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VUMIE: Creating Scientific Posters

Scientific publications tell a story:  what was known prior to the work, how the work was done, what results were obtained, and what those results mean.  All parts of this sequence are included in scientific posters, making a brief yet rich presentation of the experiments done and their signficance to science.

One of the most popular and student-friendly methods for conveying scientific information at a scientific meeting is by presenting a research poster.  These posters are reports on a study, explaining why a project was undertaken, how the work was done, what was found, and what it means.  They are popular because a maximum of information can be presented in a space of about 3 ft x 4 ft, and because they allow for casual interaction between researcher and audience over an extended period of time.  This eliminates limitations like those encountered in a twelve minute oral presentation or the accessibility issues one might find when searching research journals for papers.


At our school, research posters often take the place of conventional lab reports as the means by which students submit the results of work done in the lab.  The process is relatively simple and provides a degree of creative input for students as they report on their lab work.

Micro Digital Mediatm (the VUMIEtm 2012 lab manual) contains an exercise that walks students through the process of creating a scientific poster.  The lab manual is available free of charge here.  Also available at that link is a full-size version of the sample scientific poster displayed above and described in  MDM Exercise 30, and a blank PowerPoint(R) template for students to use in creating their own posters.

For this activity, you will use your skills to create a scientific poster for communicating information obtained this semester in a VUMIEtm 2012 exercise.  Here are some particulars:

1. Your instructor will assign a VUMIEtm 2012 activity for you or your lab group to complete.  We recommend use of Exercises 21-29 for this activity.  Take note of the Case Study and work to identify the microbe.  Alternately, if your instructor is using the Admin Console, s/he may create special unknowns for your lab group or class with a uniquely assigned bacterium and specific case study for each student or lab group.

2. Use the skills obtained in the Scavenger Hunt to find more information for your poster - information discovered by others prior to the work you are reporting. We suggest you find at least one article discussing the disease described in the Case Study, and at least one article discussing the microbe you identified as it relates to the Case Study.  These will be useful in creating your poster.

3. Use the MDM Exercise 30 on creating scientific posters to guide you through the process of creating your scientific poster.  

  • The Case Study will be central to the Introduction (and probably Methods) on your poster.  
  • The steps taken to ID the microbe will be central to the Methods and Results sections.  
  • The Scavenger Hunt results will be helpful for your Discussion/Conclusions section and may also help set the stage for the study by contributing to the Introduction.

4. Science is not done in a vacuum.  Consult your instructor to receive guidance and recommendations on the literature search you conduct.  Submit a rough draft of your poster for comments and critique so changes and corrections can be made prior to final approval.  Ask for feedback on the clarity of your writing.  We tell our students that the fatal flaw in posters is expecting it to be perfect the first time the instructor sees it.  Work together to improve its look, feel, content, and impact.  And remember that there is a unique format used for citing your science literature.  Your instructor will inform you of the standard format to be used for your Literature Cited section.  One suggestion would be to use the guidelines for the Journal of Bacteriology.  An online e-booklet on the topic is found at this link:  http://journalitas.asm.org/t/49543

5. To give your poster the legitimate feel of work done for a scientific meeting, ask your instructor for help in finding graphics for your department and/or college so that the final product has a polished appearance and proudly represents work done at your institution.  

6.  Your instructor may ask you to email a pdf version of your poster.  Or, if your school has an oversized printer or plotter, posters can be printed out full-size for display around your campus. The dimensions chosen for the default poster are 28"x42", since the plotter on our campus uses a 42" wide paper roll.  However, your instructor may want you to submit a smaller poster for grading.  For a fully-legible and smaller printout, try using legal size paper (8.5"x14") in a standard printer and "print to fit".  You will be surprised at the quality of your finished poster!

7.  Your class may wish to hold its own "poster session" by displaying posters and inviting faculty and students to visit and discuss the posters with the authors.