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A meeting of minds – organising a student conference

Behind the scenes with the organising team of the recent IEEE Student Branch event.

by Alicia Blatiak and Alina-Irina Serban

“IEEE Student Branch is a unique environment for postgraduate students at Imperial College London focusing on research developments, networking and social activities. The student branch re-started its activities in 2018-2019, when a group of postgraduate representatives joined forces to form a committee that led to exciting events for EEE students. One of the main events that was born in the first year of running the student branch was the Conference on Advances in Communications, Devices and Systems, which little did they know at the time, was going to become an annual event.

Fast-forward to 2021 and the current IEEE Student Branch committee decided it was time to have the second conference, which had been postponed. Starting as early as March 2021, after organising a successful seminar on Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, the Student Branch began planning a hybrid conference in a post-lockdown London.

The seminar helped them connect with the EEE PhD Representatives, who were keen to help bring more value to the students; an alliance was formed. Despite different approaches to structuring events, the partnership between the IEEE Committee and the PhD Representatives had the same goal in mind – to serve the students.

Award winners outside the EEE building
Award winners: the in-person and online audience voted for the best presentations.

Lockdown was a difficult time to hold student events, of any shape or form. The EEE PhD Representatives met regularly on Teams to try to ensure they were doing the best they could for students, who had dispersed to their own corners of the world. The Winter Party took the form of a virtual talent show and a quiz (with Saleh Komies asking his favourite question, what is the capital of Saudi Arabia). They ran virtual ‘mEEEt-ups’, regularly and informally interviewing members of staff who suddenly had become more accessible. They even managed to run the traditional 1-minute Thesis Competition for 1st year PhD students virtually, giving them a chance to connect with others during a particularly daunting time to start a PhD.

The newly formed alliance instantly got to work, melding an academic focus with a creative social vibe; the conference was born. Even the name was a hybrid, Advances in Communications, Devices and Systems: Things that might “shock” you. We have Kate Highnam to thank for the idea that brought about the structure of the conference, which was to present topics that had at least two perspectives, rather than the traditional ‘this is what I’m working on’ model. We planned it in hope of a hybrid in-person / online set up.

The day of the conference arrived and with Lina and Victoria’s help from the Postgraduate Office, Zia and Sousa on level 6 helping with logistics, we ran the first in-person student event since the pandemic started. The conference proved to be a success.

The conference started with a keynote speaker, Dr Ayush Bhandari, presenting “Some Short Stories from Academia”, followed by five discussions led by students from Imperial College on controversial topics from different fields related to EEE. We received great feedback from our attendees and managed to reward our participants with prizes and trophies. We even had a hybrid social event after the conference.

All in all, the day went as planned and the partnership between the IEEE Student Branch and the EEE PhD representatives managed to provide Imperial College London students a student-focused event. We look forward to the next one!”


Message from EEE: Thank you to all the students who work so hard to enhance the student experience in the EEE Community!

The team:

IEEE Student Branch

  • Alina-Irina Serban
  • Faris Abualnaja
  • Stefan Borozan
  • Olayinka Ayo

EEE PhD Representatives

  • Alicia Blatiak
  • Al-Amin Bugaje
  • Kate Highnam
  • Saleh Komies
  • Michalis Lazarou
  • Joseph Broomfield

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