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Thursday, October 9, 2014

AT THE CONFERENCE: The Meet the Faculty Candidate POSTER SESSION

This blog describes my many years of experience with the AICHE Meet the Faculty Candidate Poster Session and the advice applies to both the poster and your abstract.  Also this information is my personal opinion, so please do not think treat it as official advice.  

Basically, the biggest difference about this session is that you must think of the poster/abstract as an advertisement of yourself (that means they should abide by all the marketing rules of regular advertising!).  

In other words, you want something that visually grabs attention of the employers passing by and quickly  (remember they might spend just a few seconds passing by your poster)... 

Key components of a good poster are: 

1) a catchy descriptive title that is easy to understand, that includes your current affiliation as well as your boss' big name (hopefully)


the mistake I see that people make is they treat this as a science poster (lot of data, dense text, equations)... whereas the employers simply want to get the big picture of who you are and what you are doing.  The key things they are looking for are:

- theme of your research (what to expect from you in the next 5 years)
- your publications (how many, what journals)
- your grant writing experience (how many proposals, what agency, type postdoc grant/or did you help your boss write an actual grant).  By the way, this is probably the most important thing you could have.  It shows that you are trying to become an independent scientist and that you have experience with writing and, probably failing at, grants (i.e., you are not going to quit after year of realizing that this is not something for you).
- awards, accomplishments, if you have any :)

Here is an example of my abstract:  

ps: I got the job, before AICHE 2013 happened, so I never got to present this one (btw, it had more to do with networking than with the poster session, but the poster session did generate some leads for me)

For the abstract, I am not really including much scientific text, and I am breaking things down into categories that the employers can sift through easily.

And here is an example of my poster:

As you can see, I am really milking the pretty image strategy (and it did get some people to stop by who were just browsing randomly), and not really including any graphs or scientific text.  Yet, I can still give a pretty good overview of my past/current AND future (looking forward is what sets "faculty material" apart from the rest) research directions!

Also the key points are there:  papers, grants, skills, adviser's famous name and ivy league university :o)

Finally, keep in mind that the format of the poster is completely free, so you can do with it what you want.  Update: Last year I saw some people hanging iPads on their posters, thereby making them dynamic!  I thought this was a really good idea.  Keep in mind that you can attach whatever you want to it, and be creative!  If you have some interesting samples you want to show, that is fine too.  Take advantage of the third dimension :)   Also, people attach their papers and resumes just in case someone is super-interested in their work.  Finally, don't forget your business cards (clever idea: put your talks time & location on the back)!  I've had situations where I wanted to talk to a candidate, but they were not by their poster.  The time is short, and employers will not stay around waiting for you... sometimes grabbing a biz card and moving on is the best you can do...

Update 07/27/19:  Recently there is a new poster trend (not sure if I like it, but the idea is similar to my large pictures - i.e., there are only a few key details that should be blown up):  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1RwJbhkCA58
you canf find the proposed poster template here https://osf.io/ef53g/

SOME LOGISTICS:  "Last year the size of the poster boards was 4 feet high by 6 feet wide.  Unless you receive an update from AIChE or from us that states differently, you can assume the same size this year. Please limit the size of your poster to 3ft tall by 4ft wide.  For poster size, see link to the official guidelines below.  There are usually pushpins available, but I recommend bringing your own, especially if you are posting individual sheets of paper.  Please plan on arriving at least 15-20 minutes before the start time of the session to put up your poster."

Official guidelines are here:  http://www.aiche.org/resources/conferences/programming-resources/poster-session-faqs

TIME MANAGEMENT:  some times people come up to you and start asking questions about your work... however, they may not be people that can give you jobs (i.e., some random student or postdoc who just wants to learn about your research).  Given that an employer may see that you are busy, and as a result skip your poster, I highly suggest that you understand who you are talking to before you invest the time.

ps:  I remember my first experiences were that no-one comes up (I started as a grad student, but you really need a postdoc to be taken seriously).  Do not get discouraged!  There are a lot of you, and you are all at the top of your game.  Also, I think landing a job in academia is harder than industry.  So, try to learn from your experience and make your package more attractive for the next year.  You will get some interest eventually, I promise.