How to Survive Your First Research Poster Presentation
Recently, Eden Michael, my coworker and friend, attended her first ever poster presentation for her FIT graduate research project. I can tell you all from experience, standing in front of a poster for several hours waiting for people to ask you difficult questions is one of the most nerve-wracking and stressful, yet enlightening and helpful experiences you can have as a student scientist.
I bombarded her at lunch one day to answer all of my questions. This Q&A will give insight into what her experience was like going to a different college to present her research to a group of scientists whose field of study is the same as her own— tissue engineering. I hope you enjoy reading through our talk!
Hi Eden, thank you for meeting with me to talk about your experience presenting your first poster at a conference. If you don’t mind, let’s get started with the name and place of the conference.
Sure, it was called Biomaterials Day, at University of Florida in Gainesville, FL.
About how far away is that?
Approximately 3 hours.
So, that’s not long enough to take a plane ride. How did you get there?
My professor and I drove over in his car.
Did you guys practice your poster presentation on the way there?
Yes, a bit, once it was appropriately light out— we left for Gainesville at 5 a.m.
Wow, that’s early! I probably would have been more than half asleep. Can you give me a quick description of what you presented about?
It was about the incorporation of photoCORMs in electrospun scaffolds for vascular applications.
So, in layman’s terms, what does that really mean?
Using carbon monoxide within engineered vascular scaffolds (support) to help cells grow, migrate and proliferate.
Carbon monoxide— isn’t that toxic?
In very small doses, it is not. We can monitor the amount of carbon monoxide that goes to the cells to prevent toxicity.
Very cool. So, were you nervous to talk to everyone? How many people did you have to present to?
Very nervous! Before I presented to the first person, I was very nervous. After the first couple of people came up and I had to run through it a few times, it became much easier.
This brings back crazy memories of school science fair projects. How much did you practice before hand?
I went through it at least 5 whole times the day before with a few people, then once in the morning of with my mentor.
So, how many people do you think you had to present to in total at the conference?
15 people, some people would listen, then bring their friends to come listen, too. Then others would come, read the poster and ask me questions.
That’s really neat! Overall, did you have fun?
Hmm… Yes, it was fun. I would have had more fun if I were more outgoing, but really, it was a good experience.
What would you say you’ve learned from going to this conference and participating in the poster presentation?
I learned a lot about tissue engineering in general. Scientists are taking very different approaches to the topic and it was very interesting to listen to.
Awesome, I’m really glad to hear that. Did you get a chance to look at any other posters?
Yes I did, there was one poster that I really liked that used decellularized scaffolds as a basis for their project—it was an umbilical cord that was decellularized and used to make vascular vessels.
That sounds crazy, but also very interesting. Is there any advice you would give to students who may present a poster as part of their graduate (or undergraduate) program?
There is nothing to be nervous about, it’s good to know what everyone else is doing in your research area. Practice, practice practice! Get ready for any question you think people might ask.
So, there you have it. Thanks to Eden for sharing her story! While presenting your research can be a daunting task, it can also be a great learning experience.