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The Challenger

McNair Scholars Program
University of Missouri-Columbia

March 2008

EndMcNair Scholars Attending Conferences
Across the Country
2007-2008 McNair Scholars Group Photo

Conferences provide scholars with the opportunity to see first-hand the latest research in their field and the opportunity to network with dignitaries from across the country. Recently, Diana Ortiz attended the Ecological Genomics Symposium in Kansas City, Missouri. "This was my first conference. It gave me exposure to how people in the field interact and the type of questions covered after presentations. I also was introduced to some people in the field and received suggestions for researchers that I should consider." Her experiences and connections from this conference have been invaluable as she applies to graduate programs.

Tamela Smith attended a conference on physical anthropology."I was able to make connections and get great ideas of what graduate school would be best. The meeting provided plenty of time to meet people and talk about research."

Also attending academic conferences in the fall semester were Jimmie Jones, Jenniffer Stetler and Kamara Jones.

The spring semester proves to be just as busy for McNair Scholars. This month Catera Wilder will be attending the Annual Institute of Biological Engineering conference in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Brittany Smotherson will be attending the American Educational Research Association conference in New York City. In April, Valeska Araujo will head to Denver to attend the American Education Finance Association Annual Conference.

In addition Danielle Graef will be presenting a poster entitled "Sensory Decline as a Mediating Factor in Age-Related Differences in Associate Memory" at the Cognitive Aging Conference in Atlanta, Georgia in April. Renae Mayes will present her poster on "Multicultural Competencies Among School Counselor Trainees" and David Aguayo will present his poster "Latino Newcomers: Cultural Adaptation and Ethnic Identity" at the American Psychological Associationa 116th Annual Conference in Boston, Massachusetts in August.

This summer, Sean Crockett will be attending the 12th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in Washington, D.C. and Miriam Galenas will be attending the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior 2008 General Assembly in August. End

Presenting with PowerPoint
Microsoft PowerPoint has become a major tool for presenting. However, anyone who has ever sat through a long and boring lecture knows that even PowerPoint can make things more complicated. Below are a few suggestions and pointers to keep your audience engaged and make sure your extensive research is presented in a clear and concise manner.
  • Use short sentences or phrases. The slides are there to help lead the audience along. If you put every detail on the slide, why should the audience listen to you?
  • Limit each slide to six lines, too much can be overwhelming.
  • Balance text, graphics and space. Having areas to pause relaxes the viewer’s eye and allows better flow for the material you are
  • Keep within your margins. Just as a paper will have margins, make sure you keep some space around the entire area. Often times the bottom of a projector can be blocked, especially to those in the back row.
  • If “auto-fit” gets overwhelming in Powerpoint 2007 go to “Paragraph > More Options > Text Box > Autofit” and choose the appropriate option.  
  • For a small or dark room, a dark background with light lettering works better. For a well lit, larger room, a light background with dark text works better.
  • · Use contrasting color. Red on black looks horrible when projected. As does yellow on green. Make sure the colors are not annoying to the eye. This only gets exaggerated when projected.
  •  Tables and charts tell information in a concise way better than explanatory text.
  •  Make sure your heading and text is large enough to be seen. Typically nothing smaller than 24 point font for the actual text, and 40 point for the header.
  • Use the master slide function in PowerPoint. This allows you to make quick changes much easier. 
  • Check your presentation on the computer and presenter you will use in the actual room you’ll be presenting in. Come early to troubleshoot.
  • Utilize the backgrounds and templates that PowerPoint offers. These were developed by graphic designers and work well. However, feel free to tweak the designs and make them your own.
  • Think about how much time you want to spend on each idea. Don’t get bogged down in your background and introduction. The audience wants to see your results.
  • Write specific details you want to touch on in the notes area. Then print out each slide using “Notes Page” to use as you present.
  • Start early and edit ruthlessly. The more eyes that see the presentation before you give it, the better.  End

Adapted from materials by Lea Lichty

The Graduate Interview Process

The admissions interview can be an intense process, where the applicant is evaluated all day by the members of an institution from the moment they arrive on campus.  But it is also an opportunity to determine if a particular institution is a good academic and personal fit with your academic, professional and personal goals.

Interview formats may vary in each department.  Throughout the day, a candidate could be subjected to a round-robin panel with department members and other applicants, a one-on-one conversation with the chair, and/or a casual, small group luncheon with graduate students.  Interviews may be formal with the same structured questions for each applicant, or may be casual affairs, where the candidate drives the questions and the conversation.  And at times candidates can be quizzed strenuously about their history and goals, where there is not definitive right answer.

The purpose of the interview also varies in each department. Some departments are in “wooing mode”,  certain that they want you and showing you their best. Other departments use the interview as the final “test” before making a final decision on your candidacy. All of this is usually punctuated with an on-campus tour and/or a speaker.End

Tips on Making an Effective Poster

Posters are a great tool to get complicated research ideas across to a general audience. Simultaneously they allow those familiar with the topic to see all the nuances of the research. The key task of a poster is to appeal to both audiences. To do this, the idea of design and approach must be considered.
When creating the poster, don’t let the background distract from the content. A large picture for the background may be good at times, however, it can distract and overwhelm the reader. In order to keep these distractions to a minimum, use the gridlines available in PowerPoint to make sure everything is straight and aligned. Additionally, “chunk” the information together. “Chunking” information allows the reader to skim the poster and get the general idea very quickly. The poster is not a paper, but rather an often times visual representation of key points.

“One of my favorite drawings of a rabbit involves 5 brush strokes—big ears and a round tail are probably enough to ID the animal as a rabbit,.” Dr. Mark Milanick with the MU Department of Medical Pharmacology and Physiology stated in the undergraduate research blog. “What are the key points of your results? (Are whiskers really important?)” This underscores the brevity of a poster. After all, the amount of space to present the research is limited. Trying to visualize the ideas of the research also serves to give more white space for the reader. This gives the eye space to rest and allows more information to be understood. A poster is an interactive media. You will be there to fill in any gaps.

Take a few moments to develop a spiel on the poster. People will visit your poster for various reasons. Some may be vaguely interested, so be prepared to discuss the key points quickly and allow them to go on. Others may be familiar with the topic, and want more in-depth information. For all visitors, be conscience of the person's time. There may be a lot of posters to visit in a limited amount of time.

Finally, consider keeping a log of who stops by. Posters sessions are a great opportunity to network and meet people specific to your field. One poster presenter realized later that they had just spoken to a Nobel Prize winner in her field. Because she had a log of each visitor she was able to email him and thank him for stopping by. These connections will serve you well in the future. End

New McNair Scholars Video

McNair Scholars Promotional Video

 The new promotional video for the McNair Scholars program is now available for viewing or download at

Narrated by former scholar Neville Miller, the video delves into the different aspects of the McNair Program from the point of view of 11 former scholars and 3 former mentors. The video allowed each student to demonstrate the passion and enthusiasm for the program and better illustrates how participation in the program can pay off. 

Please contact the McNair office if you would like a high quality DVD version.

NaTashua Davis, Director
Jeremy Bloss, Program Advisor
Darlene Dixon, Program Assistant
For additional information
McNair Scholars Program
536 Clark Hall

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