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The Art and Craft of the SURF Poster - SURF Symposium

I. Starting Out
II. Type Size
III. Audience
IV. Title
V. Authors
VI. Organization
VII. Wording

PLAN AHEAD! Advice from previous SURFers: “It takes longer than you think!” First write out the text you think you need, then think of ways to condense it by making the text more concise and/or substituting images for text. It should be possible to read your poster in 5 minutes. Sketch out your design for the poster before pasting anything up. Consult with your mentor and lab partners, but make sure they understand that most of the readers will be beginner scientists.

After the brief talks about selected projects from the SURF program from 11-12pm, the poster session will be held from 12- 2pm. SURF particpants are expected to stand next to your poster from 12-2pm.

STARTING OUT:
Use a black tri-fold display board (36" high x 48” wide, when it’s open. Folds up to 36 x 24). Ivy League Stationers (Broadway at 116th, right near Ollie’s) has them.

Print text on white paper and then affix to a slightly larger piece of colored paper. Next, attach the paper to the tri-fold board with a glue stick, double stick tape, or spray adhesive. Some people write the text on powerpoint and then print that. Don’t make one of those huge powerpoint posters! They’re too heavy and will cause the poster board to fall over.

TYPE SIZE:
People stand a few feet away from poster, so type must be 24 points or larger. Use a font size that gets you a printed version of the sizes indicated below. If you include something that is already printed (published picture or graph) you can enlarge it on a copy machine to make it legible from a distance. Sans serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica are best. Make sure to leave about 20% empty space on the entire poster to make it easier to read.

TITLE 100 pt
Name, Lab 60
Subheadings
48 pt
Text of the poster 24 pt

2 mm wide (line on graphs should be thick)

Suggested format, from Attending Professional Meetings Successfully, Fischer & Zigmond, 1999
http://www.edc.gsph.pitt.edu/survival/attmtg.pdf

AUDIENCE:
Please aim the poster to the layman who possesses little knowledge of biology. Most of your audience at the SURF Symposium will be undergraduates. Many of them are half way through introductory biology. Your work this summer has taught you an enormous amount about a specific topic in biology. Your audience does not know the information that you have aquired this summer. Make things as simple as possible. If they have questions about the specifics they will ask.

TITLE:
The title should attract people to your poster, not intimidate them. Therefore, write it like a newspaper headline.
Title summarizes results of the study
Adult female hip bone density reflects teenage sports-exercise patterns but not teenage calcium intake
Use: "Bone strength linked to exercise"

Title describes the general area of research
Regulation of absorption and ABC1-mediated efflux of cholesterol by RXR heterodimers
Use: "Possible new way to lower cholesterol"

Title in the form of a question
Impact of group psychological interventions on pregnancy rates in infertile women
Use: "Does stress hurt fertility?"

AUTHORS:
Goes after the title. Your name first, followed by the postdoc or graduate student who directed you, and finally the head of the lab. You must ask all of them before including them as "author" of the poster. After the authors, mention the department where you worked and the source of the money that supported you.

ORGANIZATION:
Use as little text as possible. Tell a single cohesive story, not necessarily everything you did. Emphasize graphics.

WORDING:
Emulate Ernest Hemingway, known for his succinct prose. He once boasted that he could write an entire short story in just six words, and then sat down and did it: "For sale. Baby shoes. Never used." Write simply and directly. Write a first version of the text, then edit it to omit all of the unnecessary words. Then edit it again. Include just the highlights. Bring your research paper to the poster session if you think you’ll need to look up details. Most visitors are first and second year undergrads that will spend only a few minutes at your poster. Make sure that they can grasp the main idea quickly.

 More Suggestions:
1. Make use of appropriate spacing, underlining, italics, bold, and indenting to avoid the boring appearance of lots of text.
2. Express information in telegraphic, outline form, to avoid long passages of text:
Instead of: ATM has been determined to function as a tumor suppressor. It plays a role in the apoptotic mechanism of the cell. Other studies have examined the gene ATM and determined that it plays a role in a certain type of cancer. This cancer leads to a degeneration of the cerebellum, and thus a loss of fine motor coordination. Can be written telegraphically:
The ATM gene plays a role in

  • tumor suppression
  • apoptosis
  • cancer of the cerebellum

3. See the tutorial on poster-making at http://www.biology.lsa.umich.edu/research/labs/ktosney/file/PostersHome.html