Reflection on the 1st CREST Summer School

On Monday 7th September we will welcome another cohort of PhD students and early stage researchers to the CREST Summer School. The researchers are joining us from over 12 different institutions located around England and Wales, and they are researching a broad and diverse range of topics, from knitwear design to innovations in rural farming transactions in Ghana. It promises to be an inspiring and stimulating two days.

This year we will be assisted by two students who attended the first Summer School in 2014. Tijana and Hawra have reflected on their experience of the event one year on.

“It is a universally acknowledged statement that time flies and we can hardly believe it has already been a year since the first CREST Summer School.

The Summer School is an enjoyable and relaxed space where researchers are offered an opportunity to focus on their own professional development alongside fellow students across a wide range of disciplines and institutions.

An important part of doing a PhD is developing a broad range of skills, many of which are particular to the area of research you are engaged in. What we particularly liked about the CREST Summer School was the emphasis on so-called ‘soft-skills’.

Tijana Stancic 2015

Tijana Stancic is in the final stages of her PhD research at Harper Adams University. Tijana attended the 2014 Summer School and returns this year as a Student Coordinator with Hawra Salman

While working in multidisciplinary teams, the programme encouraged developing research ideas, working in multidisciplinary teams. The discussions with people from different academic backgrounds and perspectives was especially valuable. The Summer School gave us the chance to take a step back from the research journey and reflect on it through discussing common and related aspects of that journey with our peers.

The event also offered a very good chance to engage with experts in a wide range of topics related to researching, publishing, reviewing and engagement with our rseearch through facilitated workshops that help in featuring lots of projects.

These workshops provided insights into the researcher’s career journey, providing new visions and motivating new ideas and thoughts. Thus the program is designed to equip researchers with skills to become successful in their academic field.

The Summer School had a focus on engagement outside Academia, an area we were struggling with. There is not an early career researcher that does not want to engage with the public to some degree, but for some of us that remains a difficult task. We learnt a great deal from the presenters, and as well from fellow participants, fellow students.

Meeting students from a range of disciplines made us realize that the challenges of doing a PhD are similar regardless of your chosen area. It was also a unique opportunity to hear from other participants about their projects and disciplines, and engage in in-depth conversations about research and research skills with them.

It is hard to underline the highlights as two days were filled with excellent talks, however visits to the British Library and to the Wellcome Trust left us both rather impressed and inspired. Prior to the visit, we had some misconceptions about the interests, resources and possibilities of cooperation with these institutions. We particularly enjoyed a workshop led by Wellcome Trust staff where participants developed a research proposal with fellow researchers they had just met that morning!

The Summer School left us with plenty of ideas, an additional boost of energy, and bags of motivation. Since then we have been actively looking for opportunities to engage with a wider audience. For example, Hawra has initiated a series of talks with a colleague at UCA, where presenters are invited from wide range of expertise to talk about their PhD journey, and Tijana has entered one entrepreneurial competition and is hoping to be involved at some of Harper Adams University Open Days.

This year we will be attending the Summer School as student coordinators. We hope to be able to help participants get the most out of experience.

Our biggest piece of advice for this years’ participants: be open to new ideas and to working with students from all sorts of disciplines – you never know from where new ideas for cooperation might emerge.

We are looking forward to the CREST Summer School 2015 – and to meeting you there!”

Hawra Salman is currently studying for her PhD at the University for Creative Arts. Tijana Stancic is near completion of her PhD at Harper Adams University.