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Final Presentation

“Science not communicated is essentially science not done.”

Throughout a career, individuals have numerous opportunities to discuss their work both formally and informally. Those who speak well, speak often. They are invited to give presentations and encouraged to explain their work or the work of others. Their audiences may be colleagues and students, or they may be lay people–the public, the media. To speak well requires developing skills and practice, practice, practice.

All SFP students are required to give an oral or poster presentation on one of the regularly scheduled seminar days. However, in extenuating circumstances, students may arrange to give their presentations at other times. The SFP and JPL Education Offices will provide detailed information to students in July.

SFP students at JPL will give their final oral presentations at JPL.  Your mentor will schedule your final talk.

SFP Students on Campus:
Oral  Presentations

  • Oral presentations are 15 minutes long, followed by a 2-3 minute question and answer period. Your talk should be directed to a general audience. You may have audience members with a lot of technical knowledge in your field, some with technical knowledge in another field, and some with little or no technical background at all. We realize this is quite a challenge!
  • No two talks are alike, however, a good talk usually includes the following:
    • An introduction, which should include why this work is important and a roadmap of the talk
    • Background information, so that the audience can place your work in a larger context
    • The body, which includes what you did, how you did it, and what you learned
    • Summary and conclusions, which highlight key points and ideas for future work
    • Acknowledgments
  • The oral presentations are organized into sessions/disciplines and then, within each session, into blocks of four or five talks. We strongly encourage you to attend all the talks in your session, or at minimum, all of the talks in your block. Your presence offers support to the other speakers and is greatly appreciated.
  • The SFP Office will provide a MAC laptop, a computer projector, and a laser pointer in your presentation room. Presenters will be contacted with specific information about the computers being provided.
  • Students should look their professional best for oral presentations.
  • Following the oral presentations, there will be a reception and poster session.  The specific details about the reception and poster session will be emailed to all presenters.  We encourage everyone to attend.

Poster Presentations

Students presenting at Caltech may elect to give a poster presentation. Spaces are limited, but most students who want to do a poster can be accommodated.

  • Students will need to be present with their poster for 60 minutes (Summer Seminar Day) or 90 minutes (Fall Seminar Day) and engage visitors who stop by their poster in conversation about your research. The poster sessions run concurrently with our reception so we expect a good turnout for the posters. Some of the visitors will be technically oriented (in or out of your field) and others will have little technical background. Be prepared to handle varying levels of knowledge on the part of your audience.
  • The SFP Office will provide you with an easel upon which to place your poster. We strongly suggest you affix your poster to a foam core board prior to arriving at the poster session. Foam core is thicker than standard poster board and will keep your poster from bending while on display. We do not provide foam core or poster board.
  • When you arrive to put up your poster, please check in at the SFP table and introduce yourself as a poster presenter. The specific set-up time depends on which Seminar Day you will be presenting, and details about the specific set-up time will be sent to you via email. It is very important that you are ready to present your poster at least 10 minutes before the start of the poster session. It is awkward for guests to arrive while students are still preparing their spaces.
  • Students should look their professional best for the poster session.
  • Guidelines for preparing your poster can be found here.

Perpall Speaking Competition

SFP Seminar Day in October is the first round of the Doris S. Perpall SURF Speaking Competition. Robert C. Perpall, a Caltech alumnus and member of the SURF Board, created the Doris S. Perpall SURF speaking prize in 1993 as an incentive for Caltech students to give excellent oral presentations. Good communication skills are critical, and throughout a career, individuals have numerous opportunities to discuss their work both formally and informally.

Presentations by Caltech students will be evaluated, and the students giving the best talks in each session will advance to a semi-final round. Judging criteria for the Perpall competition may be found here.

Gee Poster Competition

SFP Seminar Day in October also serves as the first round of the Gee Family Poster Competition. The intent of the Gee Family Poster Competition is to encourage and support excellence in effective scientific communication. Therefore, the posters will be judged on content, visual organization, and verbal presentation, and not on the significance of the research results being presented.

Posters by Caltech students will be evaluated, and the students giving the best presentations in the poster session will advance to a final round. Judging criteria for the Gee competition may be found here.


Students are encouraged to further develop their communication skills and academic network. The following are conferences providing opportunities for undergraduate researchers to present.

SCCUR: Southern California Conferences on Undergraduate Research

Posters on the Hill, Council on Undergraduate Research

National College Research Conference

Sigma Xi

National Conference for Undergraduate Research

Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Sciences (SACNAS) Conference

The Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students (ABRCMS)

American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) National Conference

Conferences for Undergraduate Women in Physics (CUWiP)

West Coast Biological Sciences Undergraduate Research Conference

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Annual Meeting