Cutting-edge postgraduate training schemes guarantee international competitiveness of the researchers trained and provide them with the necessary skills for a future career as researcher in either the academic sector or in industry.
EuPRAXIA-DN Coordinator, Prof. Carsten P Welsch, has been leading large-scale PGR training schemes for more than a decade. As past chair of STFC’s Education Training and Careers Committee and member of the UKRI Talent and Skills Advisory Group, he has held key roles in defining and continuously improving PGR training in the UK and beyond.
Together with his project partners and members of his project TEAM based at the Cockcroft Institute, he organized an interdisciplinary 5-day training for researchers in the EuPRAXIA Doctoral Network and the LIV.INNO Center for Doctoral Training. This researcher skills school took place in Liverpool between 13 – 17 November 2023 and was designed for the particular needs of the researchers in these two programs, focusing on synergies, networking opportunities and possible collaboration.
The concept for this course was developed by Professor Welsch during the delivery of his previous training networks, praised in formal project reviews as ‘best practice’ in Europe. The School featured project-specific and general-skills parts. After an icebreaker exercise on Monday morning and an introduction to presentation skills training, the importance of scientific writing was covered by Kate Kahle from CERN’s media team. Her session familiarized participants with different writing styles required by specific journals, media and as part of scientific outreach.
The theory of project management was introduced on day 2 by Dr Fraser Robertson of Fistral. Participants were asked to develop a detailed project plan for their PhD projects which will feed into structured career development plans they all have to establish at the start of their PhDs. The importance of peer review was covered on that day by Dr Eva Villela, a UKRI Future Leader Fellow in Liverpool’s physics department.
On Wednesday, the training moved to Daresbury laboratory. Presentation skills sessions in the morning required all participants to give short presentations about their PhD projects in small groups. These were video-recorded and then reviewed critically with detailed feedback provided by the presenter, their peers and professional trainers to identify best practice whilst giving every participant the opportunity to identify a presentation style that works best for them. In the afternoon, colleagues from STFC/ASTeC offered tours of their cutting-edge labs and gave an overview of the many R&D activities they are involved in.
In addition to the above, sessions on mental health by Alexander Drake and Barry Farrington from the Mental Health Advisory Service and on a look back on their time as LIV.DAT PhD candidate by Dr Alexander Hill completed an intense week.
Professor Welsch said: “It was fantastic to have all doctoral candidates together during this week and to have very focused discussions on how they can get most out of their projects, as well as the opportunities that are in collaboration with other school participants. It was intense, enjoyable and very forward-looking. Many thanks to all of the trainers, my project TEAM, and of course the early-stage researchers for engaging with the many activities that were on offer.”
A final year skills training, focusing on the transition to the international job market after graduation, will be offered to all school participants in 2026. This will again be hosted in Liverpool.