Midday Musing: Power to the Poster


Caption: Photo by Cassandra Jaskiewicz

On Thursday, Feb. 22, Midday Musing presented Power to the Poster as their return discussion for this semester. Four speakers–Dr. Ryan Gray, Liz Sigler, Elana Ricci and Jeanne Pavy–explained funding and research for undergraduate projects and how to present that information in the most efficient, aesthetically pleasing way.

Liz Sigler is Assistant to the Vice President for Research, the Director of Center for Undergraduate Research and an instructor in the biology department. She explained dos and don’ts of securing the funds for undergrad research projects.

“What we are trying to do is promote research in undergraduates and get students started as soon as they get to UNO… (they) need to know it’s out there,” said Sigler.

Privateer Undergraduate Research and Scholarly UNO Experience (PURSUE) is one of the most accessible way to gain funding through the university, a teacher mentor and an award for the project. These research projects essentially can act as paid internships, with the limit that students only dedicate 10 hours per week to their research project.

All students fill out an application form that declares their desired area of study, as well the reasons their research is important.  The PURSUE website provides a list of possible mentors in various department to help undergraduate students who are searching for guidance or have an interest in a specific field.

Students working on research projects are often encouraged to present their information at InnovateUNO.

Dr. Ryan Gray, a mentor for the PURSUE program as well as a teacher at UNO, stepped in to fill in some of the gaps for the research process. Specializing in historical archaeology, he has worked extensively with undergrad and grad students in these programs.

“I have had a student present at InnovateUNO almost every since it started,” Gray said. “This was one of the first years here that I was beginning to have students that did Innovate with me that focused on poster presentations.”

Historical archaeology goes hand-in-hand with poster presentations, Gray said, explaining that data and the resulting information is essential to that area of study.

“There is a discovery process is very visible. There is something to show that people can get into,” Gray said.

Gray then talked about the ways poster making and presenting has changed. The process used to be something very simple and cheap, but now “it is so much easier to make it look better and professional.”  He explained a few different poster formats that can emphasize information and the research findings.

Elena Ricci, a UNO alumna and one of Gray’s former students and InnovateUNO mentees, continued the discussion.

Ricci participated in InnovateUNO two times during her studies at UNO and acquired a lot of experience doing research and presenting publicly. Her goal was to explain how she pakaged her data and research in both oral presentations and posters.

Ricci did her project on POW camps in Louisiana during World War II and explained that inspiration can come from anywhere.“I was listening to the radio program and somebody was discussing the existence of them in Idaho,” she said. “I got curious for about their existence down here, and there were quite a few.

“That’s my first tip–if you do have a research project, that you want to do make sure it is interesting to you,” she said. “[Because] being interested makes it a lot easier.”

However, it is all about making that research into a cohesive presentation. She emphasized the importance of being able to categorize data and know what is and isn’t central to the main point. One of the biggest mistakes a researcher can make on a poster is having an overwhelmingly large amount of text. Ricci’s paragraphs have three sentences each, in an effort to not scare off the reader.

There are simple guidelines to follow when making a poster, Ricci said. There are color schemes to avoid. Larger font sizes must be used to ensure that the poster can be read from more than three feet away. Ricci showed that small things can make a huge difference in the poster’s aesthetic.

Jeanne Pavy, one of the many talented Earl. K. Long Library staff, was the final speaker. She explained some of the easier ways to obtain information for research projects, and she played library website videos that included basic information about poster set-up and options.

Pavy showed that there are many ways to find inspiration for poster presentations, and that the library is there to help. Students can make a very professional poster for InnovateUNO through the library for around $20 dollars.

Students seeking opportunities with undergraduate research and InnovateUNO can check out the website: uno.edu/research/StudentResearch to learn more.