On Friday 1st July, UWE held it’s first summer connections event for doctoral students from across all faculties and this is an attempt to capture some of the things that came out of the day to preserve it for posterity. We wanted to offer an opportunity for doctoral students to be able to get together if for no other reason than to see what’s going on around the place in terms of the diversity of research projects.
We set up the day to have some skills development input on “making connections with purpose” prior to running a poster session (and competition) and I drafted in Janet Wilkinson from Three Times Three to facilitate this session. I don’t have her slides to hand so I’ll precis what she covered.
The session was set in the context of ‘warming up’ all the participants for the day ahead, lots of chatting and mingling with a bit of listening. She talked about how when the word “networking” is used to describe this activity, there is sometimes a negative association with the word, probably from the thought that this involves a mercenary approach to getting something FROM others.
Much discussion was had around how ‘networking’ really works, it’s more about “reciprocity”, a two way exchange of information & understanding for mutual benefit. The words ‘synergy’ and ‘useful chat’ were used.
Janet introduced an idea taken from Stephen R Covey’s book “7 habits of highly effective people”, that of “The Emotional Bank Account” as a way of framing the interactions we have with people. Like any other bank account, one can make deposits and withdrawals but the key principle here is to build up deposits in the emotional bank accounts you take out with folk. We also spent time considering how one might initiate those relationships in that all too awkward of situations, the academic conference coffee break!
After this warm up to the day, we moved into the poster session where 14 research students had a brought something to present. As part of the build up to this event, I ran a session entitled “Perfect Posters” to share some hints and tips about how research posters can be used effectively to engage others. It was nice to see the level of interaction was really good, energetic and warm. Here’s some photos from that session:-
After the (free) lunch we sat down to engage in some more listening, this time to hear from Professor Paul Gough who is the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) at UWE, the most senior bod who has responsibility for all things research related at this institution. We invited him to give an informal talk on his own career. He gave a really insightful presentation about the current landscape that researchers find themselves in, shared some metaphors about how to keep your horizons in mind whilst you are digging deep into your research and regaled us with some examples of how nurturing connections with folk can pay dividends. The slides he used can be found here:-
The final part of the event was the much anticipated prize giving for the best posters of the day! I had called in a few favours to put together a panel of learned colleagues to make the judgements! Paul Gough to chair, Janet Wilkinson, Karen Bultitude from the Science Communication Unit, Dee Smart who oversees community & public engagement at UWE and Neil Willey who is a reader in environmental plant physiology. And the prizes? 1) An Amazon Kindle, 2) £75 of Amazon Vouchers, 3) £25 iTunes voucher
The winners were:- 1) Anne Johnson (Dept of Allied Health Professions), 2) Antonia Tzemanaki (Bristol Robotics Laboratory) and 3) Catherine Lehal (Dept of Education). A special mention was also given to Axel Palmer (Bristol Law School) for his poster.
A few more photos!
The day concluded with a drinks reception & canapes. Lots of chat about the day was had and then I remembered to ask a few students about the day. Here’s the thoughts they had…If you have any comments, please add them below!
I'm a former researcher into the microbiology of the mouth who now runs a skills development programme for other researchers.