Building a community of researchers

Posted on 7 June 2011

Dr Simon Jones of the University's Faculty giving an animated talk

Standing before a room of postgraduate students in a function suite at the Park Thistle Hotel in Cardiff, Pro Vice-Chancellor Robert Brown welcomed an international congregation to the University’s first ever Research Students’ Conference.

Spanning two days (13-14 May), the conference was punctuated by a series of seminars, workshops and networking opportunities designed to address the skills necessary for University of Wales students to complete their research degrees.

Commencing the proceedings, Vice Chancellor Professor Marc Clement gave an impassioned talk on the often unexpectedly exciting paths where students’ doctoral research can lead. Drawing on his own experience as a world-leading laser physicist, he presented a slideshow which traced his journey from his time spent studying for a PhD, up until the present day.

The next speaker was Professor Nigel Palastanga who introduced students to the University’s newly formed Faculty, shedding light on the functions of its three schools which will be working to support all students studying towards a University of Wales degree. Students were then led into a room nearby where they were encouraged by Faculty lecturer Simon Jones to engage in activities driven towards improving their networking skills. ‘The loneliness of a long distance runner’, the theme of Dr Jones’s second seminar following the lunch break, stressed the importance of a scholastic community for students embarking on the isolated journey of doctoral research.

The afternoon’s ensuing seminars included, among others, Faculty lecturer Jacqueline Young’s ‘How to embrace the media workshop’; Global Academy’s Dr Louisa Huxtable-Thomas’s presentation, ‘Preparation and training for your Viva’; Bronwen Blatchford’s instruction on how best to utilise the University of Wales library and database, and Jo Hare of UWIC’s slideshow, ‘Preparing the transfer to PhD from MPhil’. All topics covered on the day were chosen by the students themselves, who in the organisational stages of the conference had identified issues which would be most useful over the next three years of their research.

On the following day the students were thrown into the spotlight. 12 students from various institutions delivering University of Wales degrees gave presentations exploring their research journeys so far, identifying common problems and sharing best practice. The winner of the conference’s poster competition was also announced; Aime-Louise Prior from UWIC was selected for her poster which investigated ‘Anorexia Nervosa: How can Telephone Helplines Help?’

Steve Hughes-France-Hayhurst, a research student at the University of Wales, Newport, who attended the conference, said;

“It’s been a great opportunity for me to network, get moral support and find comfort knowing that I’m not out there running in the fells all alone – there are others out there facing the same obstacles as me. It’s nice; I feel I’ve achieved a real feeling of camaraderie from having shared my experiences with others in my newfound community.”

UWIC PhD student, Anna Whicher, added;

“Yes, I think the conference has been a great opportunity to meet other research students from the University of Wales community – which is completely new to me. I’ve really enjoyed exchanging ideas about my research and will be taking home lots of new ones!”

Pro Vice- Chancellor Professor Nigel Palastanga, said;

“Today’s been an excellent opportunity for the University of Wales Faculty to show its unflagging commitment and support for our research students. We look forward to greater engagement in the future.”


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