Sunday, November 23, 2014

Presentations and Networking

We only went to school three of the five days this week, but it was for legitimate reasons.

One day was the Postgraduate Showcase at the university where postgrads could voluntarily give 12-minute presentations on their research topic. It was an all-day event, starting with a good speech by the keynote speaker, a retired professor of law, and then including four sessions of 3-4 speakers per session. The professor discussed some of the changes in postgraduate work since he received his PhD, namely the limitless availability of knowledge and expectation that more will be included in research papers. He said it used to take about 2 years but now takes 3-4. One can get information overload, and I definitely know about this when it comes to looking up food, recipes, and health topics online. There is a lot out there, and that's only including the first 1 or 2 pages of Google searches and the tangents you can get on from those sites. He showed us copies of a government policy recommendation from years ago (a 12-pages booklet) and one that he helped work on recently (a 300-page bound book). And yet, he acknowledged that most people don't bother reading through any of the longer stuff because they don't have time.

In a refreshing turn, he told us not to use esoteric and hyper-intellectual language that isn't accessible and is just trying to make the author look smart. This is part of the reason that non-academics don't think the work coming out of academia has any relevance since they can't understand it. I know the humanities are guilty of this, myself having come across many articles and books that could have said the same thing and gotten the message across in simpler language (I'm looking at you, writers who include French theorists!). He cautioned us against overlong sentences as well. It was a nice pep talk about how we will be contributing to the sum total of all knowledge and will develop valuable skills in the research and writing process.

Regarding the presentations...let's just say I learned a lot about how not to present. The advice we received in the postgraduate seminars a few weeks ago really came home to roost when I saw how other people a) went over time b) hadn't practiced so didn't know how to pace c) didn't use slides effectively d) spent way too much time on boring parts like methods and didn't have time to get to results and the interesting material e) weren't able to understand or answer questions. In spite of this, it was interesting to hear about all kinds of different research topics, including a linguist researching how often certain words were used in four English-language and Arabic-language newspapers regarding the uprising in Libya; a chemist designing a program to make it faster to determine molecular shape which can affect how molecules ingested by living things might change once inside them; and a multi-disciplinary student looking at robots and ethics. One disappointing thing was the noticeable lack of arts/humanities students. There were only a couple (we heard some had dropped out, too, which was too bad), and I resolved to work hard to change that for next year by drumming up support. It doesn't do any good to slink away just because the science/engineering departments are getting all of the funding. The work we do is important too, and remaining visible and active is one way to not be completely forgotten.

The other day we didn't go to school was because I went to a networking breakfast for local women researchers put on by the Canterbury Women's Club. It turned out to be a really good experience. There was a non-political presentation by a local politician (I'd heard her speak before on-campus) on the importance and history of women researchers in this area, and she reiterated the importance of the humanities even though they don't seem to have the same "utilitarian" purposes that the sciences do. I met a couple older women as well as a few other students. I proposed more of a regular meeting of women researchers on-campus, either through this group or a separate one, since there isn't currently a network and it would be a good way to meet people and support each other, especially those of us not in the fields getting all of the attention. I know one thing: networking is important and worth investing in.

The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit location guidebooks finally came in the mail. Hello, road trips!

We discovered the Canterbury Museum has a massive collection of birds. I was excited to find out there is a type of magpie here! The ones in the UK were beautiful, intelligent, and awesome. This owl was looking very cute too.

No comments:

Post a Comment