Thursday, August 4, 2016

So You Think You Can Research: Undergraduate Conference Posters 101

This post is contributed by Brittney Cooper and Rachel Modestino, two of our summer undergraduates working under the LURA and RAY programs here at York. Part of their summer research experience is to present their work at our in-house conference to take place next week in the Bergeron Center (above)!

By Brittney Cooper and Rachel Modestino

So You Think You Can Research?

For two undergraduates working within the lab, the answer to that question is a firm “yes”, or at least “we’re trying”.

Next week the Lassonde School of Engineering is hosting York’s first-ever undergraduate research conference, and it will include work from students participating in summer research not only within Lassonde, but also the faculties of Science, Health and the Schulich School of Business.

It’s going to be a one-day event with over 60 presenters giving talks and showing posters to judges, peers, and faculty alike.

With just under a week to go, the mad-dash to not only begin, but also complete our posters is underway. For one of us, this will be her first poster, and for the other it will be her third. We thought it’d be interesting to see how our thoughts on the matter differed (if at all), leading up to the event.


“This will be my third poster for a conference, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to utilize some of the beautiful images captured by the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) that I’ve been working on, for more aesthetic purposes. It’s something that is always hard to get started on, but once I get into it, the momentum allows it to become easier to progress. I really enjoy the opportunity to get to create a poster for a conference because it’s a chance to integrate my love of graphic design with science, and brush up on producing some good looking plots through MATLAB.

There really is a great deal of freedom in choosing what to include in terms of content, layout, figures, sections, etc. There are a few generalizations that carry over most posters I’ve observed, and I’ve noticed that other groups stick to a somewhat stricter layout with a greater focus on text, and less on visuals.

One thing I’ve appreciated is that within our lab we have posters covering the walls from not only John, but grad students, undergrads and post-docs. Aside from adding to the overall ambiance, I think it’s been helpful to see the ways in which members of the lab have chosen to represent their work previously. I’ve been inspired by the use of spacecraft images to create stunning backgrounds that pull the viewer in, and the way the content layout has been organized to emphasize and honor that focal point. If nothing else, it’s a great reminder of all the cool work we do here.”

This is Rachel’s first poster for a conference, and she seems pretty excited, but also a little daunted by it.

“I am a very visual person to begin with, so making a poster that is organized and appealing to an audience is a breeze for me; I’m really looking forward to this part. But the hardest challenge is where to start, to be able to present my content in the best way possible for my audience, and also knowing my content fluently. My current research is fairly new, since I only transitioned to this project this summer. I work with the DSCOVR spacecraft, specifically utilizing the EPIC imager photographs of Earth. Fortunately I have some amazing photographs of Earth in a new perspective that may draw the audience in. I also plan to use a lot of colour on my Mat-Lab plots, and using the ones that I understand fully; that will save me from being nervous with my content.
This research fair is a great way to start getting more comfortable with presenting scientific research. I find myself very overwhelmed at times, however we have a great group of researchers in the lab with a lot of experience with scientific poster presentations, and they always offer help! My group’s previous posters are all hung up on the walls of the lab, providing examples for me to view as well as encouragement; soon mine will be up there, and I would have made a positive contribution for my research group!
Leaving enough time to organize myself, my data, my poster and my presentation is key. Nerves and excitement is the name of the game, especially because the presentations are in the next couple of days. Once everything comes together and the first set of judges come by my station that day, I will be so excited to explain and show off my poster that the nerves wont even get to me. Happens every presentation so far for me. But if all else fails, I hear you can just picture them in their underwear, right?”

For more information on the event, including abstracts and presenter bios, visit:

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