Example of illustrated post-it postdoc.

Julie Rorrer’s Post-it Postdoc.

If you like to doodle in downtime between experiments, now is the chance to put your skills to work in the ChemE Comm Lab’s first Post-it research competition. Inspired by last year’s viral trend, we are looking for a creative visual summary of your research that is accessible to a general audience, all squeezed onto a 3-inch square. Be creative, and don’t worry if you’re not the best artist, “most visually appealing” is just one of the award categories! You can use any tools you’d like to craft your Post-it, including digital ones.

Questions to get started

A good Post-it note is a clear, concise, and creative visual summary of your research. Here are some questions to jumpstart your thinking about how to frame your research story:

  • What is the overall goal of your research? Why should we care about your research?
  • How would you explain your research on a napkin to your grandparents?
  • What analogies do you rely on to explain your work? The example above uses scissors to convey the work of the catalyst.

Contest rules

All art must be original to you (no clipart for digital entries). Entries will be kept anonymous until the end of the contest. If you don’t have a Post-it note, you can use a 3 by 3 inch piece of paper or create the Post-it digitally using square dimensions.

Accompanying your Post-it-note, include an accessible description of your research in 140 characters or less. Entries (with permission) will be promoted on department social media feeds after the close of the contest and credited to you. The contest is open to researchers at all levels: UROPs, PhDs, and postdocs.

Submit your Post-it and description here by Friday, April 23 at 5pm ET.


Katharine Greco’s digital Post-it PhD.

Sample entry

Digital Post-it PhD from ChE Comm Fellow, Katharine Greco.

Treatment of electrodes improves performance and affects electrode properties. My research aims to understand which are most important.


Voting and prizes

The department will vote on the best Post-its on the week of April 26.

Award Categories:

    • Best Overall
    • Most visually appealing
    • Most informative yet concise
    • Most creative use of visuals
    • Undergrads’ choice
    • Write-in

Winners will be able to select the prize bundle of their choice.

Prize bundle A

    • Dual Brush Pen Art Markers, Muted, 10-Pack
    • 642 Things to Draw

Prize bundle B

    • Premier Colored Pencils, Set of 12 in colors of choice
    • Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

Prize bundle C

    • Lyra Skintone Giant Pencil Set
    • Visual Strategies: A Practical Guide to Graphics for Scientists and Engineers (paperback)

Additional visual communication resources

All ChemE community members are welcome to make a 1:1 appointment with a Comm Fellow to work on their visual communication whether that’s a graphical abstract or manuscript figure. Be sure to check out our spring workshop series on creative visual summaries and digital branding. The next session will be on Monday, May 10 at 2–3:30pm.

Chemical engineering also has an in-house science visualization expert, Felice Frankel. Check out her online course and watch the ChemE listserv for workshops.

MIT Libraries has excellent data visualization resources, reach out to Christina Malinowski for support.

Julie Rorrer is a postdoc in the Roman Lab and a ChemE Communication Fellow. She is also the founder of ColorMePhD, an original coloring book series that communicates current PhD-level research. 


Caitlin Stier is the ChemE Communication + Career Lab Manager.

Blog tags: #visual design #post-it #announcement