BRC-funded PhD students organise their annual 'away day'

On Thursday 18 April, PhD students from the NIHR Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre paused their work for the day and trekked north of the river to Bush House for a student-led Away Day.

This was organised by the four NIHR Maudsley BRC student reps with sessions suggested by the whole cohort, having three aims in mind:

  1. Delivering training sessions specifically requested by the student cohort.
  2. Enabling students from both years to mix and get to know one another.
  3. Providing a much needed opportunity for everyone to take a break from their desks/labs.

Academic 'speed dating'

PhD students within the Maudsley BRC are spread over multiple teams and departments, so it can be very easy to become isolated. For this reason, we wanted to kick the day off with an opportunity for students from both years to get to know each other and benefit from exposure to the wide range of BRC-funded PhD projects their peers are currently working on.

Albeit perhaps more elevator pitch than First Dates, attendees needed no encouragement and were quick to get the day off to a flying start, creating a more positive and relaxed atmosphere for the rest of the day. 

Media training and public engagement - Dr Sally Marlow and Amy Edmunds

"Every single person in this room should be thinking about getting science out there, especially in the current climate."

Following a quick tea break, it was time for the first session on working with the media and engaging members of the public, delivered by Dr Sally Marlow (Engagement and Impact Fellow, Department of Psychological Medicine, King’s College London) and Amy Edmunds (Communications and Engagement Manager, NIHR Maudsley BRC).

Drawing on recent examples of science communication in the media and public engagement initiatives, this session explained why we should be communicating our findings beyond traditional academic publishing, how to construct and deliver a message, and the various outlets that are available to researchers (e.g. podcasting, art exhibitions and science festivals).

Resilience during the PhD - Dr Patricia Zunszain

"Find a way to make the PhD hard like climbing a mountain, not hard like being hit with a stick."

The second of the day’s sessions was delivered by Dr Patricia Zunszain (Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychological Medicine, Senior Tutor (Student Experience) and Postgraduate Skills Coordinator, NIHR Maudsley BRC) and based on a very successful resilience programme rolled out last year across King’s College London. 

The session covered some of the common difficulties encountered during a PhD, from procrastination to motivation, and strategies for overcoming them. The session was interspersed with small group discussions, which provided an opportunity to share experiences, advice, and strategies that students have found helpful.

Feedback from the day

"I took away lots of new understanding and practical tips to help me ‘survive’ my PhD.”

"I didn’t know that there were this many [outreach initiatives], which got me thinking about getting involved.”

"This day reminded me to take time out and to socialise with other PhD students.”

Overall, positive reflections on the day’s activities indicated that it was enjoyed by all, as students appreciated the opportunity to interact with the wider cohort (and the chance to get out of the office).

Both presentations were well-received, with many attendees expressing a desire to learn more about working with the media and other public engagement initiatives to communicate their research more broadly.    

As the student representatives, we were thrilled with the success of the day and would like to thank all the attendees and presenters for their time. Special thanks to Julia Wootley and Professor Richard Brown for their support in organising the Away Day. 


NIHR Maudsley BRC Student Reps

Nikou Damestani - 2nd Year PhD Student, Centre for Neuroimaging Sciences

Gemma Gordon - 2nd Year PhD Student, Department of Psychological Medicine

Ilyas Sagar-Ouriaghli - 2nd Year PhD Student, Department of Psychology

Ben Greer - 2nd Year PhD Student, Department of Psychology



Tags: Training & capacity development -

By NIHR Maudsley BRC at 24 May 2019, 16:00 PM

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