My Path Through Research

The Trials and Triumphs of Doing a PhD

Research Meeting: 2

When I joined my department, our research group was quite small. However, with time we have been growing, with two research assistants joining the group since I joined in September. Now that the group is growing (the research group is still quite small, with around 10 people linked to it in some way, and not all based at UCL, so not all can attend) my supervisor has started research meetings. Today was the second one we’ve had, with the first one being held around a month ago.

But what is a research meeting?

Well, in the sense of what we are doing in these meetings, they allow the people in the group to come together around once a month, to discuss what they have been working on, giving the opportunity for discussion on the work being done, and insights from others to be inputted. Last time being the first one, everyone prepared a short explanation of what their work is about (since though we’re all in the same centre, and we’re a small group, most people are working on different projects, and are coming from quite varied backgrounds, so this was essential). Today however it was slightly different. First off everyone said a bit about what they have been working on in the past month. However, the meeting also gave the opportunity for people working on one project to ask for some serious input from the others in the group. Since we all have different areas of interest (though interlinked in the field of cultural heritage), this meant that people could bring to the table their knowledge and ways of thinking.

What do I think about these meetings?

I think they’re great! The first time I was involved in any kind of research meeting was during an internship I had done at the University of Konstanz in Germany on Microbiology, where the whole research group (which in this case amounted to quite a lot of people) met (I think) once a month, for updates about what is going on, and one or two people to present what they were working on. Up to now most presentations I have seen have involved either no one asking any questions (since you don’t want to cause any problems to your fellow students), or the questions being asked being more as a form of one-upmanship rather than a genuine interest in the work. However, in both the current research meeting, and the one I attended in Konstanz, I have been impressed that there actually is space in the academic world for some decent discussions with colleagues in an open forum, without the feeling of you being criticised (destructively).

In the current research group I am sure these meetings will become very useful and important. The main reason for this is that there are people in the group who have been in the field for quite some years, and who are well involved in it. This means that they know the work that is out there, what is being done, and who is doing it. This is very important in a situation where, as was said today, the work is published in a wide range of specialised journals that you would be probably hard-pressed to find unless you know it is there and look for it. Also as I said, the different backgrounds of the people (from chemists to architects to archaeological conservators, electronics engineers and building engineers amongst others). In an interdisciplinary field like heritage research it is good to have these different people around the table giving their input.

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