Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Posters For Perspective by Sarah Nuss

            We spent the last few weeks in Costa Rica at Las Cruces Biological Station in San Vito, working diligently on our independent research projects. We saw the ideas and research questions that we had brainstormed many weeks earlier become a reality. After meetings upon meetings, and what felt like countless problems that kept popping up, we had done it – we had carried out our own research project. As a culmination of the previous three weeks, on Thanksgiving morning, 13 nervous students paced around the presentation room, waiting to talk to groups of strangers about our work, and I was no exception. I wasn’t sure how the poster session would go. Although we had completed our project, our results weren’t as strong as we had hoped. I was proud of the work we had put in, but not sure how others would receive it.
            At 9:00 am, the first few people started trickling in, pausing briefly at each poster.  Next thing I knew, I was stumbling through my poster in Spanish, trying to hold the attention of the group in front of me. After I had finished, to my surprise, the group began to ask questions about our project, showing a real interest in what we had done. As more listeners rotated by, the presentation got easier and easier. I began to relax, my Spanish improved, and I was confident about the work we were presenting. Each presentation got more streamlined and more interactive, and the audience continued to ask questions and give positive feedback. The two hours flew by, and by the end, I was even disappointed that there were no more people to share our work with.

            Although the poster session was fun, what was most important for me was the perspective that it gave me about our research project. Although at times the work was frustrating, and we had to change many aspects from our original idea, it was a great learning experience. I not only learned a lot more about a topic that I had little experience with in the past, but also had the opportunity to see the whole research process from start to finish. I learned about group dynamics, problem solving, research design, and much more. Being able to present my final poster and share what I had learned allowed me to take a step back and realize some of these things. I am incredibly glad to be able to take this learning experience with me as I leave Costa Rica. 

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