I’m very grateful to Imperial College Graduate School for offering me a scholarship to attend the “Life Beyond the PhD” conference at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor. About 60 PhD students and early career researchers from 35 universities across the UK attended. I was honoured that I was representing Imperial College. Their research was not only in science but also in other fields such as history, art, sociology etc. It was great to meet people from so many different disciplines in such a relaxing and glamorous place situated in the heart of Windsor Great Park.
- On the first day, we were given an extensive tour of the lodge. Many royals used to live there and even nowadays the Queen sometimes visits the lodge. In the first workshop we learnt about the research culture in the UK, equality and how the role of an academic is changing towards being more entrepreneurial. A point which I thought was very interesting is that the more educated one is, the more difficult is to change mind or direction.
- On the second day, we discussed about mental health issues among researchers. We also had workshops on how to be an engaging and impactful speaker and writer. The key message was that our writing needs to be relevant, clear and vivid. These very useful tips will certainly help me in writing my PhD but also for any writing or public speaking I do in the future. I also had a personal CV consultation with the Head of Research Development of Cambridge University who gave me some excellent advice.
- On the third day, everyone presented their research within small groups. We needed to pitch it to a lay audience because we were all from different disciplines. I listened to many interesting talks from my colleagues and gave feedback. I also received valuable feedback for my presentation.
- On the last two days, we talked about multidisciplinary research. The organizers set up a competition for us: we were split into small groups and the competition was to build a utopian town. Within my group we had fascinating discussions on how we would build this town. Surprisingly we won!
Between all these activities we were provided with plenty of excellent food (eating in the garden in the sunshine) and had very interesting conversations about each other’s research area, behind the scenes issues of each one’s PhD experience, but also about the research culture in general. I think Cumberland Lodge is great because its main aim is to foster collaborations across many different disciplines in a relaxed environment. It’s such an inspirational place too, surrounded by wonderful natural beauty.
The annual ‘Life Beyond the PhD’ conference held at Cumberland Lodge, is a unique, interdisciplinary celebration of research culture in the UK. Now in its twelfth year, it gives PhD students and early-career researchers the opportunity to share their experiences, develop their transferable skills, and explore the value of doctoral research in an inclusive and supportive environment.
Written by Marianna Kapsetaki