Last week I attended the first conference of my PhD:
Before the main two day conference Alzheimer’s Research UK (ARUK) hosted a PhD day. Though it’s not uncommon for large conferences to have satellite meetings, this is the first PhD day I’ve heard about. Many institutes hold a postgraduate research day within departments, University wide, or both, but this isn’t the same as really connecting with people from different institutes working in your specific research area.
The PhD day was held the day before the main 2 day conference from 10-11th March. It was a full day of talks and posters followed by an evening meal.
The day was introduced by ARUK followed by Nick Fox who got the room excited about the future of dementia research in the UK. With promises of doubling government spending on dementia research (which will be half of what is spent on cancer research) and the emergence of new technology it definitely is an interesting time to be in the field.
We next learnt about getting involved in public engagement. As I and many others there are not funded by ARUK, I appreciated that information on getting involved was provided for both us and funded students. Selina Wray presented ‘how to get a post doc’, a very useful talk on her personal experience and advice on deciding to go for a post doc and how to go about applying.
Over the course of the day we heard talks from 13 PhD students and, as commented on throughout the day, the standard of presentations was very high. I hope I’ll be able to present that clearly in a year or so!
In the last session of the day Jonathan Schott and Tammaryn Lashley provided us with an insight into the pathology and the clinical side of dementia. I appreciated this session as myself and the majority of others in the room are not clinicians and this provides a connection with why we’re ultimately doing our research.
The day was rounded off by a talk from Zeshan Ahmed about doing a post doc in industry. It’s definitely harder to hear from the industry side of things, especially with neuroscience R&D taking a huge hit in recent years. With big positives including access to resources, good work life balance and still being able write papers and present at conferences, it seems like a great move. Though there are also caveats, the main ones being that decisions from ‘higher up’ direct the research focus and a larger proportion of time spent on meetings and administration. Having first worked in a lab at GSK, I have a little experience of the ‘dark side’ and I’ve got to say I enjoyed it, so it was useful to get an up to date view on the current climate in industry.
Together with all these talks, anyone who had a poster for the main conference also showcased their work on the PhD day. It was nice to get a look at the posters in a less formal, and much less crowded, atmosphere.
Overall I thought the day was a brilliant way to get talk with others at the same career stage, as connections made here could definitely benefit later on. It was nice to see students interacting with people they had met the previous year and getting updates on how projects were going.
In the following days it was brilliant to see two final stage PhD students, Rob Andrew and Alan Stepto give talks in the main conference. Again, this is the first time I’ve attended a conference with students presenting and it was very inspiring. *Please can I get results good enough to present during my PhD!!!*
Next year it’s in Manchester, so I hope to attend and present a poster at both the PhD day and the conference…now to just get some results!
Enjoy the conference?
Had any other experience of PhD days?
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