Every three years, PhD students from The Francis Crick Institute and Imperial College hold a symposium dedicated to enabling students from both institutions to share their research through posters and talks in a supportive environment. Obviously, this year had to be a little different. The event had to held virtually as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which posed new challenges. A key objective of this event is the provide a platform for graduate students from a range of scientific backgrounds to network and work together, something we can all agree is much more challenging behind a computer screen!
We decided that alongside using Zoom for the talks we would use Gather.Town for the posters and networking. We felt this best replicated the networking opportunities normally facilitated at these events as Gather.Town lets you speak with people 1-1 and in small groups. You can design different rooms for people to browse (see pictures for the main foyer and Perkin Elmer’s room).
Alongside the PhD speakers we had Professor Aldo Faisal and Geraldine Cox as plenary speakers. Apart from being inspiring and captivating speakers, their talks also complimented the interdisciplinary nature of the symposium.
Professor Faisal is a Professor of AI & Neuroscience jointly at the Dept. of Bioengineering and the Dept. of Computing at Imperial College London, where he leads the Brain & Behaviour Lab. He talked about his work on using wearables to record natural human behaviour and training AI with this data to improve performance of machine vision for self-driving cars or help mobility of wheelchairs of paralysed patients. (find more about his work https://www.imperial.ac.uk/people/a.faisal).
Geraldine Cox has degrees in physics and fine art and began her project called ‘Finding Patterns’ in 2011 at Imperial College London with an ‘Artist in Residence Award’ from the Leverhulme Trust. Since then, her work has grown to involve scientists from other universities including Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and MIT. See her talk here. Both talks were really engaging and offered interesting new perspectives. As Geraldine’s talk rounded off the day, she joined us in Gather.Town for the final networking session and facilitated some excellent discussions!
Prizes were awarded for the top 3 talks and posters, voted for by the other attendees. This gave us an opportunity to recognise the excellent work being done by PhD students from both institutions and helped to engage the audience. We also held a raffle based on who attended the Perkin Elmer booth, for which they kindly donated 10 £25 vouchers as prizes. This added an incentive for participation as we know this can sometimes be difficult at virtual events!
We know that virtual events can be a challenge and we just want to say a massive thank you to everyone who participated so enthusiastically in the symposium! We hope it was a good opportunity to present your work to an audience of more diverse backgrounds and that you got the chance to engage with each other as much as possible. We look forward to seeing you all in person sometime soon!