My experiences from conducting participatory research and as SPP for the Research Impact Programme – and tips to help you create impact from your own research

Blog by Chotiwat Jantarakasem, PhD student from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and winner of Academic Excellence Award from the Anglo-Thai Society.

As a PhD student, I embarked on this journey to turn my research into something helpful for society. To address real-world problems, interdisciplinary work must be undertaken, involving extensive collaboration to translate research output into something practical and meaningful for people. I had planned to do this as part of my PhD, which meant that I had very limited time to make it happen, and I faced struggles and questions from many people who doubted whether what I was doing could be considered as PhD research in Engineering. I was almost ready to give up on my idea to pursue this topic. However, fortunately, I received abundant support from my supportive supervisors and the available resources at Imperial. It is important that you, as a student, know what is available to support you in your work, and be able to leverage this to make the most of your research and its potential benefits to society.

Here, I would like to share my story and key successes to help make your project impactful. Firstly, you have to clearly communicate your goal and firmly stand by your idea if you know that your work has the potential to be very useful for the public. In my case, as a PhD student developing a tool for people in low-resource settings, it is crucial to ensure that the innovation I created during my PhD is practical for people in developing countries. Without launching workshops and participatory programmes, it is almost impossible to gauge the feasibility of the application. Although we may not be able to successfully launch cutting-edge technology, it is still very worthwhile to learn about the limitations of current technology.

Remember to always seek help and support – this is the most important thing. Creating impact from your PhD research takes time and effort. At Imperial, many resources could help you transform your research into something impactful. There is a team helping you go through ethics preparation before submitting your work to the Ethics Approval Team. There is a Social Engagement team that organises masterclasses to help you learn about social engagement and how to conduct participatory research. The Enterprise Lab also has several programmes that could accompany you and help you cultivate the idea and turn it into something profitable via incubation and start-up competitions. Most importantly, for those who have no idea about what to do and where to start, the Graduate School has created the Research Impact Programme, which will teach you to understand what Research Impact is and why it is very important for PhD students.

The Research Impact Programme offers a wide range of courses to equip students with business skills, social engagement, and policymaking knowledge. I joined this programme because I know these courses are invaluable for PhD students who aspire to make a difference but may not know where to start. Thankfully, I participated in FUMO+ and attended courses under this programme. Now, I’m here to ensure that the programme can offer something to meet your expectations. Just like you, I’m a PhD student with ambitious dreams! I understand the challenges we face, but with the unwavering support of the Graduate School, my passion resonates, enabling me to effectively communicate my work to various stakeholders.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned after working closely with Imperial staff, it’s that they always listen to students’ voices. This isn’t just applicable to academic staff but also includes support staff. Imperial offers supportive staff who provide almost real-time assistance, which you can access by scheduling 1-1 coaching sessions.

I firmly believe that many PhD students at Imperial are pursuing high-impact research topics. By connecting and deploying with the various available resources offered by the Graduate School, you’ll be able to turn your project into something beyond what you can imagine. I have faith in my ability to make a difference, and I believe in yours too. Please access the links for further information on what the Graduate School can offer you and how to sign up for courses on the Research Impact Programme.

I have support as a Student Programme Partner from the Graduate School and received boundless support from Dr Victoria Crossley.