Early career forum
Dr. Rehmat Ullah (Cardiff Metropolitan University) who organised the event, asked a set of questions to the panelists. Prof Roberts adds his replies.
Rehmat Ullah asked
My first question is about PhD students who have just started their studies or who plan to begin their studies in the near future. How should a new PhD student prepare for a successful research career? And aside from research publications, what are the most important skills a PhD student should work on during his or her PhD?
There are many skills that a new PhD student should work on during their PhD. The Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) is a good place to start. But apart from typical skills, I would say that networking and talking with people are important. Take every opportunity to talk about your research. Go to conferences and speak with other researchers. In addition, many conferences run volunteering schemes. Where students can volunteer to help to run the conference. Conferences provide good places to network, discuss new ideas, and talk with other researchers. By volunteering the PhD student will also be helping the community, and meet other people in the same situation as themselves.
Second, give presentations. Offering to give a presentation or a talk on your research topic, helps you to think about your ideas. It also helps you to be know how to express your research ideas succinctly. Departments often run seminar series, doctoral training centres invite PhD students to present their research, visitors or open days provide other opportunities. Offer to give a presentation whenever you are asked!
Rehmat Ullah asked
This question concern people who have just started their career as independent researchers either as a faculty member or in industry. How to be successful as an early-stage independent researcher? What steps should be taken early on to ensure a smooth transition road ahead? What tips do you have for early career researchers transitioning from early career to established researcher? You might want to share your experience with what helped you establish yourself in the research community.
I would say that to not try to do everything! There are a lot of different skills to learn, as a new academics, and there is a lot of pressure to do, well, a lot of things.
Certainly think how you can innovate in your teaching. But choose a few things to change. In your research I suggest to work with other people. Hopefully you have started to network with people at conferences, and met new people at your University. So, talk with them. Discover similar goals. Start to collaborate with them. And write a grant application and research together! In addition, if you are a new academic, then start writing (and submit) your `first grant'.
What are your thoughts on doing a postdoc and what is the importance of a postdoc if one’s wanting to start a career in academia?
Postdocs are brilliant. They allow PhD students to focus on a topic. The PhD is training, now the postdoc positive gives you opportunities to practice your skills. Often the positions are at a University, and are attached to a project. So you will be working as a team - another good skill to learn. They also enable people to try out a new (or slightly different research topic). This is great, as it broadens your skills. Get research publications, give presentations, network with colleagues, and build up your experience and portfolio.
Jonathan C. Roberts finished by saying
It is great to help others in their early careers, and in their researcher and academic journey. At Bangor I help to organise the Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Advanced Computing (AIMLAC) doctoral training centre, that is run by Swansea University and in collaboration with Aberystwyth, Bristol, Cardiff and ourselves in Bangor. Schemes like AIMLAC provide extra support and training for PhD students. Another source of advice are the Doctoral Schools at your University.