Monday, August 29, 2005

My stupid poster. Or, I've been better.

So I ran into a couple of old friends at the poster session tonight. They asked me how I was doing. This was not a question I wanted to be asked.

Let's put it this way: we changed our travel plans so my boyfriend could give a talk for his boss, who had to cancel at the last minute. We all know that PIs frequently have their postdocs do a talk in their timeslot, but usually you get more than 48 hours notice.

Now I'm going to badmouth Kinko's a bit here. THEY SUCKED. The last time I printed my poster at Kinko's it sucked, too. I don't think I would go back there again. Can anyone recommend a good alternative besides not doing posters??? Last time we did it at home and they were just incredibly slow, every step took 24 hours, and it took multiple tries to get the poster looking halfway decent... so even though we started a week before we left for the meeting, we barely got it done in time.

This time they were faster, but the proofs looked crappy so we touched it up and re-sent the file. But, their website was down. Their email address bounced and the server claimed the file was too big... it wasn't. We finally got the file there.

So we went to pick it up and it was actually worse .... I just stood there, I was too frustrated to make any decisions or say anything, I just said "I can't use this."

Finally they gave me a discount and the manager said they could print it yet another time... that was when we went back, checked the files and realized it was their fault.... It's incredible that they don't even look at it on the screen before they print it, much less check it on the paper before they put it in the bag....

It's incredible how much time I wasted on their incompetence.

But wait! That was just the first half of the day! The poster session was at night and it was supposed to be one of those mixer things where recruiters come by. Well, I had only one recruiter who actually wanted to hear my spiel. It was a royal waste of time considering what we went through to get the stupid poster. My boyfriend's talk went the same way, nobody asked him any questions afterwards. But, later we saw a few people in the hallways who said they thought he did a good job. So that was good for him. A little exposure never hurts.

So I still say posters are pointless and it's not worth going if I'm not giving a talk. At least, the meetings I've been going to, it has been several years since I've had more than a handful of people come to my posters. Plus I suck at making posters, I'm never happy with how they look. And it's really time-consuming, not to mention expensive, compared to doing a talk.

So I will make a vow now, no more posters this year... I've made this vow every year for the last 3 years...

Anyway there were almost 200 people in my session, all of them looking for faculty positions. Granted this meeting was not really my field, I was an outlier and I knew it. But they claim they want more people like me, ha ha ha.

I don't know how they could possibly know I exist if they don't even come to my stupid poster.

After last week and seeing my actor friends, I have to quantitate how this is all going. Am I really enjoying any of this? Because much as they say it's a hard life being a performer and they hate trying to get work, when they're working they're having a great time for at least the 2 hours a day that the show is going on, and maybe more than that if the rehearsals are fun. Can I honestly say I have 2 hours a day when I'm really enjoying my work? I'm not sure it even averages out to 2 hours a day. Lately it's just work and I can't seem to get far enough away from it to actually feel like I'm on vacation. I just end up feeling guilty.

In NYC they have this phrase they use a lot, they say that these new kids who come in and take the shitty jobs are "hungry." I heard musicians say it, and I heard film editors say it, "they're just really hungry." And it builds the CV. Those people make contacts and eventually they get good jobs. But I feel like I've being doing the shitty jobs for 10 years and I'm just not hungry enough to do it anymore.

It helped that I ran into a couple of other people who said they feel the same way. They said they're tired of being at the bench, that they have students who do the technical stuff and they enjoy directing the research and they're ready to move up. And they're the same age as me. So I felt somewhat vindicated.

On another note, I saw a friend who got married last year and he said his advisor was very unhappy about it. His advisor was afraid he'd spend all his time worrying about mortgages. Well now his wife is pregnant and he's afraid to tell his advisor. I guess I find the whole thing ironic because he's an evangelical christian, yes you wouldn't guess but we went to high school together. Anyway his wife doesn't have a job, nevermind a career... of course this guy is worried, he has to bring home the bacon after all. But the world I live in, where the woman actually has a career herself and wants the chance to consider children without sacrficing her career is something that doesn't even register with people like him. Needless to say, while I think it's really sad that his advisor is such a jerk, it's hard for me to be too sympathetic.

That said, I should go take a shower and go to bed. I haven't slept nearly enough, which is another reason I'm frustrated nearly to tears by this whole trip. But one final note: this meeting was vastly a white male majority. I forgot how bad that could be. It was totally alienating, and it didn't help that most of the older men were blatantly scanning me up and down. I wasn't wearing anything remotely sexy or revealing, but they were definitely checking me out as if I were anything but a scientific colleague.

Hard to take yourself seriously when you're alternately ignored and objectified. Definitely not a recipe for recruiting more women to science.


At 10:00 PM, Anonymous BWJones said...

Believe it or not, but I do all my posters in Powerpoint and use common fonts. If Kinkos has a problem with it, I can simply make it into a pdf (OS X rocks) and they can print that out with all information embedded. Examples can be seen on my lab page here under the abstracts/presentations portion. I usually print the posters out at home a week or more before traveling to the meeting. I also take a CD with me of the poster just in case.....

At 1:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I make my posters in powerpoint as I would for a talk and then print the slides on digital photograph quality paper. I have access to a laminator so I do that sometimes, or just stick them on these small cardboard 8"x11". For my last conference, I didn't even bother with the lamination or placards.

And you are right, people do not bother to come by and read posters unless they are a competing lab. So not much sense in actually spending time/money/effort on making a good looking poster.

At 4:32 AM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

Well the last two posters I did in Powerpoint. This one I had to make into a pdf file and that was a huge pain because initially it wasn't obvious how to size it correctly. Anyway I got that figured out but I'm sure I'll forget again by the next time I deign to do a poster.

The real problem is that most of my work involves high-resolution images that just don't look great when printed by Kinko's. It's really frustrating because they're quite gorgeous, if I do say so myself, on the screen. But invariably when printed the resolution comes out too low when they're resized, even with interpolation, or the colors are off. This time the resolution was the problem, so I made the file much bigger by inserting bigger versions of the pictures, and that god rid of the blurriness, but then the colors still came out too dim for the crappy lighting at the meeting. They never have good lighting for these things, and I'm never sure what sizes will be good enough because the stuff I'm looking at is very small and the poster size is different at every meeting. This time I finally went smaller by about 1 foot on each size, so I think that helped make it more manageable in terms of the size of the file I had to send and the paper I had to carry around.

Last year I went to a meeting and tried to do the single-panel thing for the first time in years, and it was just too small and too much of a pain to mount them on the heavy boards. I really suck at stuff you were supposed to learn in kindergarten.

At 8:47 AM, Blogger K said...

I have experienced the Kinkos problem. I don't know if this is common nation-wide, but sometimes on campus there will be some place with a large plotter. At my undergrad institution it was the Bureau of Geology. They would print for students and postdocs at a discount, and even their normal prices were vastly cheaper than Kinkos. Here there is a GIS "workshop" type place with a plotter, also offering discounts. So maybe if you poke around on your own campus you will find a useful place for poster printing.

At 12:37 PM, Blogger Adam Solomon said...

I made a great poster last year on my school's wide printer. Do you have access to anything like that?

For that poster, I did use Kinkos, to make a banner to put on top of the poster, and it came out very, very nicely...

At 1:39 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

yeah, well, there are other issues with printing through the university. like, it takes a lot longer, and costs a bit more. i guess it might be worth it if they actually know what they're doing, but most people tell me they're not any better than kinko's.

at my grad school i made a few posters, but it never made it any easier to go through the graphics people than to do it myself on the fancy color printer(s).

the other thing is, if i go through kinko's or some other outside commercial place, i can pay for it myself really easily, and in general it's cheaper. if i do it through the university, i have to take it out of my grant money or ask my advisor to pay. she has said she won't pay for anyone to go to meetings, so i'm already paying my own registration fees, etc. out of my pocket. nevermind the cost of the poster.

for every $100 poster i print, that's an antibody i can't afford to buy off the tiny amount i'm allowed to spend from my fellowship. i don't mind paying for the posters myself if it seems to advance my career somewhat... but what really makes me mad is when i pay for it myself, nevermind the registration fees, and only one person actually comes and asks me about it.

At 4:27 PM, Blogger utenzi said...

At the risk of being obvious, when you take pictures to put into a poster you need to keep in mind the pixel count. Generally commercial printers want at least 300dpi though you can easily get away with just 200dpi. So if you have a get a low res JPG (or TIFF, for that matter) that's say, 600 pixels by 600 pixels then you're only going to be able to print a 3" by 3" pic with good resolution. For the 6-8" size you might use on a poster you need at least a 3MP camera, or any type of film camera.

If you're using a CCD pickup like what I use when doing LCMs, then you need to take pictures with other equipment since a CCD, esp in color, just doesn't have adequate resolution.

At 6:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you cant enjoy your work for even two hours a day, I would say you are in the wrong profession. I also dont understand what is so seductive about directing research. I would also think that if you dislike working at the bench so much, you either suck at it or you just dont like it at all. And dont even start to think that life will get easier if you get a faculty job. Once you have your first five proposals rejected, you might start thinking that directing research is not so much fun after all. You might also just end up ruining some graduate students career who might think that working with you was a good idea. Maybe you need to get a teaching job at a community college or something. Its not a whole lot of money but looking at your enthusiasm level that might be all you can hope for.

At 12:32 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...


yeah, i'm well aware of pixel densities, etc. i use a very high-res CCD and i'm very careful to resize the images with interpolation, etc. before i paste them into Powerpoint. What really got my noodle was that they didn't even LOOK at the stuff on the screen before they printed it, nor did they try to contact me and say, "Hey, something is obviously wrong here." A little professionalism is a long-lost thing.

As for Anonymous, see my blog today (9/6/05).

At 10:08 AM, Blogger utenzi said...

Sounds like you've done everything you can. Time to stop using Kinkos but I realize that sometimes there's little choice.

At 2:44 PM, Blogger Animesh Sharma said...

Through yet again a random google search I landed on your page and I liked reading it. Just one thing which was IN PLENTY was the frustrations...I feel you have had frustrations because you were so much attached to the Poster thing... you should have just given the poster presentation without being attached to how it would result... it is very hard to do such a thing, but GITA says (Relegious text from India) that we should not be attached to the fruits of our work and then only we can attain peace.
This is my one cent thought.

At 4:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ive had the same experience! I can't even step foot in kinkos again. I wish there were a cost effective alternative...


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