All posts by Cristobel Soares-Smith

18Jun/20

Careers Accelerator Online Masterclass – Register Now!

Who: SEPnet Physics-related PhD students and postdoctoral researchers.  Free to attend.

Where: 4 live online sessions (1.5 hours per session) via Zoom

When: 11:00 on Tuesdays, 4th, 11th, 18th and 25 August 2020 (Attendance required at all 4 sessions)

Numbers: 45

GRADnet is pleased to announce a live online workshop series to explore opportunities beyond your PhD to widen your future career options.

There will be four sessions looking at what’s important to PhD graduates and postdocs now:

  • Opportunities for physical sciences in industry: Find out what’s important to industry, what industry relevant skills physics-related PhD graduates possess and how to articulate your research, skills and experience to add value to a future employer and to give you the edge/impact.
  • Be a problem solver – learn how to ace interview challenges: Learn how to demonstrate your problem-solving capability to potential employers. Practise delivering tangible solutions under time pressures and learn specifically what employers are looking for when hiring PhDs.
  • Understanding and communicating your value to industry: Understand and convey what you can offer business and industry. Develop a pitch to a company you would like to work for, articulating your research, skills and experience and how you can add value to that employer.
  • Connecting with industry: Actively explore different possibilities and better understand the steps/actions you need to take to achieve your next-step career goals.

Preparatory Work: Each module will include maximum of 1 hour (video, audio, reading, writing, thinking, etc.)

Live Session Online: 4 live online masterclasses (1.5 hours each) delivered in coordination with Skillfluence, SEPnet team and industry
partners.

Application: Apply key concepts from the preparatory work and live sessions. This may be individual activity and/or small group work following the masterclass. Maximum of 1 hour per participant.

Register here: (places limited to 45 participants)

Registration deadline: 13 July 2020

Industry partners: 4-Delta Group, Airbus, BBC, Deloitte, Formula-E, GEOptic, Kindred Group, National Physical Laboratory, Reaction Engines and WP Thompson.

28Feb/20

Benefits of attending a GRADnet Winter School as an ECR!

An ECR  from the University of Portsmouth recently attended the GRADnet Winter School, 17-19 February 2020 at Cumberland Lodge and highlights the benefits of attending:

“I attended the GRADnet Winter School at Cumberland Lodge, which was focused on developing soft skills like communication, management, leadership and team dynamics/structure.  As a postdoc I found the school to be useful, particularly in helping me to reflect on my own behaviour and approach to research projects. I work in a field where project teams range from a handful of people to teams of hundreds, so being able to better assess my own performance and that of the teams I work in will be valuable to me.

We covered a wide range of skills and topics. Although as a postdoc I have had many opportunities to practice some of these, such as presentation skills, I found it beneficial to cover all of the subjects within a relaxed and supportive environment. As a result, I will feel more confident taking on leadership roles in the future. In addition, the school was a fantastic networking opportunity allowing me to mix with other ECRs and the session leaders from across the South East.”

If you are a SEPnet ECR and have considered attending either the GRADnet Winter or Summer School, you are very welcome to sign up.  Look out for our 2020-21 GRADnet Training Programme which will be published in September.

20Feb/20

Selfie Shoot and Spaghetti Challenge at GRADnet Winter School

The GRADnet winter school took place on 17-19 February 2020 at Cumberland Lodge, Great Park Windsor for SEPnet postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers.

This 3-day residential course was designed by Mark Horner, Performance Pathways to develop essential skills for successful collaboration including motivation and management of both self and others.

Delegates built spaghetti and marshmallows structures to develop an understanding of team dynamics.  L-R:  Callum Grove, University of Surrey; Caitlin Walsh, RHUL; Dr Brianna Smart, University of Hertfordshire; Yannick Kluth, University of Sussex and Leon Schoonderwoerd, University of Kent.

The “Selfie Orienteering Project” involved 5 teams running around the Great Park Windsor, taking selfies at 20 key points armed with a map and description of the key points. Delegates had 20 minutes to plan their strategy and route.

Selfie at the “Twisted Tree” from the top:  Shing-Cheung Lee, Dr Giovanni Mirouh, Gabriele Parisi, University of Surrey; Benjamin Man, University of Sussex and Florence Roberts, RHUL.

Part of the programme included a real non-technical challenge from BlueOptima, who monitor software development productivity, quality and cost to understand global positioning.  Delegates had to convince, pitch and present their solution to the challenge.

Congratulations to the winners of the BlueOptima challenge. L-R: Mark Horner , Performance Pathways with Dr Andrew Williamson, University of Portsmouth; Duy Bui, BlueOptima; Giri Man, RHUL; Stephanie Biddlecombe and Matt Brunet, University of Surrey.

Attendees welcomed the opportunity to meet potential employers and pick up employability skills. Dr Joe Allen, RBA Acoustics and Jenika Karsan, 4most, gave insightful advice on transitioning from academia into industry.

Delegates enjoyed networking with people from other institutions and said the event was “fun, informative, helpful and enjoyable!”

The next Winter School will be15-17 February 2021 at Cumberland Lodge.

27Jan/20

Students learn how to commercialise their research at Turning Science into Business Workshop

In collaboration with the National Physical Laboratory, SEPnet and Julia Shalet, Product Doctor,  a highly interactive and enjoyable two-day workshop was held in December 2019 for postgraduate researchers at Bushy House in Teddington.

The mission was to practise a commercial way of thinking and see how ideas arising from science can be turned into viable business propositions. Working with real case studies, delegates wrote hypotheses, identified their riskiest assumptions, wrote questions they needed answers to, thought through how to find customers to ask, set measures for their responses, practised conducting interviews and worked through how to analyse research output.

Delegates were then asked to map the whole business up using a tool called the Business Model Canvas (from Strategyser) to see how to create sustainable business models.

Linden Fradet, University Liaison Manager at NPL invited Mason Rowbottom, a PhD student living and breathing the experience of making a business out of his research ideas.  Mason gave delegates an insight into how he has co-founded several companies in 3D printing while doing his PhD at the University of Sheffield.

Participants said the event was: “very informative and practical”; “interactive with useful tools”; “very clear, concise delivery of all the business elements” and “a very useful introduction to business… great networking…”

Prof Sean Ryan, SEPnet Executive Director, said: “the event ran extremely well, with all participants scoring it higher than 8/10 and five participants giving it full marks at 10/10.  SEPnet has worked with Julia on several similar but shorter events before.  This was the first time we used a two-day format and that seemed to work very well as it gave more time for participants to apply what they were learning at each step to their case studies; time to learn from critique given to other groups and it meant that they had a chance to practise and improve on their own research interview skills.”

SEPnet looks forward to collaborating again with NPL and Product Doctor in the next academic year.

20Jan/20

GRADnet Machine Learning & AI Workshop: Great interactive sessions!

The GRADnet Machine Learning and AI workshop was attended by over 40 PGRs and postdocs on 15-16 January 2020 at QMUL in Mile End Road, London.

Delegates were interested in learning about AI and ML techniques and the potential ways they can be implemented in their own research.  The diversity of talks and tutorials was welcomed by everyone and the support available from all the speakers.

“Data wrangling was great because we got to learn how to use R, Python, SQL” ; “hands-on tutorials and exercises with support were the best aspects of the programme” and “speakers were engaging” were some of the comments from delegates.

SEPnet would like to thank all the speakers and QMUL staff who contributed in making this workshop a success and thank you QMUL for hosting the event.

Joe Davies, PGR at QMUL who kindly ran one of the sessions said: My first time running my own tutorial/talk using my own coding examples and it went so well! Managed to get people finding pulsars using Machine Learning and had such an interesting discussion afterwards #datascience #machinelearning #GRADnet” .  See here for further information.

GRADnet would like to offer this workshop again as part of their training programme in 2020-21 as many PGRs are interested in data science as a career.

Dr Adrian Bevan, Deputy Director of the Institute of Applied Data Science, QMUL introducing Dr Alkistis Pourtsidou, UKRI Future Leaders Fellow and Reader in Cosmology, QMUL,  before her talk on “Reinforcement Learning”.

 

 

 

 

 

05Sep/19

Physics outreach project nominated for Times Higher Education Award

A Queen Mary outreach project which takes physics research into schools has been nominated for a Times Higher Education Award 2019.

The School of Physics and Astronomy’s ‘Physics Research in School Environments’ (PRiSE) programme is shortlisted for the Widening Participation and Outreach Initiative of the Year for the event known as the ‘Oscars of higher education’.

The award will go to the most imaginative and innovative project that promotes diversity and encourages people from non-traditional backgrounds to enter higher education or extends the reach of the institution to new areas of activity.

PRiSE enables underrepresented students across London to experience cutting-edge particle and astrophysics through 6-month-long independent research projects.

As part of the programme students and teachers receive introductory workshops and school visits from researchers, helping them undertake a piece of research which they then present at a conference held at Queen Mary. Around 30 schools take part every year.

It has overwhelmingly built students’ confidence in science, developing skills not typically encountered within school, and has had lasting impacts on their physics and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) aspirations.

The programme has also resulted in a peer-reviewed paper, with student co-authors who successfully identified sounds caused by solar storm.

Dr Martin Archer, PRiSE project lead from Queen Mary’s School of Physics and Astronomy, said: “I have been developing PRiSE over the past five years and it’s been wonderful to not only see the long-term effects these projects are having on young people and their teachers. For this to be recognised nationally through the nomination is utterly fantastic”

PRiSE has developed teachers’ practice through the relationships forged with Queen Mary. As a result, teachers develop new lesson content, skills and mentoring; gain confidence in discussing research; and share students’ work raising their school’s STEM profile.

It is also informing the sector, with SEPnet and Ogden Trust adopting it into their strategies, Royal Society recommending it to their teacher network, and USA’s National Oceanic and Space Administration encouraging other researchers internationally to adopt it, with take-up from some universities already.

THE editor John Gill said: “I am delighted to say that the ‘Oscars of higher education’ go from strength to strength. With 23 categories this year, we’re also showcasing more exceptional stories than ever before, and it’s a real honour for us to shine a spotlight on all those who have made it as far as these shortlists – their stories deserve much wider circulation.”

These are the 15th annual THE Awards, and the first to feature a range of categories covering all university activity under one banner – excellence will be recognised both in academia and across the professional services.

The Awards ceremony is the biggest night of celebration in the UK HE calendar, and will take place at the Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane in London on Thursday 28 November 2019.

A student presents his poster at the PRiSE student conference

02Aug/19

GRADnet Training Programme 2019-2020 Announced!

GRADnet is pleased to announce the list of forthcoming GRADnet Training events for the academic year 2019-20.

These events are only for SEPnet postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers.

These events are free to attend (SEPnet pays for your accommodation and course fees for residential courses) and travel expenses can be claimed from your department.

List of training events:

23 October 2019: GRADnet Induction at 1 Park Crescent, International Students House, London W1: This is compulsory for all September/October 2019 starters.

6-7 November 2019: Measurement Science Conference, the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, Middlesex. (10 places available for SEPnet PhD Students)

27-28 November 2019: Astrobiology and Planetary Science, the Open University, Milton Keynes.

2-3 December 2019: Turning Science into Business, the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, Middlesex.

4 December 2019: IOP/SEPnet Career Panel Event for Physicists at the Institute of Physics, London N1. (networking event for physics students and postdoctoral researchers.)

15-16 January 2020: Machine Learning and AI, Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London.

17-19 February 2020: Teams, Communication and Leadership – Winter School at Cumberland Lodge, Great Park, Windsor.

25-27 March 2020: Student-led Research Conferences at University of Southampton, Highfield Campus. (Arrival 4pm on 25 March for meet and greet ): Soft Matter: the unseen science all around us and The Big Data Era in Astronomy

27-28 April 2020: Quantum Computing, University of Surrey, Guildford.

6-9 July 2020: Opportunities beyond your PhD – Summer School, Herstmonceux Castle, West Sussex.

13-16 July 2020: NExT PhD Workshop, Cosener’s House, Abingdon, Oxford.

Registration open now to SEPnet postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers!

 

24Jul/19

Benefits of attending GRADnet Summer School 2019 as a Postdoc!

I didn’t really know what to expect from the GRADnet Summer School, especially approaching it as a postdoctoral researcher as opposed to a PhD Student. Since my postdoc contract expires at the end of the year, I saw it as a good opportunity to expand my horizons and gain some inspiration about what I could do next. It’s always been my ambition to find a vocation outside of academia, so the chance to interact with employers from a range of different backgrounds was worth a shot. Moreover, it could be a chance to develop my ideas about how my PhD in Physics and experience in research could be transferred to other fields.

I was a bit worried that the activities might not be pitched appropriately for a professional researcher, but that fear proved to be unfounded. The seminars – two each day – were well built with a wide array of experiences in mind. Seminars which stood out to me were the Intellectual Property workshop run by WP Thompson and a talk on public engagement from the Science & Technology Facilities Council.

Between seminars, I had the chance to attend two employer-led workshops each day, which comprised an hour talk about their work and a group activity. Typically, the group activities were well thought out to bring across a specific point, and as a consequence they were highly engaging. A highlight was a workshop from Ultra Electronics, where we were tasked to design the most useless microwave which still fitted within the design specifications – my team decided that the specified OLED display should be only 1 pixel and communicate through Morse code. But amongst the fun, there was a serious take away – our training as Physicists has given us skills which come in handy in plenty of different contexts. In this environment, our technical Physics knowledge doesn’t count for nearly as much as our agile thinking and teamwork.

On the final day, we split into teams and took part in a “consultancy challenge”, where we tried to solve, in a matter of hours, the kind of problems a consultancy might work on for weeks. My team’s assigned problem was to make a recommendation about where the successor to the Large Hadron Collider should be built – at CERN in Geneva, or in a new site in China? Not only did we have costs and scientific merits to consider, but my team chose to emphasize the possible ethical issues of working with the Chinese government. Time was tight – we had only a few hours to put together a poster presentation and a pitch to sell our solutions. This extremely limited timescale forced us to focus on the principle of being “just good enough” to solve the problem, but no more rigorous. My team even won a prize for our efforts! The whole exercise really emphasized to me the importance of the leadership and time management skills I’ve developed. I left the summer school with renewed self-confidence, fresh ideas for new careers, and quite a few new friends.

Thank you to Dr Steve Chick, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of Surrey for giving his perspective on attending this year’s GRADnet Summer School 1-4 July 2019 at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, Middlesex.

Rutherford Appleton Laboratory:  Team 3 – Stephen Haywood, RAL, Bradley Garland, Dan Kelsey, University of Sussex and Stephen Chick, University of Surrey.

05Jul/19

GRADnet Consultancy Challenge Winners!

Congratulations to our consultancy challenge winners at the GRADnet Summer School 1-4 July 2019 at the National Physical Laboratory, in Teddington, Middlesex.

The consultancy challenges are an opportunity to take on the role of a consultant and propose a solution to a “real world” challenge that is facing an employer.  In doing the challenge postgraduate researchers discover the skills one has developed during one’s doctorate are transferrable to genuine business solutions.

The challenges this year were provided by Gil Travish, Adaptix Ltd; David Gorton and Duy Le Bui, BlueOptima and Dr Stephen Haywood, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.

The winners are:

Adaptix Ltd:  Team 3 – Gil Travish, Adaptix Ltd, Michael Soughton, University of Sussex, Marta Venanzi, University of Southampton and Dominic Duffy, University of Surrey.

BlueOptima: Team 3 – David Gorton, BlueOptima, Adam Kennington, University of Surrey, Andrey Abramov, RHUL, Alexander Booth, University of Sussex, Carlos Vergara, and Michael Kritsotakis, University of Sussex.

Rutherford Appleton Laboratory:  Team 3 – Stephen Haywood, RAL, Bradley Garland, Dan Kelsey, University of Sussex and Stephen Chick, University of Surrey.

Peoples Choice Winners:  Adaptix Ltd Team 1:  Veronica Benson, Employer Liaison Director, SEPnet, Michael Spencer, University of Surrey, Giri Mani, RHUL, Jelena Gorbaciova, QMUL, and Maria Pintea, University of Kent.

Well done to all the participants.

05Jul/19

GRADnet Summer School PGRs get the measure of NPL!

The fifth GRADnet Summer School took place on 1-4 July 2019 at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, Middlesex.  Thank you to NPL because this is the third time they have hosted this event and offered laboratory tours, water rockets and a BBQ with the wonderful backdrop of Bushy Park.

40 postgraduate researchers signed up to this year’s school which provided an opportunity to experience some wide-ranging opportunities outside academia and to interact with employers from a variety of organisations.

A Sussex student said it was a “fantastic school, very well organised” and that they found “pretty much everything very useful”. The most valuable thing they took away from the school is that “academia is not the only way to do science and a job in industry doesn’t have to be a “fall-back”.

Thank you to all our speakers and employers who provided talks, workshops and consultancy challenges: NPL, University of Sussex, WP Thompson, IOP Teaching, Santander, Ultra Electronics, GlaxoSmithKlein, RBA Acoustics, UKAEA, Adaptix Ltd, BlueOptima and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.