Medical Student Research Symposium

The 37th Stanford Medical Student Research Symposium will be held:

3pm - 6pm, May 5, 2022
Berg Hall, LKSC

This Symposium is less structured and formal than other research conferences in order to encourage  medical students to communicate the research part of their educational program that is often not shared with their peers. Poster presentations are required by each student (3-6pm).

Research can be in progress or finished; must have a Stanford faculty advisor; and may be a part of an outside fellowship (e.g. Howard Hughes, Sarnoff, etc), internal fellowship (Medical Scholars), research assistantship, MD/PhD program, or Directed Research.

Research presented at this Symposium can be presented and published elsewhere.

Medical Student Research Symposium - Application is now open and the deadline is noon on Friday, April 1, 2022.
The first 60 abstracts will be accepted. We will have a wait list and will accept additional abstracts if space becomes available. Students can only submit one project.

Application Form

Interested students will submit their abstract online. More information will be e-mailed once the abstract is received.  

Medical Student Research Abstract Preparation

  1. Title – List in BOLD CAPS.
  2. Authors – List the first name, middle initial, and last name of all authors.  List your name in bold and indicate the Stanford faculty advisor with whom you conducted research by underlining his/her name.
  3. Departments – List all Departments represented
  4. Arrangement – Use three paragraphs. In general, the paragraph content should be:
    First paragraph: general statement of the research topic, including two-to-three sentence background, objective, and approach (the methods can be in the second paragraph also)
    Second paragraph: research findings to date
    Third paragraph: conclusion, implications, further studies
  5. Graphics – Do not use charts, diagrams or tables unless essential.
  6. Greek letters – Use symbols (α) to designate or spell out (alpha).
  7. References – In general try to avoid citing references in your abstract.
  8. Abbreviations/acronyms – It is necessary to define all initially except those commonly used such as DNA, cAMP.
  9. Length – Stay under 300 words and/or one page (using 12pt Arial font).
  10. Funding – Acknowledge funding source in separate final sentence in italics (e.g., Funding provided by the Stanford Medical Scholars Fellowship Program).

Sample Abstract


Susanne E. Ahmari, JoAnn Buchanan, and Stephen J Smith. Department of Molecular and Cellular Physiology

Fast neurotransmitter secretion occurs at specialized presynaptic active zones composed of a conspicuous plasma membrane specialization and a cluster of synaptic vesicles. Little is known about how such active zones are assembled during central nervous system (CNS) synaptogenesis. Using low-density hippocampal neuronal cultures, we have developed a system in which synapse formation can be monitored in real time.
In past experiments, we have used VAMP-GFP, a fluorescently tagged protein which serves as a marker of synaptic vesicles, to monitor synapse formation. We have demonstrated that punctate clusters of VAMP-GFP, which we call transport packets, quickly accumulate at sites of new inter-neuronal contact (Ahmari et al, Nature Neuroscience, 2000). Interestingly, transport packets often contain many other molecular components of the presynaptic active zone. This gives support to the idea that many or all of the cytoplasmic, plasma membrane, and vesicular components of the active zone may be united early in their biogenesis and sorting pathways, long before arrival at the nascent synapse.

Using retrospective electron microscopy, we analyzed the vesicular components of the transport packets. To our surprise, many dense-core vesicles were observed. Coupled with evidence from other labs (Zhao et al, Neuron, 2000), our results suggest that dense-core vesicles may specifically play a role in synapse formation. We have used a dense-core vesicle marker, ANP-GFP, in combination with VAMP-DsRed, to determine if dense-core vesicles and synaptic vesicles form two distinct populations with separate neuronal functions. Preliminary results indicate that dense core vesicles and transport packets comprise separate but overlapping populations. Further studies will examine functional implications of this finding.

Funding provided by the Stanford Medical Scholars Fellowship Program.


Medical Student Research Symposium Presentations

To be eligible for the cash prizes, all Symposium participants must present a poster representing their research (3-6pm).

In addition, some participants may be asked to make oral presentations of their projects at a Donor Appreciation event(s) TBA.


Medical Student Research Poster Preparation

  1. Poster boards are 4 ft tall and 8 ft wide.Please make sure your poster does not exceed the size of the board. Posters should be at least 36in x 42in.
  2. Limit the information you present to that which is absolutely essential. People will often take only a minute or two to scan your poster. If you can capture their interest in this interval, they may stay longer, and you can explain any details they may have questions about.
  3. Use Very LARGE Type  16-point type may seem large on your computer screen, but it will appear microscopic on a poster. People will often have to view your poster under less-than-ideal conditions. If several people are trying to look at it at once, they will have to read it from three to four feet away.
  4. Reduce the use of text People will generally not read long blocks of text on a poster. Replace text with diagrams wherever possible.
  5. All posters should include the following information:
    1. Introduction or Abstract. It is not necessary to have both an introduction and an abstract, as you would in a paper. One very concise summary of your project is sufficient. This summary should cover the same ground that the whole poster covers, only much more concisely. The summary should include:   
      - Why you did the study. This could be a single sentence, but you need to provide context for your work.
      - Experimental Design. This should be brief - a sentence or two will often suffice.
      - Conclusions.
      - Researchers involved.
    2. Experimental Design. A poster is not the place to explain that you added Pen-Strep and glutamine to all your culture media. Experiments or studies should be described in broad strokes. People sometimes think that using technical language will give their poster an authoritative tone, when really it may be a turn-off. Keep it simple. Replace text with diagrams if you can.
    3. Results. Pay attention to making tables, charts, and diagrams very simple. Again, everything must be readable at a distance.
    4. Conclusions. You can reasonably expect people to remember only two to five things about your work. Pick only the most important things you want to communicate and summarize your results concisely.

Lastly, keep in mind that from 3pm-6pm you will be at your poster presenting it orally, using the poster as a prop. The poster does not have to contain every detail of your work. You will be there to tie it all together. It helps to practice what you will say.

More poster prepartion tips:
Designing posters
Poster design and presentation tips