Inside Scoop: Lizzie Thursby chats to the ISF about the IFR Student Science Showcase

SSSYou’ve seen the poster titles. You’ve felt the nervous tension wafting through the corridors. Yes, the IFR Student Science Showcase is fast approaching! Once again, this event promises to be one of the highlights of the academic calendar at IFR. We caught up with Lizzie Thursby – member of the organising committee and previous poster prize-winner – to give us her top tips for the day along with a taster of what we can expect from this year’s event.

You took part in the SSS for the first time last year. Did you enjoy it?

I thought it was a fun day! It is not often you get the chance to present your work to others and I enjoyed the challenge. There’s usually a hint of competition between you and your colleagues as well, which can be a lot of fun!

What did you gain from the experience?

The IFR SSS was the first time that I presented my work to people outside of my specific field of research, and this made me aware of the challenges that arise when you need to interact with an audience of mixed scientific backgrounds. You quickly realise that not everyone has the same level of understanding of your project as the people in your office, which means that you have to think about your work differently in order to make it sound understandable and also interesting to others.

I remember that an older student approached me at last year’s Showcase and said, ‘so, tell me about your poster!’ I was really nervous and my mind just went blank!

But the student was really encouraging and I soon felt more comfortable. I learned from this experience that it’s good to prepare a kind of ‘mental script’ that summarises your work so that you don’t feel so scared when people come to your poster. I think that the Student Science Showcase is a nice platform for learning these skills – you are in an environment where it’s okay to make mistakes.

What can we expect from this year’s Showcase?

We have tried to plan the food around the theme of the keynote talk (given by Professor Ian Rowland from University of Reading). It will be buffet-style with a Mediterranean feel to it. This year, we have managed to obtain a large amount of sponsorship from companies such as Biolabs, Primerdesign and Fisher, in addition to the funding given by the BBSRC, so expect some nice food and generous prizes! The sponsors will be there on the day to give us information about the services they offer, so feel free to have a chat with them.

Speaking of prizes… you won one of the coveted poster prizes last year, well done! Do you have any top tips for designing a winning poster?

Thank you! I would say that having a logical layout is quite important. Include lots of pretty pictures and don’t make it too wordy. Don’t forget an acknowledgements section! One useful tip is to print out a copy of your poster on A4 and try to read it – if you can’t read the writing then it won’t be readable on the real thing either.

And finally, what advice would you give to the current first years who will be taking part for the first time?

Don’t worry about how far you have got in your project or how big/small your results section is. Anyone can present a good poster, even if it only contains background information about your project. Concentrate on enjoying your first experience of presenting a poster and try to speak to as many people as possible. If people are not noticing you, approach them! I wish that I had spoken to more people last year and had not let nerves get in the way. Once you get going, you will feel much more comfortable chatting to people about your work. Enjoy it!

The IFR Student Science Showcase 2014 takes place on Monday 23rd June from 2pm in the IFR lecture theatre.


By Steven Lewis, a 3rd year PhD student in Stephanie Schueller’s lab.