Engaging with the research around me

Posted on July 23, 2019   by Vicky Smith

The last week of June brought about the University of Nottingham’s 5th Annual Postgraduate Symposium for members of the School of Life Sciences. Over the course of two days, students and academics alike were able to attend a plethora of talks and poster presentations being held by colleagues in the school. Here, Vicky Smith, BBSRC-funded PhD student at the University of Nottingham, reflects on her experience of presenting at the symposium for the first time.

Victoria Smith
© Victoria Smith

While first year students were introduced to the symposium as attendees only, the remaining students were all required to present their novel research over the course of the symposium. From session to session it was clear to see the huge scope of research falling under the school’s supervision, from DNA repair and CRISPR genome editing to distribution modelling and fuel production.

Students were given an insight into what life as an academic is really like - and how treacherous the journey can be - when senior academics were grilled during a Q&A panel session on the Monday afternoon.

As comes with the territory of full-day conferences, there was a lot of sitting down in the same place for a long time. However, the Masters of Research (MRes) flash poster presentations proved a welcomed break. Interactive screens were placed around the lecture theatre displaying the presenters’ research, and the attendees moved as one to view and listen to each poster session. It proved an interesting setup and was refreshing following long sessions in cold rooms (because, of course, English weather was doing the summer month of June no favours).

This year marked the first requirement for me (as a second year PhD student) to present my data. Alongside 59 other posters, it was somewhat daunting wondering if my research could stand out and draw any visitors. Luckily, the nerves were unnecessary. Poster sessions held during extended lunch breaks allowed for a relaxed atmosphere, where people were happy to have a longer-than-usual chat about my work and where I see it going. Having spoken to my fellow students, this was agreed by many and was a nice way to introduce us to presenting at the symposium – hopefully the oral presentation next year will be as encouraging.

© Victoria Smith

As a Champion of the Microbiology Society, it was a pleasure to be representing the Society and raising awareness of the benefits associated with being a member. Sharing my experiences with the Society, for example volunteering at the 2018 Annual Conference, encouraged others to get more involved and many were surprised to hear about the publishing options associated with the Society.

Overall, the two science-packed days left me feeling motivated for my research, brimming with fresh ideas to take back and apply to my own project. It was brilliant to see the wide range of topics being covered within the School of Life Sciences, and it was enjoyable to have the chance to interact with academics I may normally not see, in a less formal manner than usual.