Yesterday was the spring poster session by Wash U undergrads. There were about 180 posters. Apparently they were organized according to submission date, so literature could be next to physics or biology. At first that baffled me, but then I realized I loved it. I confess as often as not I skipped the science ones, for the social science and humanities posters seemed both more entertaining and accessible.
Isn’t it a shame that so many scientists cannot get past their complex methods to tell an interesting story? I’ll write in more detail about poster design later, but here I’ll just say that this is not the place to put your whole paper. Your information should be in short affirmative statements or numbered points. Your figures should be titled with what they show, not what they are about. The whole poster should have no more than about 500 words on it. I could go on, but you get the point. Clarity and brevity are essential. So is a good story.
The poster session was in the gym, which was good because there was plenty of room between posters. There were lots of people there. It reminded me of the Rice poster session, though that one used to be in a much prettier room, with windows, not a vinyl-covered gym floor with trippy wrinkles.
We had one student in the show, Éamon Callison. I’d asked the others to participate, but apparently not vehemently enough. That will change. Poster sessions are important, because compiling and communicating your research is crucial.
Research is like cooking. You spend all your time following or modifying the recipe and working for the best product over the hot stove. But if you don’t bring it to the table, you might as well have done nothing. A poster session is like Thanksgiving. You need to bring the food to the table at a certain time no matter what. So figure out what your research has shown so far, put it on the poster, make it fun, and bring it forth!