Where in the world have you been?

Bristol’s postgraduate researchers travel far and wide during the summer months — so we thought it’d be fun (and informative) for us to map your globetrotting and share some snaps from your sojourns.

To make our ‘PGR trek’ challenge even more interesting, the researcher who’s been to the farthest-flung location (for ‘business’ reasons rather than pleasure) will win a University of Bristol scarf!

To enter our competition — and see your pin on our map — tell us where you went via Twitter/Instagram using #PGRtrek or send the details by email to robert.doherty@bristol.ac.uk.

Photos of your trip are very welcome, but please let us know if you don’t want these to be used on the BDC blog.

The winners will be unveiled on Friday 15 September. Good luck!

How the 3MT reminded me why my research matters

Alfie Wearn won the Bristol 3MT final last month for his presentation on predicting Alzheimer’s disease. Here he shares his experience of taking part; from almost pulling out of the competition to winning the Bristol 2017 finals in Colston Hall.

Step out of your comfort zone. Comfort zones are the enemies of achievement.” – Roy T Bennett

I’m not normally a fan of inspirational quotes like these, but I make an exception for this one. I like it because I heard it just as I was about to pull out of the Three Minute Thesis ® (3MT) competition just a couple of days after applying. I told myself that because I was at such an early stage of my PhD, attempting to present a kind of “thesis” summary would be a bit fraudulent – in truth however I think I was wondering what on earth I’d gotten myself in for, and was looking for a good excuse to run away back to the safety of my comfort zone. I lost that excuse pretty swiftly when I was told that plenty of people had taken part in 3MT in their first year. So I bit the bullet and continued with the process. In hindsight – a good decision!   

Training & Practice

I was enticed, in part, to participate in the 3MT competition and Research without Borders because of the various public engagement training courses that were available for all successful applicants. During one course a communications expert at the University taught a group of us 3MT hopefuls the importance of creating a story, and using relatable analogies to engage audiences in our research. I also got a chance to practice a very early draft of my talk to this group during that training course. I got some really helpful feedback which helped shape the final version of the talk.

In the days leading up to the semifinals, I practiced it every time I had a spare 3 minutes. I practiced in front of the mirror, in front of friends, I even videoed myself on my phone to see how I sounded to others, and to see if I was doing anything stupid with my hands (still not sure I’d sorted that by the final…). I probably practiced it about 50 times more than necessary, but it gave me confidence, which, I have learned, is all important in something like this.

Actually doing the talk

Eventually the semi-finals came about and I finally got to perform what I had been practicing so much for the past month. Despite all this practice, I spent the 10 minutes before my turn wondering why I had not gone over the talk ‘just one more time’ – so much so that I completely missed the previous couple of speakers. But when it came down to it, I realised that actually doing the talk wasn’t nearly as bad as sitting and thinking about it. I immediately forgot all the worries and worst-case scenarios I had constructed for myself and just spoke about what I knew, and what I had practiced. And honestly, I really enjoyed it. Of course, by the time the finals came in May, as part of the Research without Borders showcase day in Colston Hall, I had completely forgotten this lesson, and once again spent the 10 minutes beforehand wishing for that one more chance to practice…   

Thoughts, feelings, and lessons learned

I’ve learned that condensing a PhD-sized amount of work into 3 minutes is, if nothing else, a great way of making sure you know exactly what it is you’re doing. Now I realise that sounds like a stupid thing to say. But when you spend so many hours, days and weeks with your head buried in your PhD work, and have little contact with the outside world, as often happens during a PhD, it’s easy to lose touch with the bigger picture. You forget that not everyone knows a lot about Alzheimer’s disease, or the role of the hippocampus in the consolidation of memories. It helps to focus your work, and when you’re having a bad week it is sometimes helpful to be able to remind yourself as to why your work matters.

I urge everyone to have a go at the 3MT and taking part in Research without Borders. You get a snapshot of all the research at the university that you might never even have realised is happening; from ageing kidneys and forest ecosystems, to noise-reducing materials in aeroplanes and the evolution of invertebrate vision, to name but a few. Lifting your head above the water every now and again to see what is going on around you is a habit we should all get into – and what better way, than these two fantastic celebrations of research at the University of Bristol.

You can listen to Alfie talking more about his research, alongside other 3MT finalists, on this Speakezee podcast.

Alfie’s presentation will be judged at a Vitae hosted (virtual) national semi-final next month. Six finalists will then be selected to perform live at the Vitae Researcher Development International Conference during the gala dinner on Monday 11 September 2017. We’ve got our fingers crossed, Alfie! 

Find out more about Alfie’s research:

Twitter: @AlfieWearn

Speakezee: https://www.speakezee.org/speaker/profile/2646/alfie-wearn

University research page: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/neural-dynamics/people/alfie-r-wearn/index.html

Revisiting Research without Borders: The Restricto-Box

Life of Breath PhD student Tina Williams shares her blog post from the Life of Breath Blog (original post) on her experiences exhibiting at this year’s Research without Borders festival of postgraduate research.

The 2017 Research Without Borders Festival showcase exhibition ran at Bristol’s Colston Hall on May 12th. I, along with ninety-nine other research students, took part in this engaging research exhibition, with the aim of answering the call to address pressing ‘twenty-first century challenges’ by creating ‘a common language & framework that can transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries’ (Bristol Doctoral College, Research Without Borders Programme, 2017).

Presenting philosophical concepts, ideas, and theories relevant to challenges such as the rise of respiratory conditions and anxiety disorders in a tactile and interactive manner was certainly a challenge, because philosophy is usually discussed within academic conferences, the classroom, journal articles and so on. Conveying the utility of philosophical ideas to contemporary living outside papers, posters or soundbites without losing the impact and message of, for example, phenomenological insights into human existence was always going to be difficult.

My exhibit was included in the ‘Perspectives for Looking at the World’ section. Here, alongside other PhD researchers working in areas including neuro-psychology and neuro-imaging in Alzheimer’s, Middle English debates on the body and soul, colour in Lorca’s theatre, I presented my exhibit ‘Suffering in Silence’. The purpose of the exhibit was to raise the profile of the invisible yet highly prevalent rates of breathless experiences in modern human experience, shine a light on the excellent work of the Life of Breath Project and its members, and to incorporate the utility of exploring phenomenological accounts of changes to embodiment, relationships, and society by respiratory and mental health conditions. This of course includes looking at the experiences of the embodied person and how their condition transforms their way of being-in-the-world, relations with others and their environment as they struggle to catch their breath on, for example, the walk upstairs or to the local surgery, and the relationship with clinicians and the scientific understanding of the impact of illness on the whole person, instead of the medical focus on disease processes. In short, we need to focus on the phenomenology of these experiences:

For many years, our knowledge of children and the sick was held back, kept at a rudimentary stage, by the same assumptions: the questions which the doctor or researcher asked of them were the questions of an adult or a healthy person. Little attempt was made to understand the way that they themselves lived; instead, the emphasis fell on truing to measure how far their efforts fell short of what the average adult or healthy person was capable of accomplishing. (Merleau-Ponty, World of Perception, p. 55).

The doctoral college provided intensive training to hammer home the message of thinking outside the usual poster presentations; interactive displays and tactile artefacts were just two suggestions. With these in mind, I set upon creating an exhibition that could be an embodied experience as well as represent and evoke anxiety, restricted embodiment, and entrapment often experienced in respiratory conditions or anxiety disorders. This led to the construction of the Restricto-Box: a narrow telephone box-shaped prop that could induce anxiety, the closing-in experience of claustrophobia, and the restriction of both the body and the environment when one is trapped in the moment of breathlessness. These are experiences that those with chronic illnesses, certain disabilities, or panic anxiety often report. My exhibit intended to give voice to these invisible, suffocating, and socially isolating experiences, as, explained during the 3MT (3-Minute Thesis) semi-finals (which I also took part in), ‘when the breath is stifled, the voice is silenced, communication cut off’.

restricto-box next to the suffering in silence display table, which features a banner reading 'Exploring breathing and breathlessness'
‘Suffering in Silence’ exhibit, complete with Restricto-Box (left)

Existentially, breathlessness is a constant reminder of impending mortality. Most of us want to die in our sleep with no knowledge of the event. Not only do patients with chronic, progressive lung disease know of their impending death months, years or decades ahead of the day [6], they fear how they will die, with the fear of suffocation always somewhere in their minds. This is as frightening as life can be.
(Currow and Johnson, 2015)

This part of the exhibition in particular was received ‘well’: “It is horrible!”, “Get me out!”, and many other expressions of the unpleasant experience of being inside were reported on the feedback cards. Attempting to make the most out of the space, I included within the box examples of changes to embodiment as described by patients and philosophers, particularly in the work of phenomenologists Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Havi Carel.

collage-style layers of text and images inside the restricto-box, including a black and white photo of marilyn monroe making a face into a funhouse mirror, a handwritten quote (illegible) and fragments of questions about body image and dysmorphia
Inside the Restricto-Box

Indeed, a Heidegger quote I presented was included in one of the comment cards (also visible in the image above):

The Heidegger quote is perfect for the Restricto-Box experience… ‘Things turn towards us… angst is happening all around us’. Being in the box reminds me of the precarity, fragility of life… it makes me think of the life lived by the breathless of no escape, of limited views of the world.

I also included images of distorted embodiment; famous sufferers such as Charles Darwin, who was agoraphobic and suffered from terrible panic attacks that left him breathless and housebound; reports on the shockingly poor air quality of UK cities, workplaces and homes; NASA recommendations for indoor plants to naturally get rid of toxic particulates such as formaldehyde; and journal accounts of related disorders and their impact on patients’ whole worlds, in the hope of informing, contextualising and de-stigmatising these disorders. Staff and students from areas as diverse as professionals in the doctoral college to research laboratory work in formaldehyde-rich environments engaged with my display and discussions, commenting on their own experiences of poor air quality, asthma and panic experiences, social deprivation in their home towns, and concerns about the impact of the polluted environment on their health.

Finally, I incorporated a model of the lungs. One side was damaged by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Squeezing the attached bellows to inflate or deflate the lungs demonstrated hyperinflation of the lungs, visibly protruding, black, and inefficient in comparison to the healthy lung. Additionally, philosophical texts, posters, and information on the Wellcome Trust-funded Life of Breath project and staff was included, so that I could show the important work that members from Bristol and Durham are doing. I was extremely honoured to have my exhibit highly commended, and thank both the team and the Doctoral College for their hard work and all the support given to me.

Open Access, or: The internet is not going away #openaccess

Dr. Paul Spencer is the BDC’s newly appointed PGR Environment Development Manager, whose role is to oversee the continued improvement and evolution of the Bristol Doctoral College support for all postgraduate researchers in enhancing the quality of their experience. He shared with us the below blog post on Open Access from his own blog, The Digital Doctorate.

I’ve been thinking about the Open Research agenda again recently; it would be fair to describe me as an advocate and I’ve written about this topic before on this blog here and here. This post though is more about the research culture that is often at odds with openess and why I think that needs to change.

I read an article on the Guardian Higher Education Network recently by Professor Stephen Curry entitled “It’s time for academics to take back control of research journals“. He writes about how the “Publish or Perish” culture of academic research has led academia to quite a difficult place in its relationship with the business of scholarly publishing. His article is a useful reminder of the history of scholarly communications and their purpose in disseminating and growing our collective knowledge.

I think there is an uncomfortable truth in that many researchers do not really understand the economics of journals and book publishers and their relationship with the academy. Back in January, Professor Martin Eve came along to a session organised by the UWE Library Research team to talk about open access and how the economics behind it operate in a talk he entitled “Open Access, or: The Internet is not going away“.

Martin is a professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London. He is also the co-founder of the Open Library of Humanities (OLH) and his talk was a really good explanation of how academic publishing could and should work – even in the humanities and social sciences. I think it important to highlight that the model of open research is not the exclusive domain of science, it affects us across the disciplines although there are some particular challenges in humanities.

He started out by outlining the contradictory nature of scholarly publishing as it is now, on the one hand we publish to be read but on the other we publish to expose our work to assessment.

He framed this as researchers operating in a symbolic economy whereby they hand over their academic findings to publishers to package up and disseminate.  This content is given away and, in exchange, researchers hope that these outputs will translate, through assessment and ranking, into a pecuniary advantage in terms of promotion and progression (and therefore salary). There is a delayed benefit in this academic activity which exacerbates the precarious nature of academic research careers, especially those who are just starting out. Martin showed us how this symbolic economy maps onto a real economy of publishing.

We captured all of this on video that you can see below:

Click on thumbnail above to play video of talk – Open access, or: The internet is not going away


The challenge for early career researchers is to look past the rhetoric of “publish or perish” and understand the actual economics of scholarly publishing. It is for researchers themselves to push back – the status quo cannot be maintained because it is simply not sustainable and, worse, is undermining the most important aspect of publishing academic work in the first place – the need for it to be read.

The challenge for people like me who support the development of researchers is to keep pushing for the open research agenda to be embraced in institutional support for researchers, for example making it as easy as possible for postgraduate researchers to deposit their doctoral outputs in open repositories and reduce the barriers that are sometimes put in the way.

Find out more

1. Vitae Researcher Development Website on publishing your research (login required)

2. Why Open Research – new website for open researchers

3. JISC resources to help researchers with open access

4. Facilitate Open Science Training for European Researchers (FOSTER) – European-wide project supporting open research across Europe

Interests in Aid and Development: a talk with Myles Wickstead

Keri McNamara, a third year PGR student in the School of Earth Sciences, spoke to Myles Wickstead following his lecture on a life-long career in aid and development as part of the Cabot Institute lecture series. This blog has been reposted with permission by the Cabot Institute, and the original post can be viewed here.

Ever wondered what a career in aid and development is like? Or how the world’s current development programmes came into being? Look no further than this blog on Myles Wickstead who gave a Cabot Institute lecture and short interview on his reflections and experiences on a colourful career in aid and development.

Among Wickstead’s notable achievements are a position as head of British Development Division in Eastern Africa, coordinating a British Government White Paper on eliminating world poverty and now being an advisor to the charity Hand in Hand International.

An audio recording of Myles lecture can be found above. His talk focussed largely on the inception of the building blocks of international development; the UN, the World Bank and the International Monetary fund. He began by turning back time towards the end of the second World War, in which the atmosphere of global reconciliation bred the need for trans-border institutions such as the UN that had the oversight necessary for peace to prevail.

Many years later, the UN decided to introduce development goals with the aim of reducing global poverty within a given time frame. The first of these was the Millennium Development Goals which were drafted in the UN head quarters with little external solicitation. In fact, Wickstead reminisced that environmental goals were almost completely overlooked and only added when a member of the committee ran into the director of the UN environment department on the way to the copier room…

Wickstead went on to add that a large parts of the Millennium goals were generally quite successful although there was still plenty of scope to be more inclusive. He also dwelt on the new Sustainable Development Goals drafted by the UN in 2015 and the Paris climate summit which, Wickstead claims, represent a much more integrated approach to propel international development into the future.

Below is my interview with Myles in which I question him on his talk and ask him about his career in aid and development:

You mentioned a fair bit in your talk about the importance of tying in environment sustainability with aid and development. How do you see that working in practice in a developing country when sustainable practices can be sometimes be quite anti-economic? 

Yes, the two things are brought together in the Global Goals for Sustainable Development agreed in New York in September 2015.  Let’s take an example of a country that’s well-endowed with forest resources. They could get rich quickly by chopping down the trees and selling the wood. You can’t expect those countries to simply say ‘we are not going to chop our forest down’. Firstly you need them to realise that for the long-term sustainability of their country they need to preserve the  forest. But second, because maintaining the forests helps protect us all from climate change they rightly expect some compensation from the international community to do so. There are (albeit imperfect) mechanisms in place for this. Despite this I do, on the whole, think they are being successfully implemented: take Brazil for example.

There are also examples where – often without the consent of the government – indigenous forests are being cut down to make way for palm oil plantations, with devastating consequences not only for the trees but the wildlife.  In these situations, governments need to be encouraged to take firm action against the individuals or  companies concerned, again with support from the international community as and if appropriate.

I work on volcanic hazard in Ethiopia and one of the things I’ve noticed is the more wealthy urban areas are developing fast with an expanding middle class, but the more rural areas are still subject to a lot of extreme poverty. What part should external aid play in helping this wealth filter down?

It’s a very important question and one I touched on when talking about the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which were in place from 2000-2015.  That period saw extraordinary progress, including halving the proportion of people living in absolute poverty, but many people (for example, those with disabilities or from ethnic minorities) were left out.  It is also the case that urban areas, with generally better infrastructure and more job opportunities, tended to make faster progress.  A lot of people in rural areas were in very much the same position in 2015 as in 1990. Within Ethiopia, a combination of rapid economic growth – supported both by investment and aid  – and good policies mean that the benefits are now being felt more widely.

The role of Chinese investment in infrastructure, particularly roads, has I think been quite a positive one. The Government of Ethiopia has a very clear five year growth and investment plan and they expect their partners to deliver; I remember one case of former Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles requiring a Chinese company to rebuild a road they had just built as it was not up to standard; I am sure they were equally exacting of other companies from other countries.  Not all African governments have that kind of determination but on the whole I think Chinese engagement has been a good thing.  And the fact that Africa was largely unaffected by the global recession following the crash of 2008 was not only because it was not as connected to the international financial system as other parts of the world, but also because China and other countries in Asia continued to buy its raw materials.

What influenced your decision to have a career in Aid and development?

I had lived and travelled overseas a little.  My father was a marine biologist and as a technical expert worked for the predecessors of DFID and lived and worked overseas in places like Singapore, Tanzania, and Jamaica.  So I probably got some of the wish to live and work overseas from him – though alas didn’t inherit the science gene, which passed me by!

I went through the civil service fast stream process, and having successfully negotiated that had to make a choice about which Department I wanted to join.  It was then the Ministry of Overseas Development; a few years later became the Overseas Development Administration of the FCO; and in 1997 became a fully-fledged Department of State with its own Cabinet Minister. Interestingly, DFID remains the most popular choice of all government departments for fast-steam applicants.

Is there a defining moment in your career you want to mention? 

I have been extraordinarily lucky in the choices that I have made – or have been made for me – in terms of where I was at particular time. To have had the chance to run a regional office in Africa; to have been on the Board of the World Bank; to have worked closely with Ministers both as a Private Secretary and in coordinating the 1997 White Paper (the first in 24 years); and to be Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union – it was a huge privilege (and very hard work!) to be given these responsibilities.  I ran the Commission for Africa Secretariat in 2004/5, and I suppose one of the great moments was going to present a copy of the Commission’s Report ‘Our Common Interest’ in 2005 to Nelson Mandela.

Someone asked earlier today- how do you keep positive despite the gloomy state of much of the world? My answer would be that the world has made extraordinary progress over the past quarter of a century in pulling people out of poverty, and that we have a real chance of completing the task, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals, by 2030. Of course there have been setbacks along the way, and there will be more – conflict and environmental challenges to name but two. But with political will, and by maintaining a positive focus, I believe we can aspire to a better world both for ourselves and for future generations.


BCFN Student Kate Oliver through to Famelab Regional Final

The Bristol heat of the international competition for communicating science asks working scientists and technologists to explain something about science in just 3 minutes. Kate spoke about the science of hairstyling and shape memory polymers, and is one of 4 to progress to the Regional final, which brings together talent from across Wales, the Midlands and the Southwest.

Famelab [http://www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/about/famelab/] is a communications competition where entrants have no slides and only the props they can carry on with them. Participants begin with local heats, then work their way up through region and national to the international final at Cheltenham Science Festival. Taking part in Famelab has kickstarted the careers of many presenters and performers, from musicians to more traditional explosion-based science demonstrations.

Kate Oliver is in the third year of their time at the Bristol Centre for Functional Nanomaterials, and is working on 3D printing shape-changing materials. They also co-organise and regularly perform at local chaotic science cabaret, Science Showoff Bristol, [https://scienceshowoff.wordpress.com/] and are taking part in the Science Showoff Talent Factory [ https://showofftalentfactory.wordpress.com/ ]. Kate said:

“Today I spoke about the molecular action that enables hair to hold shapes – it’s called shape memory, and could be very useful in future technologies. Talking about science allows me to indulge my attention-seeking, outward going side – though I like being with my machines in lab too.”

Of 8 entrants into the local heat, 4 went through: in addition to Kate, Alex Lathbridge, Lon Barfield, and Alex McCleod will be joining another 10 at the Regional final, to be held in March. It’s free, and all are welcome to come down, watch, and offer their thoughts.

This post was originally published on the BCFN website, and can be viewed here.

Highlights from our Researcher Inauguration event

A massive thank you to the 200+ new Postgraduate Researchers who attended our first ever Researcher Inauguration event on Monday, 6 February. Held in the Reception Rooms of the iconic Wills Memorial Building, our new students were officially welcomed into the University’s research community by the Vice-Chancellor and the Bristol Doctoral College. Check out the full story on our storify for highlights of the night, which included free scarves, a prize draw and excellent speeches from Dr. Samantha Matthews and current 4th year PhD student Leanne Melbourne.


Last year’s Research without Borders festival with Leanne Melbourne

Leanne Melbourne is a postgraduate researcher in the School of Earth Sciences. She took part in Research without Borders 2016, both in the showcase exhibition and the 3MT finals. We asked her to share her highlights and why students should get involved this year.

Last year I was lucky enough to participate in the Research without Borders showcase event at At-Bristol. The event was an amazing experience which allowed me to present my research in a fun, friendly format to not only members of the university but also the wider community of Bristol who were just as fascinated and interested in my work as I am.

I also sat in on really informative discussions themed on “digital living”, and took part in the 3MT finals. The latter was a fun but nerve-wracking experience. Standing in front of an audience and condensing three years’ work into three minutes is a daunting task, but definitely enjoyable. One thing it did was help me to really think and distil the main points of my PhD, which is definitely going to help me in my final stages of thesis writing. The whole event was busy, and I didn’t get to see everything. It was quite hard to leave my display as I was too engrossed in talking to lots of different people about my research, but I was able to hear lots of different thoughts and opinions that I wouldn’t normally hear. The discussion on ‘what will cities look like, and how will we, as citizens, live together?’, led by the University Research Institutes, really opened my eyes to the diverse views out there.

For me the training sessions were one of the highlights about taking part. They started with a special session using Lego. Who doesn’t love Lego? We had to use the Lego to explain our research and then try and create links with the other researchers around us. So while my research focuses on climate change in the ocean and its impact on seaweeds, I had to find a link with someone who researches CF4 emissions and explain this link using Lego. As researchers we are all used to writing our research in 300 word abstracts using a whole load of jargon to be able to get in as much detail as possible. Try writing your research in 140 characters that anyone would be able to understand! Yes indeed — we had to sum up our research in a tweet. 140 characters isn’t much, but it really helped me think about the highlights of my research and its important questions. These activities also helped us to find links with each other that we wouldn’t normally see whilst trying to look past research groups, departments, faculties and research institutes; essentially, getting us to think across borders(the main aim of this event).

What I also really liked was that we had the final say of where we were on the day and how we were positioned, and that this wasn’t distinguished by our research groups or departments. I ended up next to a researcher who looks at camouflage; it just so happens that he was at the time looking at camouflage on reef fishes so we had the link of ‘water’. I would never have known about his fascinating research without this event.

That’s what is truly great about taking part in Research without Borders: it gives you the chance to think about your research in a different light. As researchers, we can get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of our topic, but participating in the festival – especially the showcase exhibition – reminds you of the bigger picture of why you got involved in the first place. It’s also an opportunity to meet lots of different students from diverse fields all at various stages and hear about the amazing research going across the university. This event is all about breaking barriers, crossing borders, meeting and talking to people you may never have even thought would have some link to your research.

If it wasn’t for the fact that I’ll be in the final stages of writing my thesis, I would definitely apply again.

Sign up for this year’s Research without Borders by February 28.

Leanne presenting in the 3MT finals, 2016


7 things all Bristol PGRs should do in 2017

Make sure you start the year as you mean to go on by getting involved in the thriving research community here in Bristol. Here are some of the highlights coming up in 2017 that our postgraduate research students should watch out for:

1. Look after yourself by prioritising your self-care

We bet you didn’t expect to see this as number 1 on the list, but looking after yourself shouldn’t be forgotten. Life as a researcher can take its toll on your mental and physical health. In the depths of research – whether in the lab, the archives, or the field – it’s all too easy to get sucked away from the wider world. Take a quick look at our virtual resource hub for activities, events, information and news about mental health and general wellbeing.


2. Celebrate the start of your research at our special inauguration event in February

If you’ve started your research degree on or after 1 August 2016 then come along to our special Researcher Inauguration event on Monday 6 February, 2017. Receive your official welcome from the Vice-Chancellor and President of the University, Professor Hugh Brady, and introduce yourself to the University’s rich and vibrant research community over a glass of wine and some nibbles. Sign up for your free ticket here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/researcher-inauguration-event-tickets-30551567561

3. Showcase your research at the BDC festival of research: Research without Borders 2017

Our flagship Research without Borders festival provides an interactive space for Bristol postgraduate researchers across all disciplines to come together and showcase their work to a broad audience from within and outside of the University. This year’s festival will include a whole week of interactive showcase events: an evening seminar series, the finals of the Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) competition and an afternoon showcase exhibition at Colston Hall on Friday 12 May. More than 100 PGRs shared their work at last year’s exhibition, through research posters, hands-on demonstrations, innovative research displays and lively discussions. Take a look at last year’s event to get a sense of just how special the event was – and help us make this year’s event bigger and better than ever! Keep an eye on the Bristol Doctoral College website to find out how you can sign up.

4. Sign up for personal and professional development training  

In an increasingly competitive environment there is a growing demand on postgraduate researchers not just to be qualified experts in their subject area, but to be highly accomplished individuals with the skills and attitude to communicate, innovate and adapt within a continually changing landscape. The Bristol Doctoral College runs a Personal and Professional Development programme with more than 150 workshops, seminars and online resources designed specifically for postgraduate research  students. Take a look at the full catalogue and sign up today!

5. Join the Bristol SU Postgraduate Network

The PG Network is a student-led initiative for all postgraduate students (both research and taught) that seeks to develop an active, strong and vibrant postgraduate community here at the University of Bristol. The PG Network organises events in Bristol and provides a real chance for students to work together to shape and develop Bristol postgraduate community life. Get involved and keep up to date by joining the group on Facebook.

6. Learn something new and see where it takes you

Keep your mind active even when you need a break from your research by going to a public lecture, talk or debate about something completely different to your main study area. There are numerous public talks and lectures in Bristol, and many of them are free to attend. The Bristol Festival of Ideas attracts experts from around the world to Bristol with an inspiring programme of debate and discussion throughout the year. The Arnolfini also organises regular talks and the Pervasive Media Studio at the Watershed holds a free lunchtime talk every Friday.

7. And finally, make the most of being in Bristol

Bristol has a wealth of cultural treasures and historic places to explore – from museums, art galleries and theatres, pop-up cafes, festivals and world-renowned graffiti. Make sure you make the most of studying in such a vibrant city and take some time out of your research to explore. Keep up to speed with what’s going by keeping an eye on Bristol 247 and Bristol Museums.