by Enrico Varano
On Sunday the 17th of March 2019, the first-year PhD students from the Bioengineering Department enjoyed an active day out which started with a go-karting race in Sandown Park and culminated in a joyful social over dinner at Franco Manca in Earl’s Court. The students, who organised the outing on the WhatsApp group they created at the beginning of the year, sought to reinforce the professional ties and personal bonds they developed since the first social at the beginning of February. The event was made possible thanks to funding obtained through the Imperial College London Graduate School from the Research Community Fund, for which the students are very grateful.
The day out started at 1 P.M. when the students met at the South Kensington Campus to catch a minibus ride they’d booked, and headed out for Sandown Park. The bus quickly filled with a variety of overlapping conversations with topics ranging from technical comparisons of experimental methodologies to the importance of engaging as Teaching Assistants for one’s own self-development. Such conversations promote collaboration: as an example, a professional connection between two students which emerged in the previous social event resulted in one’s participation in the other’s lab work as a pilot subject – allowing them to further tune their experimental design through discussion other peers. As one student put it: “It’s also nice to connect with people who I might be able to collaborate with – providing opportunities for similar connections to occur is essential and may result in fruitful collaborations and exchanges of perspectives of the challenges PhD students face daily”.
As the minibus approached the venue, those that had been go-karting before shared their accounts of previous experiences. The weather gave some signs of worsening before clearing up, fortunately – the track was just made humid enough to make the spin-outs funnier to recount on the minibus on the way back. The student engaged in the race showing their competitive spirits and very much enjoyed the challenge of handling the karts in damp conditions. The event ended with pizzata – Italian for a pizza get together – in Franco Manca at Earl’s Court, where the room filled with friendly conversation.
Indeed, aside from the aspect of providing an opportunity to develop professional relationships for direct scientific collaboration, a very important aspect of social interaction is to web a support network made of personal relationships between the students. This network enables students to manage any work-related anxiety, stress or loneliness by having a go-to person in a similar professional situation to them. The event was designed to facilitate a combination of the tension-releasing adrenaline-inducing sporting activity and the relaxed and informal follow-on dinner and was a great success! Everyone thoroughly enjoyed the day out, as one student’s reaction reveals: “We all had a fantastic time, relaxing, having fun and forgetting about work for a few hours! Very much looking forward to seeing my colleagues again for another event in a few weeks’ time!”