Monday, 3 June 2019

Top Three Reasons to Attend Research Conferences

Tahira Resalat, Cohort 2018

In April, I had the opportunity to present my Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) research project from last summer at the British Conference for Undergraduate Research (BCUR) held at the University of South Wales. BCUR is an amazing platform for students looking not only to disseminate their undergraduate research but also learn a great deal about research work being done from all over the world.

As engineering leaders, many of us are often faced with the difficult decision of having to pick career paths between research and industry. Last summer, when I decided to do a 10-week SURE research placement, I never thought my work would get me this far. There are many misconceptions about research, and attending the BCUR conference definitely put them to rest for me in my mind once and for all. So, here are the top 3 things I learned about research and the importance of attending events such as conferences which cater to the dissemination of research work.

1. Research work is so diverse!

A particularly interesting thing about BCUR was that each presentation session comprised presenters from very different degree backgrounds. I was in a session with an economics student from the London School of Economics, a history student from the University of Warwick, and a hospitality student from the University of Plymouth! Within minutes of being in the conference environment, it was clear that the event was filled with people from all over the world. Students from up and down the country, as well as places such as Egypt and China, had made the long journey to come and present their work. And despite being completely unrelated to my field of study, I developed such an appreciation for the cutting-edge work being done on a myriad of topics. I learnt about the socio-economic implications of privatisation, criminology, the use of AI to help improve mental health of university students, fireproof textile materials, NFC technology and much more!

And all this taught me was that the scope of research is infinite. It can be on whatever you want it to be on.

2. Research work is an incredible networking opportunity!

Talking to a room full of strangers from such different subject backgrounds was slightly daunting at first, and I had to be careful not to sound too technical, but I am so pleased to say my presentation was well received. Being told, “I found that really interesting. Your presentation is my favourite out of all the ones I’ve heard today.” by a member of the audience was certainly uplifting! And just like that, I began networking at the event.

Wanting to follow up further on someone’s research was also an excellent way to kick-start conversation. With so many like-minded individuals, all passionate to learn, striking up a conversation was very easy. Furthermore, it became a great source of ideas for future research topics as well as collaborations!

3. Research work leaves you inspired, motivated, and wanting to give back!

The research work presented at BCUR ranged from 6-week summer placements to independent research projects and final year dissertations. Everyone was at different stages in their career in terms of what they wanted to do and where they saw themselves in the future. Nonetheless, the stories everyone had to offer were unique and nothing short of inspiring and motivating. Studies from all over the world, very different and yet all so relevant, really set the scene for the breadth and importance of research projects. It is a collaborative and fulfilling experience.

I would definitely recommend attending more research conferences where possible, or even better, submitting your work and being invited to present your research.

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