Presenting your research during a poster session at a major scientific conference is one of the best ways that you, as a student, can draw attention to your work and get feedback from experts in your field. Travel funding restrictions and scheduling conflicts can be daunting obstacles, but fortunately, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) offers another way to get your research out there.
The Virtual Poster Showcase (VPS) program is a unique online presentation opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students. By participating in VPS, students can easily take their research experience to the next level. The showcase features an easy-to-use interface to guide students through the preparation, presentation, and review process:
- writing and submitting an abstract
- preparing a poster and accompanying video presentation
- evaluating the work of peers and receiving and responding to feedback on their own posters
- receiving recognition for their participation
The universality of the showcases lets students gain recognition for their research beyond the classroom on a larger scale, where they can engage with peers from other institutions and countries. Students are guided through the essential peer review process, during which they learn to evaluate each other’s research.
After convening two proof-of-concept showcases in 2013 and 2014 and a pilot in 2015, AGU executed three separate events in 2016. The first and second events brought together undergraduate participants from the United States as well as from other nations. The third event brought together graduate student participants, mostly from outside of the United States.
During these events, students submitted abstracts and posters with accompanying videos in which they explained their posters, much as they would during an in-person conference. Peer and expert reviewers submitted comments and questions using a chat function, and the presenters responded when they were ready with their answers.
Highlights from the 2016 Showcases
During the three VPS events in 2016, 118 students from 17 different countries presented posters. Posters receiving top awards from showcase judges covered a wide range of topics: meteorological modeling, cesium bioaccumulation in fish, and assessing continental rifting in Madagascar, to name a few.
AGU, the Geological Society of America, the Council on Undergraduate Research, and the American Geosciences Institute sponsored the spring multisociety undergraduate showcase. AGU sponsored the fall undergraduate student showcase and the fall graduate student showcase.
Here’s a listing of the awardees of each showcase and the titles of their posters. You can see their posters and videos at the link for each showcase.
First Prize: Trista McKenzie, a senior at the University of Hawai‘i, for “Quantifying Atmospheric Fallout of Fukushima-Derived Radioactive Isotopes in the Hawaiian Islands”
- Second Prize: Stephanie Gardiner, a sophomore from Westminster College in Utah, for “New 40Ar/39Ar Sanidine Dates for the Green Canyon Flow, Yellowstone Volcanic Field, and Implications for a Revised Volcanic Stratigraphy”
- Third Prize: Timothy Chui, a senior from the University of British Columbia, Canada, for “On the Use of Multiple Planetary Boundary Layer Parameterization Schemes for Forecasting Temperature and Precipitation in Complex Terrain”
- First Prize: Stephanie Schneider, a senior from the University of Alberta, Canada, for “The Photoreactivity of Atmospheric Dust: Quantifying Hydroxyl Radical Production Using Molecular Probes”
- Second Prize: Rushana Karimova, from Jacobs University Bremen, Germany, for “Characterization of Surface Roughness of ASGUARD Rover Test Terrains and Correlation with Mobility on the Vulcano Island Planetary Analogue ROBEX Site (Italy)”
- Third Prize: Kimberly Diep, a junior from Western Washington University, for “How Do Temperature and CO2 Affect the Anemone Anthopleura elegantissima and Its Green Symbiont Elliptochloris marina?”
- First Prize: Leo Lemordant, a Ph.D. candidate from Columbia University, New York, for “Modification of Land-Atmosphere Interactions by CO2 Effects: Implications for Summer Dryness and Heatwave Amplitude”
- Second Prize: Amanda Gerotto, a master’s student from the Federal University of Paraná, Brazil, for “The South China Sea Mixed Layer Depth Changes in Response to the East Asian Monsoon Since the Last Glacial Maximum: A Planktonic Foraminifera Based Reconstruction”
- Third Prize: Samuele Papeschi, a Ph.D. candidate from the University of Pisa, Italy, for “Ductile to Brittle Shear Localization in the Upper Crust During Thermal Anomaly: The Calamita Complex (Elba Island, Italy)”
Feedback from VPS Participants
Students, faculty mentors whose students participated in VPS, and scientists and faculty who participated as judges provided feedback and suggestions for improvement. One faculty mentor commented that “I had a student participate this round, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but the experience surpassed my expectations! My student received a quality experience that I think met or perhaps surpassed what she would have gotten presenting at a meeting. We had a great experience, and I hope to have students in the future who will be able to participate as well!”
A scientist who participated as an expert judge noted that she “was very impressed with the detailed responses students were able to provide” to her questions and the questions of the other professionals during the showcase.
Students provided insight into their own experiences as well. One student felt that “for my first major multi-collegiate poster conference, I feel that the online nature actually helped allay some of my nerves a bit for participating, and that there was no difficulty for me participating with my mentor at another campus—having another person help me record the video was the only time I felt I needed someone in the room to work with.”
Another student commented, “I especially liked that fellow students reviewed posters, as that gave me experience in critically thinking about the research other students were doing as well as my own.”
One scientist provided valuable feedback on the judging process, which resulted in clarifying many aspects of the rubric used in the peer review process. Another expert judge is helping to create a judging guideline document for future VPS showcases.
We are grateful not only to all the students who participated in the 2016 showcases but also to the 109 faculty and scientists who responded to our call to serve as expert judges in the showcases.
The spring 2017 showcase is now open, and we are accepting abstracts until 13 March. We invite undergraduate and graduate students to participate. Another showcase is scheduled for this fall, and we will begin to accept abstracts in the summer.
Poster presenters, judges, and faculty mentors: We invite you to get involved in VPS and follow us on Twitter at #VirtualPoster.
—Pranoti M. Asher (email: [email protected]), Manager, Education and Public Outreach, AGU; and Tyjen Conley, Marketing Program Manager, AGU