The GRADskills Postgraduate X-change research seminars run twice each semester. They provide an opportunity for PhD students from all years and disciplines to present their research in front of a non-specialist, interdisciplinary audience. With the emphasis on measuring “impact” in the current Research Excellence Framework (REF), effective public engagement is a key skill for all aspiring researchers to develop, and the PG X-changes are one means for doctoral students to develop this important skill. PhD students also Chair the events, thereby providing an opportunity to develop other important transferable skills.
There are three speakers at each X-change, and the talks are followed by a networking lunch for all participants. Thus in addition to picking up presentation skills techniques, students also have an opportunity to find out about the research of their colleagues in other departments, potentially discovering new research methods, or even ideas for new research topics or collaborations. At a recent X-change a presenter from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland discovered that a member of the audience had a very similar thesis topic – each had thought they were the only ones in Scotland doing a PhD in that area, so both were delighted to discover someone else with a similar passion!
Here is an example of what participants on the X-change have had to say about the impact it had on them:
- “Presenting at the PG X-Change helped prepare me for giving the same talk at my first international conference a week later. The opportunities to test out my material, make amendments, and most importantly, respond to questions were invaluable in boosting my confidence and honing the talk. The conference presentation went very well indeed, and I have just been invited to submit it to a special issue of one of the key journals in my field.”
- “I applied to do the postgraduate-exchange in order to practice writing and delivering my talk for a conference. The talk was a success, the feedback I got was very constructive about presenting in future and delivering a talk. It also allowed me to assess the level of content for audiences which are not in your scientific field, which is invaluable as you do get caught in your own science bubble sometimes!”
- “Some interesting thoughts and ideas to follow up in my own research and connections to others with similar research ideas.”
- “Recording notes and feedback presented me with an opportunity to think critically and hopefully transfer that style of thinking to my own work. Perhaps most exciting, the exchange was a chance to connect with other university students and discuss the experience and process of postgraduate learning.”
- “I got the opportunity to speak with other students about their research and get ideas for methods, theory and practice for my own research.”
- “Practiced public speaking and presentation skills. Increased confidence in presenting at departmental seminars. Collected ideas from the audience, co-presenters, and the chair.”