My GCURS Experience: Presenting Your Research

By Carly Graverson. Carly provides us with advice on how to get our presentation ready for GCURS.

GCURS 2022 Participants

In 2019, I was a senior undergraduate student in a small town in Illinois when I received an email from someone at Rice University in Houston, TX, inviting me to apply to the “Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium.” Having never heard of this symposium, I did a quick Google search. I found that this program (GCURS) was an annual event hosted by Rice where undergraduate students from around the country (and even the world!) present their research to other students, faculty, and staff. After a bit more research, I decided to apply, and to this day, I am so thankful that I decided to apply and ultimately attend this program! In this blog, I will share my experience with GCURS, how it benefited me, and tips for preparing your presentation.

So you’ve applied to GCURS, and your abstract has been accepted. First of all, congrats! Now, it’s time to begin crafting your presentation. Don’t sweat it, though, this blog will give you five tips for giving a research presentation to remember!

  1. Craft a clear narrative.

Begin by constructing a compelling narrative for your presentation. State your research question concisely and explain its significance in simple terms. Consider this actionable tip: Create a storyboard to organize your content logically, ensuring a smooth flow from the introduction to the conclusion. For example, if you're researching a novel medical treatment, outline the problem, your approach, results, and the potential impact on patients. You do not have to present your work chronologically! Find a story that makes sense and run with it.

  1. Use visuals!

Visual aids should complement your presentation–not overwhelm it. Use clear, well-labeled visuals. An important tip is to keep slides simple with minimal text, focusing on critical points. For instance, if your research involves complex data, use charts or graphs to illustrate trends to make it easier for your audience to grasp your findings. You can use animations but try to keep the appearance and disappearance of images on the slide professional. 

  1. Be ready to answer questions.

One of the best parts about presenting your work is getting to engage in scientific dialogue with your audience. This is where many collaborations and new projects begin. It may seem daunting that other people will ask you about your work, but approach each interaction with curiosity, and who knows what discoveries it will lead you to!

  1. We’re talking about practice.

Practice your presentation multiple times to build confidence and refine your delivery. Here's your actionable tip: Record yourself and watch for areas of improvement, such as pacing or clarity. For instance, if your research pertains to technology innovation, you should rehearse explaining your work as if you were teaching it to a non-expert, making sure it's clear. Also, try to run through your presentation with an audience of your peers! You will present to other scientists, so getting feedback from your advisor, graduate student mentor, or other undergraduate researchers is a good idea!

  1. Embrace feedback.

Don't shy away from feedback; it's a vital tool for improvement. Act on feedback by making necessary adjustments to your presentation. For example, if someone suggests simplifying a technical term in your research, consider it seriously to enhance audience understanding.

Presenting at GCURS can be a daunting task, but by crafting a clear narrative, using effective visuals, engaging with your audience, practicing diligently, and embracing feedback, you can make your research shine. For more information about my experience at GCURS (and what it even is!), check out my previous blogs here and here.

This year’s Gulf Coast Undergraduate Research Symposium (GCURS) will be held on Saturday, October 21st, with additional panels and workshops happening on Sunday, October 22nd, at Rice University in Houston, TX. This will be the 15th anniversary of this unique symposium! Some travel awards will be granted to qualified students. Applications to attend GCURS are now open and are due by September 10th!