soils contain diverse communities of microscopic organisms that are capable of damaging plants. A detrimental interaction between a soil organism and a plant is often highly specific (Smith et al., 2008). For example, a fungus that causes root-rot of wheat may have no effect on the roots of another plant growing in the same soil. Highly specialized interactions between soil organisms and plants can kill seedlings and even adult trees. Many organisms target younger plants but others appear as problems at later stages in the life of the plant. Other pathogens are able to cause disease in many different plant species. The soil organisms that have the potential to be plant pathogens include fungi, bacteria, viruses, nematodes and protozoa. Some pathogens of the above ground parts of plants (leaves, stems) survive in the soil at various stages in their life cycles (Carpenter-Boggs et al., 2000). Therefore, a soil phase of a plant pathogen may be important, even if the organism does not infect roots.

Nature of diseases caused by soil borne plant pathogens

Disease caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi

Phytophthora cinnamomi causes a serious disease that threatens forests and other ecosystems especially in south-eastern and south-western Australia (Shea et al. 1984). Hundreds of different plant species are killed by this introduced pathogen. Vehicles are often responsible for the widespread distribution of the pathogen by disturbing and transporting infected soil. There is no simple solution to Phytophthora disease in the forest. Quarantine methods have been introduced to limit the spread of the fungus and cleaning of vehicles is mandatory.

Take-all Disease of Wheat

Take-all disease is caused by the fungus Gaeumannomyces graminis var. tritici (Cook, 2003). This pathogen infects the vascular tissue of wheat roots and restricts the transport of water and nutrients within the plant. Severely infected plants have stunted root systems. In addition to root rot, a severe symptom is ‘white heads’ which occurs if plants survive seedling damage and grow to maturity. Such plants form seed heads with poor grain development that are characteristically white. The fungus survives in the soil on decaying plant material and relies on this material as a carbon source to sustain it until it is able to infect new roots in the following wheat crop or alternate hosts.

Crown Gall

Crown gall occurs on many genera of plants and is characterised by the formation of root tumours caused by the bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens. The bacteria infect the root and induce plant cells to divide; a tumour-like swelling is formed that contains infected cells around its outer surface. Bacterial DNA is transferred to the host plant (Viss et al., 2003).

Root Knot Nematode Disease

Root knot nematodes cause disease on hundreds of plant species, especially horticultural species, in warmer climatic zones (Trudgill and Blok, 2001). Species of nematodes in the genus Meloidogone induce the formation of numerous galls throughout the root system. The damaged roots also have malfunctioning root tips which reduce root growth, resulting in considerable yield losses.

Root rots

These diseases are caused by a diverse group of fungi and related organisms. The most important genera include Pythium and Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, Cylindrocladium and Armillaria. These diseases are characterised by a decay of the true root system; some pathogens are generally confined to the juvenile roots while others are capable of attacking older parts of the root system. Symptoms that are observable include wilting, leaf death and leaf fall, death of branches and limbs and in severe cases death of the whole plant.


The word smut means a sooty or charcoal-like powder. The affected parts of the plant show a black or purplish-black dusty mass. These symptoms usually appear on floral organs, particularly the ovary but they can also be found on stems, leaves and roots.

Wilt diseases

The main species of fungi that cause these diseases are Fusarium oxysporum and Verticillium spp. The symptoms of these diseases include wilting of the foliage and internal necrosis of the vascular tissue in the stem of the plant. Some species of bacteria can also cause similar types of diseases.

Seedling blights and damping-off diseases

Various common names are used for diseases of seedlings such as seedling blight and damping-off. The fungi that commonly cause seedling death include Pythium, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, Sclerotium rolfsii and less commonly Fusarium spp. These fungi can infect the seedling during the germination, pre-emergence or post-emergence phases of seedling establishment. Environmental factors which inhibit germination and emergence usually increase disease severity. Thus cold conditions, dry or very wet soils or a hard soil surface commonly lead to increased seedling disease. In northern Vietnam, Pythium, Rhizoctonia and Sclerotium rolfsii are commonly associated with seedling death of vegetables such as beans, cabbages and other cruciferous crops, cucurbits and tomato (Viss et al., 2003).


Soil borne fungal pathogens are causal agents of legume diseases of increasing economic importance such as root rots, seedling damping-off and vascular wilts. In comparison to plant responses to foliar pathogens relatively little is known about responses to root infecting pathogens, primarily due to the difficulty in observing the early stages of the interaction and attaining synchronous infection for gene expression studies. Often soil borne fungal pathogens work in disease complexes resulting in plants being infected by multiple pathogens at once. In order to study legume defenses against these pathogens, inoculation systems have been developed to enable efficient infection by individual fungi.

Soil-borne fungal pathogens cause serious crop losses in both tropical and temperate regions, with each climatic zone tending to favor a different suite of species. The fungi can build up in the soil slowly and insidiously over many years. Diagnosing soil-borne pathogens, identifying them to species level, and testing for pathogenicity is generally much harder than for fungi causing leaf infections. Soil-borne fungal infection may cause very general symptoms to the parts of the plant above ground - such as reduced yield, wilting or leaf fall - which may not be obvious to inexperienced observers as signs of infection. Fungi are common in soil, in air (mainly as spores) and on plant surfaces throughout the world in arid, tropical, temperate and alpine regions. The diseases that are caused by fungal pathogens which persist (survive) in the soil matrix and in residues on the soil surface are defined as ‘soil-borne diseases’. Thus the soil is a reservoir of inoculum of these pathogens, the majority of which are widely distributed in agricultural soils. However, some species show localised distribution patterns. Damage to root and crown tissues is hidden in the soil. Thus these diseases may not be noticed until the above-ground (foliar) parts of the plant are affected severely showing symptoms such as stunting, wilting, chlorosis and death.


Effect of Ustilago maydis on maize: Corn smut (Ustilago maydis) is a pathogenic plant fungus that causes smut disease on maize. The fungus forms galls on all above-ground parts of corn species, and is known in Mexico as huitlacoche; it is eaten, usually as a filling, in quesadillas and other tortilla-based foods, and soups.

Disease Management: The use of high quality seed treated with protectant fungicides may decrease the severity of disease. Self improved modern commercial hybrids and resistant varieties to grow rather than old varieties of maize.

Effect of Gibberella fujikuroi on maize: The occurrence of perithecia belonging to the G. fujikuroi on maize stubble in Northern Vietnam has been recorded. The implications of this discovery relate to potential mycotoxin contamination and the subsequent end-use of maize products. The economic losses for maize from this disease are not known. Mating population A does however produce the mycotoxin fumonisin. Fumonisins have been shown to cause equine leukaencephalomalacia and porcine pulmonary edema and are hepatocarcinogenic in rats. The World Health Organisation (WHO) classifies fumonisins as Class 2B carcinogens. This pathogen is responsible for maize root, stalk and cob rot (Summerell et al., 1998)

Disease management: Select improved hybrids and resistant varieties to grow. It is thought that the stalks sampled were on old varieties of maize rather than the modern commercial hybrids. Balanced soil fertility, avoiding low potassium and high nitrogen also helps prevent disease. A lower planting density is also recommended. Avoid harvesting the corn during wet weather to prevent postharvest rots.

There are numerous soil-borne pathogenic fungi of maize not mentioned here. It has been found that if this infected maize are consumed it could cause liver problems.

Kindly drop your comment below.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014


Herbal medicine is a field that involves the use of various plant species to remedy diseases. Herbal medicine had been an integral part of Nigeria and Africa at large. Our forefathers practiced this branch of medicine and relied so much heavily on it for the treatment of various diseases. As civilization and advancements in technology is increasing day by day, herbal medicine is becoming less popular worldwide. However, some countries like China and India still has a major share of its population rely on herbal medicine. Over the years, these countries, have refined herbal medicine to compete or serve as alternative medicine to the orthodox medicine. In the world today (although still not widely embraced in some countries) herbal medicine is once again fast gaining recognition not just because of rebranding or refining the field, but because of its efficacy now testified to by many in the society.

Nigeria, in its bid to tap into this increasing benefits of herbal medicine is planning to introduce herbal medicine studies in universities. Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, the Minister of Health disclosed this at the 3rd Annual Guest lecture organized by Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria, MHWUN, in Abuja. He said with regards to taking herbal medicine to the universities, a committee has submitted a curriculum which is going to be taken to the National Council on Health, NCH. He made it known that herbal medicine practitioners must be trained. They must know about diagnosis which is the first function of a doctor and this cannot be done unless they learn those sciences that will enable them get the results- physiology, pharmacology, pathology, anatomy, biochemistry and all others. He said if these are not learnt, herbal practitioners will not know anything about the human body.

The minister also disclosed that hopefully, once the NCH approves the curriculum, it is possible that by next year, in Joint Admission Matriculation Examination, JAMB, some people could be making herbal medicine their choice. This move by many is seen as a welcome one. If you ask me I would say it is a welcome idea too. What’s your opinion?

Monday, 7 April 2014


This article discusses the concept of social exclusion with an eye to assessing its utility in the study of the ethics of science inequality in the modern nation state. A brief review of the literature and some methodological discussion are offered. The article then examines ethical-based social exclusion in the world at large; showing bow race and ethnicity can inhibit the full participation of individuals in a society’s scientific life.
Use of the term social exclusion arose in Europe in the wake of prolonged and large scale unemployment that provoked criticisms of welfare systems for failing to prevent poverty and for hindering economic development. The economic restructuring in Nigeria and other African countries has given rise to such terms as social exclusion. Social exclusion theorists are concerned with the dissolution of social bonds, the incomplete extension of social rights and protections to all groups, and the links between the idea of exclusion and more conventional understandings of inequality. They draw on theories of poverty, inequality, and disadvantage. In this context policies to aid the excluded have focused on subsidizing jobs and wages, providing housing, and responding to urbanization. The concept of social exclusion has encouraged scholars to consider simultaneously the economic, social, and political dimensions of deprivation. (The International Institute for Labour Studies has played a key role in introducing the idea of social exclusion into the developing country debate.) Properly done, such diffusion should attend closely to the context-dependent definitions and meanings involved with an idea like ethics of science.
The ethical standard of the disciplines of sciences guide the actions of the scientists. Scientists view their observations and conclusions another approximation of what we commonly call truth; however, they see truth in the absolute sense to be impossible, because human sense differ from person to person due to wide variations in personal chemistry, deficiencies, inherited flaws etc. The papers in the volume look at both conceptual and empirical issues, covering such topics as social change in Africa, the exclusion of poor and indigenous peoples, and patterns of inequality in world. The proceedings of a 1996 World Bank conference on development in Latin America and the Caribbean focus on poverty, inequality, and social exclusion in the region. Topics include rural poverty, the conditions of poor children, labor reform and job creation, the uneven coverage of social services, urban violence and the role of social capital, and the impoverishment of indigenous peoples.
Many approaches have been offered to mitigate social exclusion. Those that draw on the science of ethics, however, have some shortcomings worth noting. Acknowledging these shortcomings is not to dismiss the ethical science as being irrelevant to the problem. Rather, it is a way of urging some caution and humility among scientist as we apply our analytical tools to the profound moral and political problems raised by this phenomenon. Here I suggest some reasons for proceeding cautiously, by reflecting on factors that may limit the successful application of scientific ideas in liberating extended practices of social exclusion.