Scientific conferences are an essential mechanism for the communication of scientific findings, career networking and collaboration. However, there is no formal training for conferences and opportunities to attend such meetings are often strictly limited due to their high cost.
Therefore, to help students within the Division of Infectious Diseases (DID) acquire conference experience, a PhD Student Away Day was organised with funding support from the supplies company Qiagen. The event took place on 30 November 2017 at LT2 Wolfson Education Centre, Hammersmith Campus.
In total 85 students attended the day, including participants from each Section within DID based on four campuses. To create the atmosphere of a student-led conference, the only academics present were Professor Charles Bangham (Head, DID), Principle Investigators who voted for the best presentation and poster, and co-organisers Dr Sophie Helaine and Dr Nathalie MacDermott. This helped to ensure that students were able to ask questions and lead discussions, which can sometimes be dominated by senior academics at national or international conferences.
The day provided students with opportunities to give oral presentations, chair sessions, and to present posters. To encourage participation from attendees, prizes for the best poster and oral presentations were determined by a few nominated Principle Investigators.
The winners were:
Best presentation: Elisabeth Ledger, Matt Newton and Christine Styles
Best poster: Miles Priestman
Miles Priestman, Christine Styles & Matt Newton
The event finished with a reception, which provided an additional opportunity for networking between students from various sections.
Two keynote lectures were given by senior academics from Imperial College and the University of Birmingham respectively to provide examples of how senior academics present complex data and explain their work to a diverse audience. Professor Jane Davies of Imperial talked about the infection and inflammation in the cystic fibrosis lung. Professor Robin May of the University of Birmingham focussed on the ‘Host immune manipulation by a fatal fungal pathogen’ in his keynote address.
In summary, the Division of Infectious Diseases PhD Student Symposium successfully brought together students from different campuses and diverse research backgrounds, and provided them with experience in several aspects of conference attendance. We expect that this experience will help them maximise the benefit of attending major scientific conferences in the future.
Keynote lectures: Professor Robin May, University of Birmingham
Professor Jane Davies, Imperial College