The NHLI’s fortnightly Friday webinars for staff and students to share their research and topics relevant to our community restart on 8 October.
The regular short talks on a Friday afternoon that comprise the NHLI’s ‘Science and Culture Seminar Series’ were set up during the pandemic and are set to continue into the new academic year. The twenty plus talks delivered so far have covered topics as diverse as lung function and statin side-effects, right across to mentoring and microaggressions. The talks allow anyone from across the Department’s staff and student community to present on a subject of relevance to NHLI, and also hear from colleagues they might not otherwise get a chance to interact with.
"For me the seminars are about providing a sense of community and generating discussions that could be useful to everyone in our Department regardless of what level you are and how long you have been here" Blerina Ahmetaj-Shala
So what does the series hope to achieve? Hime Gashaw comments “The aim of these talks is to bring the NHLI together to hear about all the different research in our Department, and to hear non-science talks on topics that are important to our community. The seminars have been an excellent opportunity to meet potential collaborators and instigated some great discussions on topics such as neurodiversity and mental health”. The talks have also provided a platform for people to showcase the projects that they may be doing outside of work, and included topics that are important for our work environment such as mentoring.
I asked the series three principle flag bearers, Hime Gashaw (HG), Charlotte Dean (CD) and Blerina Ahmetaj-Shala (BA), to reflect on the series so far and enlighten us on what is planned for the next iteration of talks.
Why did you decide to get involved?
HG: To enrich my understanding of NHLI staff and their work by connecting, interacting, and working with staff and students that I will not have had a chance had it not been for my involvement with the seminar.
BA: I think networking is a fundamental part of research and the lockdown provided us with an opportunity to network from the comforts of our own home. Last year it was a challenging time for everyone but an exciting time for science and so it was important to keep morale up for all our staff and students. For me the seminars are about providing a sense of community and generating discussions that could be useful to everyone in our Department regardless of what level you are and how long you have been here.
What has been your favourite talk so far?
CD: Well it’s always great to hear about all of the interesting and varied research going on in NHLI… but apart from that I particularly enjoyed the talks we had about mentoring and the talk from the Imperial partnerships team- I always learn something new at every talk.
BA: I really enjoyed Paul Cullinan’s talk on COVID-19 and the technology he had developed to determine your ‘COVID age’. This is just one great example of how scientists can collaborate quickly and efficiently to create something which not only benefits people at Imperial but the whole community.
Do you have any plans for the future of the series?
HG: We are hoping that more students get involved, perhaps by hosting or chairing the talks as it would give them a great opportunity to engage across the Department.
CD: Yes, over the summer we have spoken to past speakers and audience members to find out what has worked and what we should change. The autumn programme will broadly be divided into three themes, Science, Education and EDI and we will be having a range of talks that fall into these three themes. In the science talks, we will be hearing about the research of some of our fellows over the next few months.
BA: We’ve decided to expand the talks to also feature seminars on teaching. Teaching is such a fundamental part of the community that is Imperial. Having just completed my Master’s in Education with the Educational Development Unit I have come to fully appreciate what a fantastic teaching department we have. Also, I think it would be great at some point next year to have a one-day event on Science and Culture!
If you could ask anyone to come and present who would it be?
CD: Professor Michele Dougherty- on being a professor of space physics and a Head of Department at Imperial.
HG: Jean- Michel Cousteau on “Climate Change - And What You Can Do!” I think we are on a pathway to some catastrophic changes in our climate and more awareness is needed!
BA: I think it would be great to have a session on studying at the NHLI by students (present and past). This would be an opportunity to get feedback from students on what they enjoyed, what they felt could have been improved and what they have gone on to do. We don’t often know where students have gone on to do so it would be good opportunity to reconnect and get them involved.
Why should people attend?
BA: It’s a relaxed environment with diverse sessions every week. The fact that one week you could be learning about micro-aggression and the following week about world-class research in the gut microbiome makes it exciting.
HG: You will always find something that will be of interest and the meetings are held online on Friday afternoon, which makes it easily accessible to anyone without disrupting work plans. Most importantly, you will always learn something and will be able to hear from speakers who are experts in their specific topics.
CD: The seminar series is about the only regular meeting in NHLI that brings all staff and students together. To get the most out of your work I think it is important to find out about what your peers are doing and learn about how to get involved in all the many initiatives that are available to us all at NHLI - you never know what new thing you will learn about or new collaboration you could make through attending.
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