Thirty PhD students and Early Career Researchers (ECR) attended the NIHR Bristol Biomedical Research Centre (BRC)’s first ECR/PhD symposium on 15 October at Engineers’ House.

The day’s programme was designed and shaped by a small organising committee of volunteer ECRs and PhD students alongside the Bristol BRC Training Group leads and manager.

Professor John Iredale (Pro Vice Chancellor Health) opened the afternoon by welcoming attendees with a simple message: “You are the future”.

Encouraging cross-theme working and networking was were some one of the day’s key objectives. An ECR or PhD student from each of the five themes presented an overview of their theme’s aims and key projects  to the rest of the group.

They shared novel insights into projects their themes are working on, including how to achieve better sleep for patients following surgery, finding ways to predict pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, designing prostheses for children that grow as they grow, and using virtual reality to enhance people’s enjoyment of exercise.

After lunch, the researchers attended a choice of parallel skills sessions on practical topics – identified by ECRs and PhD students as key areas – such as compiling a CV, thesis writing, how the University Governance structure works and attracting funding at different stages of their career.

The group then reconvened to hear Dr Natalie Blencowe and Professor Jonathan Sterne share some honest insights into “the downs and ups of two academic careers”. Their advice included persevere, try to understand other people’s points of view and never send an email when you’re cross!

The day’s final speaker was James Hamilton, the BRC’s Business Development Manager, who advised researchers on ways they can work with industry to translate their findings into clinical practice.

Luke Robles, Senior Research Associate in the BRC’s Nutrition theme, said:

“The ECR/PhD symposium provided me with the opportunity to represent the theme in which I work and to learn more about the excellent research, which is been conducted across all the other themes.  I took away a few helpful tips from the parallels sessions and enjoyed meeting colleagues who work within each of the themes, as well as those who provide support to BRC operations.”

Special thanks go to Luke and our other PhD/ECR presenters: Robyn Wootton (Mental Health), Nicholas Wilson (Surgical Innovation), Estefania de Garate (Cardiovascular – pictured) and Nancy McBride (Perinatal and Reproductive Health).

Thanks also to Charlie Foster, Abigail Fraser and Sandra Spencer who, along with Jonathan Sterne, facilitated the afternoon’s skills sessions.