written by christopher wang (peace advisor)
After you have the basics of your poster, you want to write an abstract. An abstract can be thought of the relevance of your experiment to a specific goal. Say you want to study the CRISPR/Cas9 system, an abstract would cover what it is, what it’s currently used for, what it can be used for in the future with regard to your field, and the steps you took to acquire data. The abstract can be a page a length; too long and it muddles the message, too short and it doesn’t provide enough information. That is not to say that length in particular should be absolute, rather it provides an easy standard for how wordy it should be.
The middle section of your poster should be allocated to your methods and results. In your methods section, be sure to note cell lines or strains, plasmids, basically anything that is a variable. Establish your control and how you modified your starting product. It would be a good idea to include visuals, such as pictures if you are using light microscopy or diagrams if you microinjected substances. It varies from project to project, but a general rule of thumb is to list the steps you took as you would describe them to someone who is new in your lab. The methods section should be relatively straightforward as it does not include any discussion of the results.
Finally, there is the results section of the poster. I like to have half of the middle column for methods and half for results, and half of the right column for results as well. The results section is the most important part because it is where you are disseminating your information into a hypothesis that can be applied to your whole project. It’s good to split this section into subcategories for easier writing. For example, you can have a summary, a discussion, and a future directions section if your project is not complete. For these sections, include graphs or statistics of your data and propose a hypothesis about it. Write as if you are trying to substantiate it with the data that you have collected. Use the discussion section to elaborate more on your project, such as if other factors were taken into account, or what other possibilities the results could postulate. Finally, in your future directions, you can say that you hope to see your experiment being applied in the field in a certain way, and that additional work will be done to find associations or mechanisms between X and Y. Again, this is if you plan to put one in.
A poster presentation is a lot of work and involves an in depth understanding of what you are going to present. It wouldn’t look very good if you wanted to do one just to say you did it, and when a departmental chair comes down and questions you, you can’t answer any of the questions. Make your presentation about your research, but also make it to your level of understanding. You did the project, not Albert Einstein or Charles Townes, no one will judge you to their standards. The best you can do is to create interest and pique curiosities, and understand you are contributing to the world of science and academia by putting yourself on the spot. Every paper has a beginning.