Adapting to a virtual word: Virtual Poster Conference 2020

Posted on June 25, 2020   by Emily Speakman

In this blog, Emily Speakman discusses the virtual poster conference she and her colleagues at the University of Exeter organised to make up for those missed due to cancellation of events. 


The lockdown has had a significant impact on many people across the world in a variety of different ways. Scientific researchers have lost valuable time in the lab and many of the conferences we were looking forward to attending have been cancelled or re-scheduled. This has not only impacted networking and collaboration opportunities but also affects wellbeing.

As the President and founder of the Postgraduate Life Science Society (PG-LSS) at the University of Exeter my goal is to provide postgraduate students with fun social events, and interesting academic events. Unfortunately, the lockdown meant that all of our planned events had to be cancelled. 

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Postgraduate Life Sciences Society Committee – Left to right: Rebekah White, Theresa Wacker, Remi Hatinguais, Emily Speakman, Christina Nikolakopoulou, Dan Larcombe, Heather Bottomley and Katherine Clayton.

PG-LSS academic co-ordinators Rebekah White and Katharine Clayton approached me with the fantastic idea of holding an online version of the important poster sessions usually held at scientific conferences – a virtual poster conference! We created an initial website using Google Sites, which described when the conference would be held and provided a step-by-step guide of how to get involved. We set an abstract deadline of three weeks, then spread the word to University of Exeter postgraduate students and staff via email.

PG-LSS Communications Officer Theresa Wacker led a brilliant social media campaign on Facebook and Twitter to attract prospective poster authors. The three weeks leading up to the deadline flew past and we were busy responding to submissions and uploading the posters to our virtual poster conference website. We hosted the conference using Wix as this allowed addition of a discussion forum alongside each poster. On the day of the abstract deadline, the Committee were really excited as we watched the final rush of submissions come through. Overall, we received over 40 posters from University of Exeter students and staff which we were extremely pleased with.


The virtual poster conference website went live for attendees at 8am on Tuesday 2 June. The committee were extremely excited to email the website link to our authors and potential attendees alongside the abstract booklet. Posters were separated into sessions, just like at a typical scientific conference. During each session poster authors were asked to regularly check their poster page for comments. During the conference, the Committee were responsible for moderating the comments and making sure discussions stayed focused on the research. Overall, the conference website was astonishingly active with over 650 unique visitors coming to view the posters! The discussion forums were extremely active, especially during session times, with over 250 comments (including questions and replies) being posted. The poster submissions were fantastic, and the authors were very responsive to questions. The virtual poster conference was a great success and I would recommend to anyone to conduct one themselves!

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Prize winners

Jessica Forsyth, Master’s Student:
Can bacteriophages found in sewage target antibiotic resistant Escherichia coli (E. coli)?

Suzan Kors, PhD Student:
Organelle ‘hugging’ – Regulation of peroxisome-ER interactions in mammalian cells

Alessandra da Silva Dantas, Post-doc:
Cross-talk between signalling pathways prevents chitin over-expression and loss of fungal viability

Matt Edmondson, Technician:
Up regulation of chitin drives inflammatory response s during Candida albicans infection in Galleria mellonella

Alice Wilson McNeal, People's Choice:
Fluctuating seawater pH changes copper toxicity by altering marine invertebrate physiology


Highly Commended

Joanne Morten - 3rd place in People's Choice vote
Alice Eseola - 4th place in the People's Choice vote and most visited poster
Matt Lomas - 2nd place in Committee PhD Student vote
Mike Cooke - 2nd place in Committee PhD Student vote
Alexander Currie - 2nd place in Committee PhD Student vote
Will Davison - Contribution to discussion forums
Hugh White - Contribution to discussion forums
Emma Buzzard - Contribution to discussion forums
Laura Goodhead - Detailed answers to questions