One of the best things about studying for my PhD is the opportunity to attend and present at conferences. This is encouraged and financially supported through most studentships and is an invaluable experience to connect with the wider research community.
I have attended many conferences over the last few years and have enjoyed every one of them. I have been to France twice, the Orkney Islands in Scotland and some ‘closer–to–home’ locations such as Bath and Bristol.
International congress on marine corrosion and fouling – Toulon France
I had the fantastic opportunity to present my work in second year at an international conference in France. I presented my work as a poster which took the pressure of a little as this was my first international conference. Poster presentations are usually held in the evening when delegates are free to browse the work and ask questions in a more informal setting.
Most international conferences also hold social events on one afternoon so that delegates get the opportunity to experience the local area, which is an added bonus. It's also a chance to work on some all-important networking.
Hydralab+ workshop - Toulouse
As well as conferences, attendance at relevant workshops is encouraged. I was able to travel to Toulouse to attend a workshop showcasing new experimental techniques in my field and connect with other young researchers in similar disciplines.
Another fantastic opportunity that comes hand in hand with studying a PhD!
Local conferences are just as important and interesting as international ones and in many ways are more important in terms of building a network.
Networking is a large part of attending a conference and many breaks are scheduled specifically for this purpose. It can be quite daunting to start with, as a young and new researcher, but I would recommend jumping in feet first. It is important to get talking with other researchers and academics to keep up with the latest research. A PhD submission must present a unique contribution to science so this is a great place to make sure you’re not repeating the work of someone else.
Networking is also important for your future career. It can be easy to lose yourself in the study and forget that time will soon roll around, and before you know it you will be seeking your first professional role. Having an existing network can really help here; someone may be able to offer you work experience, a short placement, full-time employment or put you in touch with someone who can. It’s not all about ‘who you know’ but it certainly does help!
As a student many conferences offer prizes to the best presentations which is an extra incentive to take part and do well. A bit of cash, a voucher or a travel support prize goes a long way for a struggling student.
Remember, even if you are a masters or undergraduate student, many conferences are still open to you. Also look out for student specific conferences, you won’t be disappointed.