PDC Fund reports

Hammersmith – Postdoc Careers Workshop

Our postdoc careers workshop was aimed at postdocs who wish to explore non-academic job prospects. This event was advertised across the Hammersmith postdoc community with involvement from the Department of Medicine, NHLI, Department of Surgery and Cancer and the MRC. It was also championed by the Athena Swan committee. The event opened with an interactive talk by Dr. Karen Hinxman who spoke about how to craft your CV’s for non-academic positions. We then had three unique talks from individuals who had moved into successful non-academic positions. This was followed by an interactive ‘breakout session’ where postdocs could speak to the speakers.

What went well?

This event brought the Imperial postdoc members together at Hammersmith, with 45 postdocs from a range of departments being present on the day. The postdocs were actively talking and networking throughout the workshop.  Due to this event being such a success, the committee is highly motivated to continue to work together to coordinate a range of workshops at Hammersmith.  It was a great opportunity to work with the MRC committee and to open the event to MRC postdocs.  In Hammersmith there are often labs where postdocs work alongside one another, although they are funded by the MRC or Imperial, however there are rarely events that bring both cohorts together. This event was ideal at doing this and created great networking opportunities across both institutions.

What did you learn during the organisational process and what were the challenges you encountered?

Overall this event ran relatively smoothly. The biggest challenges where on the catering side, but it all worked out in the end. 

What could be done differently next time?

Apart from better organisation of the refreshments, I think I would consider changing the start time to later to try and increase attendance and help facilitate the networking drinks after the event.

What tangible results came of organising the event?

Several opportunities have arisen from this event:

  • Postdoc committee at Hammersmith now works closely together and are planning a fellowship workshop in January.
  • We have established connections to run the ‘postdoc careers workshop’ again in 2015 as not all of the speakers we asked this time around could make it.
  • Both the MRC and the Imperial postdoc committee have been introduced and the Imperial postdoc committee now advertises the MRC monthly social to the imperial postdocs
  • Dr Linda Koch, who is the chief editor of Nature Genetics, has informed us that there are several editors at Nature HQ who would be delighted to come and speak to Imperial postdocs.
  • The breakout sessions allowed for postdocs to independently make connections with our three speakers, several of whom exchanged emails to continue contact independent of the PDC.

Physics – Wine and Cheese Event November 2014

The fourth annual Physics post docs’ cheese and wine evening was organised to welcome new post docs to the Physics department as well as promote interaction across different research groups. Several members of the Physics Research Associate (RA) representatives committee worked together to organise the reception, which was sponsored by the Postdoc Development Centre (PDC) as well as the Physics Department. 

What went well with the event?

We had a good turn out from the department with approximately 50 % of physics post docs in attendance. Quantities of cheese, wine and soft drinks were quite well judged and the range of cheeses was extremely popular with many of the postdocs. Only one glass was broken!

What did you learn during the organisational process and what were the challenges you encountered? (min 200 words)

Newer members of the physics RA committee were involved in the organisation of the cheese and wine postdoc evening this year. We learned the importance of cooperation and good team working to share the tasks required to prepare the event. In particular we learned the importance of clear communication, especially when arranging the date and the venue to ensure that key people can attend the event.  Another important lesson learned was recognising the need to delegate tasks rather than trying to take on all of the organisational duties individually.

Key challenges included balancing the budget, which was tighter than in previous years and so required careful consideration when ordering supplies for the event to ensure that plenty of food and drink was available to cater for those in attendance. Proactively advertising the event was also crucial and ensuring a good turnout for the event was particularly difficult. This is because post docs in the department tend to be very busy and therefore have little opportunity to interact with the wider community outside of their own research teams. Ensuring good attendance and good mingling between different research groups was therefore a particular challenge and a resounding success of the event.

What could be done differently next time?

More cheese, (a little) less wine!

On a more serious note I think that an improvement for next time could be to introduce a more proactive approach to ensuring that RAs meet and get to know new people in the department. Everyone in the department is very friendly and there was a lot of mixing between different groups, but it’s very easy for people to revert to their usual friends, so introducing a way of promoting interdisciplinary discussion, perhaps using a game or team building activity, would be desirable.

What tangible results came of organising the event (for instance, have any other opportunities arisen for the organisers or participants as a result of taking part?) (min 200 words)

On a personal note I had several opportunities to speak with people who I wouldn’t ordinarily and discovered others in the department working on related research areas to my own. This sparked a number of interesting and useful discussions, which are extremely likely to lead to new collaborations, access to new equipment and lab space within the physics department and the transfer of knowledge and expertise between the research groups.

Other members of the physics RA committee also benefitted from being involved in organisation of the event. This ranged from arranging the venue and securing funding, through to choosing wine and cheese for the evening, purchasing supplies and advertising the event around the physics department. Those members who have not been involved in organising events in the past gained valuable insight into the coordination and cooperation required to run a successful event for staff and are able to take that into elements of their work, such as conference and workshop organisation.

Finally, the event also provided newer members of the department with a forum for discovering the support available to postdocs at Imperial College. Several people asked further questions about the PDC for example and expressed an interest in taking relevant courses, while one postdoc learned that there is support available for people who have innovative new ideas that can be developed into start-up companies and will be seeking assistance in developing their idea further and following their entrepreneurial spirit.

Event Feedback (please also provide pictures that could be added to our website)

The event was well received and a few of the newer postdocs commented that they really enjoyed the welcome to the department and the chance to meet new people. Many people also commented on the quality and variety of cheese on offer and are already looking forward to the event next year!

Some of the post docs enjoying a different atmosphere to usual in the physics common room:

pd workshop

Postdoc Careers Workshop

Postdoc Careers Workshop

Postdoc Careers Workshop

Postdoc Careers Workshop

Postdoc Careers Workshop

Postdoc Careers Workshop

Postdoc Careers Workshop

Postdoc Careers Workshop

Postdoc Careers Workshop

Postdoc Careers Workshop

Postdoc Careers Workshop

Postdoc Careers Workshop

Postdoc Careers Workshop