Lessons from organising and participating in the University of Bristol Faculty of Health Sciences PGR Symposium

PhD student Winfred Gatua was part of the team that organised a recent Postgraduate Research Symposium. In this post, he shares how organising this event helped him develop important skills for his research and beyond.

On 26 October 2023, the University of Bristol witnessed a remarkable event celebrating the convergence of ideas and expertise in the field of health sciences. The Faculty of Health Sciences Postgraduate Research Symposium, a grand success, resulted from collective efforts, teamwork, and a shared vision to foster collaboration and knowledge exchange among the students. As someone actively involved in organising this symposium, I am thrilled to share my experiences, the invaluable skills I gained, and why I believe that such events are essential for the growth of our academic community.

The symposium boasted a dynamic agenda that catered to the diverse interests of the health sciences community. Around 70 Postgraduate Research (PGR) students participated from various schools. As the morning unfolded, attendees engaged in enlightening 10-minute presentations, flash talks, and captivating poster sessions, showcasing the breadth of research within the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Beyond the academic sessions, the day offered an unconventional twist. Attendees had the unique opportunity to explore the Bristol Aerospace facility, including the iconic Concorde. The blend of aerospace adventures and tea set the stage for informal networking, fostering connections among students and senior academic staff.

Keynote and career insights

Besides students’ presentations, we had a thought-provoking keynote speech covering aspects of Doctoral studies to life after the studies. Moreover, the event featured distinguished external speakers who generously shared their research career journeys, providing valuable insights into both academic and industry pathways. These sessions inspired attendees to envision their own paths beyond academia. To wrap up the day we had round table discussions focusing on key topics ranging from career development to equity and diversity which saw a lot of students actively involved. It was a powerful exchange of ideas that transcended the formal presentations, reinforcing the sense of community within the health sciences faculty.

Teamwork and planning

One of the most significant lessons from my experience is learning how to lead and work effectively within a team. Coordinating with fellow postgraduate students and faculty members demanded collaboration, effective communication, and shared commitment to our goals. This experience improved my leadership skills and gave me a greater appreciation for teamwork, a crucial aspect of any professional career.

Organising an event on this scale involves meticulous planning. By selecting the date and booking the venue to arrange logistics and catering, I learnt about the art of attention to detail. This event planning experience benefits future academic endeavours and applies to various career paths where organisation and coordination are vital.

Effective communication was paramount throughout the process. It involved liaising with the faculty and PGR administration team and engaging with students and potential guest speakers. I honed my communication skills, developed strong professional relationships, and expanded my network, a valuable asset in academia and the professional world.

Crafting an engaging and informative programme requires a deep understanding of the subject matter and the needs and interests of the target audience. I can collaborate, curate relevant sessions, and structure a comprehensive agenda. This experience deepened my knowledge and analytical skills in the health sciences.

Transferrable skills

Organising events like the Faculty of Health Sciences PGR Symposium offers a plethora of benefits, and I wholeheartedly encourage my fellow postgraduate students to become involved in similar initiatives. Organising events equips you with practical skills to transfer to various career paths. These experiences improve leadership, communication, project management, and problem-solving skills. Building connections with professionals and fellow students can open doors to research collaboration, mentorship opportunities, and potential career paths. Organising events contributes to academic discourse, promotes knowledge exchange, and creates a sense of community within the department or faculty.

Hosting events such as the Faculty of Health Sciences PGR Symposium is vital for the growth and reputation of the university. I believe that the university should continue to fund such events in the future. A symposium serves as a platform for knowledge exchange, creating an atmosphere of innovation and learning and promoting the sharing of ideas, which can lead to ground-breaking research and partnerships. Organising events fosters a sense of belonging and community within the university, contributing to student satisfaction and retention.

The Faculty of Health Sciences PGR Symposium at the University of Bristol was a memorable and rewarding experience. Organising this event equipped me with a valuable skill set, introduced me to a diverse network of professionals, and reinforced the importance of academic collaboration. I strongly encourage my fellow postgraduate students to embrace such opportunities and urge the university to continue funding and supporting events that promote academic excellence, innovation, and community building. These investments benefit the university and contribute to the growth and success of future leaders in health sciences.

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