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While working with a designer or scientific illustrator is ideal, scientists often have to design their own figures to be published in a journal or included on a research poster. To make this process easier, we've created a resource to help researchers and students refine visual assets before submitting them for publication. This PDF guide discusses many simple changes that can be made to improve the readability and aesthetic quality of scientific figures, as well as clarify the data they are communicating. The guide explains the design concepts more fully, but is accompanied by a 1-page checklist for quick reference while working on a figure.


Design Tips for Scientists Guide

Design Tips for Scientists Checklist (printer-friendly)

Whether you want to learn how to talk about your research in a manner that is accessible and inspiring for the public, or you just want to brush up on your science communications skills, resources abound in Austin and beyond.

*** If you are a CNS researcher with news to share about an upcoming scientific publication, award or event, please be sure also to alert the communications team with this form and check out our media-relations guide. ***


Groups where science communicators can find support in communities of like-minded colleagues.

  • UT Sciences Toastmasters

    A club where people gather to gain experiences in public speaking and leadership in a fun and encouraging environment.

  • Performance Training for Instructors

    This professional development course especially for UT Austin faculty is co-led by Natural Sciences assistant dean Jen Moon. With a focus on improving communications in the classroom, the content is also relevant for improving science communication more broadly. Learn more here.
  • AAAS Virtual Science Engagement

    An archive of webinars around strategic issues in science communications can be found here. From serving underserved audiences to working with funders, lots of great content here.
  • Friends of Joe's Big Idea (FOJBIs)

    A community of young scientists, started by NPR Science Correspondent Joe Palca, that includes undergrads, graduate students, post docs and faculty interested in improving their science communication skills.
  • Trellis Groups for Public Engagement and Science

    Scientists, researchers of public engagement, and public engagement practitioners share their experience of and expertise in public engagement on this platform from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, where they build new collaborations, are inspired, and improve skills related to public engagement.
  • SciLinkR

    A website where scientific researchers can connect with journalists and public outreach leaders.


Reference titles, training courses, webinars and workshops to help you communicate more effectively.

A collection of skill-building webinars and online courses to sharpen your science communication skills.

A constantly updated list of resources for those who want to share their science more widely through outreach, public engagement, science communication and more.

A collective of science communicators providing free, open source, online, skills-based science communication training, resources, and in-person workshops.

A selected list of science communication books and articles.

Visual Aids

Sources for graphics and videos to facilitate science communication.

A repository for short, accessible videos about scientific research across the globe. Scientists are encouraged to add to the library by telling their own research stories.


Ongoing opportunities for science communication outreach and tools to find more.

A volunteer organization of graduate students at UT Austin that challenge themselves to present their Ph.D. work to a broad audience, while also giving back to the community through educational outreach.

A web-based tool that makes it easy for STEM volunteers and professionals to connect with K-20 educators, classrooms, out of school time programs, and other volunteer opportunities.

Recurring Events

Occasional options for science communicators of all levels, most of them held annually.

An annual challenge that tasks participants to explain a particular scientific concept in such a way that an 11-year-old could understand.

2018 topic: “What is Climate?”  

An academic competition that challenges master's and doctoral students to describe their research within three minutes to a general audience, with limited use of visual aids, props, and delivery style.

  • Research Speed-Dating

Each spring, the UT Science Communication Interest Group and Thinking in Public co-host a "Speed-Dating" event format, where researchers — be they faculty, graduate students, post-docs or undergraduates — and interviewers meet and deliver or hear descriptions of ongoing research and receive feedback.

  • Science in Plain English

Each fall, the UT Science Communication Interest Group hosts a contest, open mic style, where without the help of props or slides, contestants see who can best explain their scientific research in less than three minutes.

Visualizing Science Winners for 2021 We are looking for images that celebrate the extraordinary beauty of science and the scientific process. In essence, we want images that capture the moment where science and art collide.

First prize is $1,000 and cash prizes are also awarded for five other submissions. All winning images will be prominently displayed on campus and on the college's website. Many of the submitted images will be shared in print, video, and other areas of communication. 

Images can include visualizations, photographs, microscope images, fractals, patterns, mathematical equations, and so on. You can see winning images from past years here. Your images will help us tell stories about the great scientific work being conducted by current members of the College of Natural Sciences.

Submission Guidelines

  1. Images must have been produced by a member of the College of Natural Sciences community (i.e., student, staff member, faculty member, etc.) and pertain to science. They can include visualizations, photographs, microscope images, fractals, patterns, scalable vector files, etc.
  2. Submissions may be featured on the college's website and materials. If this is an image from an organization or company you work with or research done at another institution, please ensure you have rights to share it with UT Austin.
  3. To qualify for the top award, submissions must be from individuals who are students, faculty or staff in the College of Natural Sciences at the time of the award. 
  4. Send submissions to Steve Franklin through UT Box, by email at sefranklin@mail.utexas.edu, or by using the upload box below.
    1. Add a short description of the image, including where it was captured.
    2. All images are welcome, but larger digital images are preferred. Ideal size: 8700x5400 pixels or 14.5in x 9in at 600dpi (but larger is better—keep in mind that the winning images will be need to be enlarged to 58"x36"). Please submit digital files in one of the following formats: jpeg, png, tiff, eps, or ai.
    3. Choose your best 2-3 images.
    4. Non-winning submissions from previous years are welcome.
  5. Submissions are due by January 31, 2022.


A key goal of the College of Natural Sciences is to communicate to Texas, the United States and the world the impact of the research and education that happens here. To celebrate this work, each year we honor outstanding public engagement and outreach within the College and hold a "Visualizing Science" contest that increases the visibility of research on campus. 

Visualizing Science Awards

Science and mathematics ought to be as visible on campus as art and athletics. The Visualizing Science awards help raise the profile of UT science, with public displays of images that celebrate the extraordinary beauty of science and the scientific process. 

Our annual contest seeks out images that help capture the moment where science and art collide. Six top images receive awards and are publicly displayed within our College community and in prominent spots around campus throughout the year. Additional submissions are featured on the college's website and materials.

Outreach Excellence Award

These awards recognize members of the faculty, graduate student or staff community in the College of Natural Sciences (CNS) whose invaluable efforts to impact the community go above and beyond the day-to-day responsibilities of their job. Nominate now individuals who are making a broad impact in outreach, including activities ranging from establishing a promising program (recent or longstanding); training K-12 teachers; working with high school students; developing curricula for public education; creating extraordinary events for the public or alumni; or other activities that engage the community. 

Nominations are reviewed with an eye to the breadth of the reach of an outreach project; how well it highlights CNS in the external community; whether sustained commitment is demonstrated; evidence of innovation/creativity; direct hands-on involvement with the community; whether outreach helps sustain/support a program; and the nominee's passion about outreach. Additionally, the College of Natural Sciences values the academic and community benefits that result from diversity, equity, and inclusion across campus and provides opportunities in the outreach nomination form for recognition of efforts that advance these values.

Eligibility: All College of Natural Sciences faculty and staff (including graduate students with appointments to work for the university and administrative & professional and classified employees) are eligible. However, staff members whose full-time titles or positions are dedicated to outreach should be nominated instead for outstanding performance in the "Staff Excellence Award," since the outreach award was created to honor efforts by those in CNS whose public engagement efforts are above and beyond the positions for which they were hired. Nominations should be for a single individual rather than for a group or program.