Four years of research poster design

Science conferences are ubiquitous components in research. What are you working on? What are you interested in? What do you want to tell us? Maybe you are allowed to read slides at us for twelve minutes (plus three for questions). Maybe you’ll bring twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one is. More likely, however, you’ll have a dozen square feet of real estate on a tack-board. That is enough room for thirteen or so eight-by-ten color glossy photos with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one is, but the more commonly employed medium is that of the research poster.

The form and function of presentations and posters have their respective merits and drawbacks, and you can find ruminations extolling both of these somewhere else. I am a no preference kind of guy. To wit, I have one of each to present at this year’s Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in March. The LPSC is the main conference our entire research group attends every year. I have had at least one poster at each of the previous three LPSCs, plus two posters at other conferences. With three years under my belt, it should be easy to make a poster, right? Heck, you might say, after three years you should have a Masters of Poster Science! Well…no, it is not that simple.

substance without style is truth without beauty

Communicating science is hard, and only more difficult if conveyed boringly. Whenever it’s time to start making a new poster, my search history fills up with terms like “poster design”, “award science poster”, and “awesome research poster” (see here and here to start). The essence of a research story doesn’t change; My substance is the scientific method. But substance without style is truth without beauty. And with 700 other posters to choose from, would you stop to check this out?:

2009: Fear my wall of text! Size: 42″x34″; Title: Times New Roman 72pt; Body: Times New Roman 30pt

Nope. The color scheme is all right, but there is no hierarchy. What is important here? Graphs are all about the same size, there is no central point of focus, and look at all that text! This was made after 6 months of grad school, so I vowed to focus more on results the next time around, resulting in… Continue reading

Six days in the crater, day two

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6

This post is part of a slowly unfolding saga of my experience at the Meteor Crater Field Camp that was held from October 17-23, 2010. The field camp was run under the NASA Lunar Science Institute and headed by Dr. David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute.

Everyone is surprisingly awake at 7AM, considering the hard sun yesterday. Maybe it’s the brisk 50°F October air, or perhaps everyone had a long sleep (one pro of a dry campsite). My hunch, however, is on the catered breakfast of fruit, eggs, coffee, juice, oatmeal, and scones that awaits us. A local Flagstaff catering company will be bringing us breakfast and dinner each day, and no one wants to miss out after our first taste yesterday. Even without the extra incentive, the 21 other field camp attendees are highly motivated, intelligent and capable researchers from around the world. And then there’s me, just writing accidental haiku in my field notes…

base of mining slope;
two tear faults up wall expose
best Coconino.

The Coconino is an eolian quartz sandstone; white, fine-grained, occasionally massive but often with cross-beds. If you’ve never heard of it, perhaps you’ve seen the Coconino cliffs of the Grand Canyon or Zion National Park. At Meteor Crater, the Coconino is the lowest unit excavated by impact, extending from 90-300 meters below the surface. The crater center is buried under ~100 meters of lake sediment, and a mine shaft is the only portal to the original crater floor. Remnant mine talus piles on the crater floor hint at the intense shock buried 100 meters below, where some sandstone was altered to vesiculated glass; It floats! The major occurrences of Coconino ejecta still present around the rim are generally not shocked to glass, but are no less interesting. The Coconino in the photo below is ‘fuzzy’ because it has been pulverized to rock flour, though relict bedding is preserved.

Overturned Coconino SS ‘rock flour’ with relict cross-bedding in northwest wall of Meteor Crater. This coherent ejecta block was originally 90+ meters beneath the surface and now rests ~15 m above the surrounding terrain.

Over on the south side of the crater, heterogeneous shock distribution resulted in relatively unshocked Coconino in contact with the rock flour variety. A useful reminder on the importance of context!

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