On June 12th, we (Judith Pape and Wollis Vas) and held our first TCES Net supported Stanmore based student conference R.A.T.E. (Robotics And Tissue Engineering). We wanted to use this day to not only show one another what research we conduct over the three centres (IOMS, BME and Aspire CREATe), but to also show visitors what amazing work is done at Stanmore. The UCL campus out in Stanmore has a long standing history of producing novel research in the field of tissue engineering. However, we wanted to combine this research with the human-machine interphase being investigated at the BME and Aspire CREATe centres.
The program consisted of presentations from from PhD students, research assistants and post docs across all three centres. It was our aim to create a stress-free atmosphere where everyone involved could present their work to their peers in a relaxed manner without feeling the pressure of critique from large audiences normally present at other conferences and symposiums. Students especially enjoyed being able to practice their presentation skills and participate in a student run mini conference.
The definite highlight, however, was the presentation by our keynote speaker Prof. Matthew Dalby’s held at the beginning of the day. We were lucky enough that Matt agreed to come down from The University of Glasgow to start off our mini conference. Matt has been a member of TCES for two decades and was once the winner of the E.S.I. (early stage investigators) award and it was for this reason especially we found him to be perfect to kick off our day of presentations.
Each presentation was 10 minutes long and had the requirement of having a personal component meaning that the presenter would talk about themselves, where they are from, how they came to research and what they are working on now. This element gave the presentations more of a light-hearted and fun feel as it distracted presenters from the nerves associated with having to speak to a critical audience. We didn’t want the whole presentation to be slide after slide of crowded data but really bring across who the researcher was.
The students especially also wanted to incorporate the senior academics at the Stanmore site and give the day a career development element. We did this by having a “meet your mentors” session after lunch where students were able to ask senior academics questions for which they may not have had the platform to do before. Since more academics have very tight schedules, they only participated in this session. Lunch was held in the same student centre as the presentations were, this was good as people were able to snack in between and make themselves a drink as the day went on.
We were lucky enough to receive additional sponsorship from Lonza, who were represented on the day with a stall and agreed to fund all the catering and Amazon vouchers for the winners of the best three presentations of the day. Both Lonza representatives present said they enjoyed the day and the presentations as usually at conferences they will not be able to listen to presentations. They enjoyed speaking to the students and other presenters after about their work and felt they were more able to advise on products knowing more in details what they were working on. During the day, students were able to vote for what they thought was the 1st, 2nd and 3rd best presentations in terms of content and style. We finished off the day by having some pizzas and drinks in the IOMS foyer and having chats to ring out the day.
Overall, organising TCES Net and a small student-run conference entailed a lot more work than we had anticipated. We have definitely gained a lot of respect for people having to organise these events on a much larger scale and are beginning to understand the amount of work that gets put into events like this. Nevertheless, seeing everything come together was very fun and rewarding. Especially, in the morning when everyone started to arrive and see how the whole room had come together was a great moment for Wollis and myself.
We would like to take a moment here to acknowledge Sara Malferrari for her help in organising and setting up for the event. She had a great and positive attitude from the start and was there in the early hours of the morning helping us set up. Secondly, we would like to thank Elena Giusto for taking all the photographs during the event. She was there from beginning to end and made sure every speaker had a picture of themselves presenting to add to their file. Finally, we would like to thank TCES for enabling us as students and young researchers to be given such an opportunity and see the delivery of research from the other side.