My intention to write a review immediately following the UCL/Loughborough annual colloquium on November 15th, was thwarted due to its success, though this is clearly not a complaint! Let me explain.
This year, all PhD students presented their current research in a 5 minute presentation as well as a poster, held at the Welcome Trust in London. I believe I speak for all PhD students who presented their work, that doing so generated significant interest in our work and offered unique networking opportunities with the 100 or so delegates and stakeholders.
The tone of the day was set at the morning ice-breaker session, in which students had to approach (any of the) delegates and after a brief conversation, write down the names of delegates in specific categories before moving on to another attendee. But many of us were so bad at it, I’d say it was a success: conversations were so interesting that it was difficult to peel ourselves away (and I didn’t) so by the time the morning session was over, I only had a few names down on paper, but left full of ideas and inspiration.
This was followed by a summing up of achievements and highlights of the past year by Prof. Kevin Lomas. Delegates were then updated about the work that goes on at our Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in more detail by students presenting their work in 5 minute slots. I must admit that when initially told that each of the 25 CDT students would be allocated a 5 minute presentation slot, I was unconvinced this would work. Really, how does one coherently present months – or years- of worthwhile and complex research in 5 minutes to a wide audience? But I was proven wrong: the 5 minute snapshots were sufficiently long to give an overview of one’s research to the audience, while the quick and smooth changeover kept the attention span. The breadth, diversity and scale of research topics at the CDT became clear as the presentations drew to a close. As a student I also gained insight into how best to present complex work into such a short time frame for it to be meaningful to the audience. This is a useful skill for other fora and an inspiration for next year’s colloquium.
In between student presentations, much networking time was allocated. As a result of each student having had the opportunity to present themselves and their work, delegates sought out students near their posters for more information, to ask questions and exchange ideas and expertise. The spontaneous nature of this networking was so fruitful, that the eagerly anticipated closing address by Prof. David Mackay seemed to come too early in the day. Prof MacKay spoke with conviction and reiterated the importance of building energy demand reduction, which our work at the CDT relates to. Afterwards there was some more time for discussion and reflection on the day. As networking was so productive, I spent several days afterwards following up on contacts and useful links as well as harnessing some of the interesting ideas which came out of discussion with delegates. The only pitfall of this year’s event was that there were so many interesting people I didn’t get a chance to speak to – so here is to next year! (oh, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to balance a plate of food while making conversation!)