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ACCIS CDT World Café event

CDT PhD students engaging in lively discussions about some of the key PhD challenges

Participants prioritising their top tips for writing up

The inspirational view from the venue across the Bristol Harbourside

1 August 2016

ACCIS CDT PhD students share knowledge and ideas at World Café style event.

PhD students from the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Composites for Innovation and Science (ACCIS CDT) gathered at the M Shed on Friday 29 July for the inaugural CDT World Cafe Knowledge Exchange event.

The Café provided an informal but structured setting for the entire CDT student cohort (first years through to final years and even some recent alumni) to come together to discuss key PhD challenges.

It also provided a platform for the more experienced students to share their knowledge and best practice advice with students in the earlier stages of their PhDs.

Commenting on the World Café process, Lourens Blok, a first year PhD student, said: “It is a very casual setting to share thoughts around the table on different parts of your PhD, and serious enough to get some useful tips to take away.”

Discussions were framed around six key themes, which had been agreed in consultation with the students ahead of the event: networking, conferences and international placements; maintaining a public profile and publishing papers; research and self-management; skills development, outreach and teaching; using the labs; and writing up.

Each theme was assigned to a table and discussions at each table were facilitated by two or three final year students, writing up students, or recent alumni. Each facilitator chose their table ahead of the event based on their particular area of expertise. As more senior members of the CDT they were well placed to offer valuable insights into their chosen topics, but importantly were not necessarily expected to have all the answers. An equally important part of their role on the day was keeping the conversations going and making sure the multitude of ideas were captured.

Helene Jones, final year PhD student and table facilitator, said "It was really great to have the opportunity to discuss and reflect on the experience of doing a PhD with students from other cohorts."

The facilitators stayed on the same table while everyone else moved from table to table roughly every 10 minutes. The sequence by which each individual moved was determined by a pre-prepared algorithm to ensure that they sat with as many different people as possible throughout the afternoon. Questions and answers were recorded on lots of post-it notes and on the last rotation each table was given an extra 10 minutes to prioritise their 3-5 top-tips. The facilitators then fed back to the wider group about what they had prioritised and why and the whole room was given an opportunity to comment. The top-tips will eventually make their way onto posters to be displayed around the CDT for the benefit of future generations of students.

At the end of the day, discussions continued at the post-event BBQ, held on the MShed terrace overlooking the Bristol Harbourside.

Reflecting on the day, Rob Iredale, a second year PhD student, said: "The facilitators were excellent. It was also useful switching tables as lots of people in younger years also had useful contributions, and it was good to hear from lots of different people throughout the day."


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