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Science on Paper, on Display

At today’s symposium, students explain big research in a small space

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The 2007 Science and Engineering Research Symposium at Metcalf Hall. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

It may seem like just a piece of cardboard or foamcore, but to the graduate students participating in Boston University’s 2008 Science and Engineering Research Symposium, the humble poster is a critical part of their presentation.

Today the George Sherman Union’s Metcalf Hall will be packed with more than 200 students and their posters, ready to present months of research. And the clock will be ticking — judges spend only four hours asking questions before handing out awards.

Emre Ozkumur (ENG’09), whose nanobiotechnology research focuses on the dynamic monitoring of biomolecular interactions and optical biosensors, says the poster is almost as important as the research.

“We’ll eventually present our research in conferences as professionals,” Ozkumur says. “And when you present in a conference, people look at how good the poster is, plus how good the research is. It’s definitely important the graphics you use — you want to clearly present your theory and results.”

Ozkumur says he is looking forward to getting feedback not only from judges, but from other participants. Students will present research from increased height growth in Mexican fan palms to decreased mortality associated with latent tuberculosis treatment among HIV-infected patients in Tanzania to elementary and secondary school bullying.

“When you present here or in a conference, you do not only get to see other people’s posters,” Ozkumur says. “You can compare yourself and how good your work is and check on your chances of collaborating with other people. Most importantly, you’re working on something and want to share your good results. It’s a little like showing off, but you’re also getting the opinions of other people.”

The symposium isn’t just for grad students, he says. “This is a great way for undergrads in science and engineering to see what’s coming, where their studies will take them. I’m sure that people who are not into science and engineering read about the researchers at MIT or BU who found this or that, and they can come and see how that research really works. It’s not as simple as how it’s explained in the newspapers.”

The 2008 Science and Engineering Research Symposium will be held today, March 31, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the GSU Metcalf Hall, 775 Commonwealth Ave. The event is open to the public.

Kimberly Cornuelle can be reached at kcornuel@bu.edu.

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