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We have decided to ask you to put up a poster during the Nano Convocation luncheon in Baum Atrium, Thursday, August 11th (here). The poster panels will be up by 10:30 a.m., so you are welcome to put your poster up during the break if you want. Otherwise, it’ll only take a moment to put them up once we go to the atrium for lunch. As noted elsewhere, we ask that you take your poster home with you and post it somewhere around your school! And if you can, come back and present it at our annual meeting on Thursday, September 15th.

IMPORTANT #1: Your poster must be approved by your principal investigator for display at the CNF & PARADIM REU Nano Convocation. (And as a follow up, be sure to contact your PI and get permission EVERY time you show your poster anywhere else.)

IMPORTANT #2: Your poster may be up to FORTY-ONE INCHES wide and up to four feet tall.

IMPORTANT #3: You may print your poster for free using the CNF’s big plot printer. You MUST contact Karlis Musa so that he can help you print. Plan to print sometime on Wednesday at the latest, and get on Karlis’ schedule so you are NOT all trying to print at once at midnight….

IMPORTANT #4: See CNF & PARADIM REU Poster Advice from Dr. Lynn Rathbun below!



1. Your poster must include the CNF or PARADIM and NSF logos. (Melanie-Claire can email these to you if you don't have them already.)

2. Put your title at the top of the poster in large (at least 1" high) letters. Putting the title at the top means people walking by will be able to see what your research is about even if you are already talking to someone else. (In other words, your body won't block people's view of your title...)

3. Prepare the poster so that an informed viewer can understand what your research is about without talking to you. This is important because you can only talk to a few people at a time and others may be evaluating you from afar to figure out whether or not to come closer.

(BTW, we know all of the above sounds really obvious, but frankly, you'd be amazed at some of the posters we've seen over the years..... ;  )

CNF & PARADIM REU Poster Advice from Dr. Lynn Rathbun

Dear REU folks:

I know you are all in the midst of preparing for the convocation and preparing your final report. Melanie-Claire asked me to share a bit about making posters. This is another good skill you need to learn. Some of you may have experience, but there is always more to learn.

Basically, an effective poster has to have both good content and good graphic presentation. Poor graphics can obscure the good content. Good graphics can't overcome bad content, and good content cannot, by itself, make up for bad design. While nobody expects you to be a graphic artist, there are certain basic things you need to know that will help a lot. Including:

  • Use visual clues for organization, i.e. text boxes, titles, etc. Good orderliness is important.

  • Stick to a grid -- at least a column grid.

  • ALL CAPITALS IS A VERY BAD IDEA. That is why they invented bold.

  • White space (blank space) is your friend. Do not fill every square inch with text or pictures. It is the sign of an amateur. White space can be an organizing tool just as well as real structure.

  • Text over a patterned background is very difficult to read. Text over a dark background may be difficult to read, takes a lot of ink, dries slowly, and is not a good idea either. There is nothing wrong with a white background.

  • Stick to two fonts, one sans-serif font, typically for titles and sections headings, and one serif font, typically for text blocks.

  • And stick to a basic color scheme. There are web sites that will help you pick a harmonious color scheme. A bunch of bright red and blue text or titles however just looks garish. Gratuitous changes in font size or font styles are also very distracting. And for heavens sake, no funky fonts!

• And just because you can center justify text does not make it a good idea. It is difficult to read.

Titles OK, but not block text.
  • Similarly fully justified text (left and right margins) is bad.

  • Bad design can make the scientific context difficult to find or grasp. Ultimately, however, a poster is about science. Scientifically, you need the right amount of information....not too much, not too little. A poster has more information than just the PowerPoint bullets from an equivalent talk, but less information than a full paper. At a technical conference, you might want a lot of detail, it varies, but for the REU convocation, you want it to be fairly light....informative about the general area and results but skip the details. Most people err on the side of too much information on a poster. Keep the type big, and the sentences and paragraphs short. And use clearly labeled sections to guide the viewer.

I found a quote somewhere on the web a while back......

One person recently commented to me, "Often times, I look at a poster for five minutes and am unsure of the important points, but when I hear just a few minutes from the scientist I find the work so much easier to understand."

If this is the case for your poster, your poster is a failure (ouch!). You have to guide a reader and basically tell them what you would tell them if you were standing there conversing with them (keep in mind, you may not always be at your poster). Nobody should walk away from your poster unsure about what you have done or accomplished. Similarly, if it takes them more than 30 seconds to get the main point, it isn't going to happen. Actually, in most cases a visitor will decide within 10 seconds whether to stop and read or just move on. So you have two problems, 1) getting them to stop and read/peruse and 2) engaging them to stay longer than 30 seconds. Good design can overcome these problems whereas bad design exacerbates them. Spell it out for them. Notice I did not say SPELL IT OUT FOR THEM (all caps…).

There are a lot of web sites that talk about making posters and presentations. While they may vary on details they generally agree that graphics are important and less test is better.


Whether here or at your school, scientific posters sessions can be a zoo, and can seem to be unproductive. A lot of people will walk past and only a few will stop. Don't be discouraged. Try to engage them and be satisfied with a few constructive conversations.

Good luck,

Dr. Lynn Rathbun
(607) 254-4872

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