Friday, 30 September 2016

ResDev16 - The University of Hertfordshire's Second Biennial Researcher Development Conference




This week, researchers from across the University of Hertfordshire met in our wonderful Weston Auditorium for the second biennial researcher development conference. The first, in September 2014, sought to promote understanding and awareness of the value and practice of researcher development and the development opportunities for researchers available within the University and externally, through organizations including, most notably, Vitae. But we also took a good look at the actual research being conducted within the University's ten Schools through a dynamic PechaKucha session which promoted, particularly, the work of our early career researchers. 

Theme Champion for Global Economy, Dr Chamu Kuppuswamy, takes a selfie with Prof John Senior, Pro-VC Research and Enterprise, and Dr Sylvie Magerstadt, Heritage, Cultures and Communities Theme Champion.

ResDev16 adapted this winning formula. Following an introduction by Prof John Senior, our Pro-Vice Chancellor (Research and Enterprise), the six research 'champions' spoke about their respective themes:  Professor David Barling who leads the University's research on Food drew attention to the parlous ratio of 2 billion obese and 1 billion malnourished people in the world. Work in the CRIPPAC research group analyses the importance of environment and culture in our food choices and opportunities, Prof Barling noted. Dr Chamu Kuppuswamy continued the Global Economy emphasis in introducing work in her area, calling for research to cross boundaries as well as geo-political borders. Speaking of research in Health & Wellbeing, Dr Frances Bunn outlined the sheer breadth of areas of enquiry that it engages. She highlighted the importance of work on the lifecourse, pointing to Prof Claire Goodman's work on dementia. Dr Sylvie Magerstadt champions research in Heritage, Cultures & Communities. She followed up Frances Bunn's point about the importance of communicating our research to academic and non-academic audiences by outlining her plan for a 'Culture Talks' channel on YouTube to promote research on the Heritage, Cultures and Communities theme. Next, Dr Farshid Amirabdollahian introduced the Information & Security research theme as extending from the secure handling of data to cutting-edge research in toxicology, with safety being paramount in each case. Innovation occurs on the friges of discplines, he enthused. Finally, Dr Philip Lucas explained that the University already has researchers working on space in disciplines ranging from from astronomy to fine art. He referred to the prominence of UH researchers in the recently publicised identification of Proxima b, an earth-like planet which may have the potential to host life. Dr Lucas plans to extend research on Space by instituting a buddy system for researchers.

Dr Helen Barefoot, Deputy Director for the Learning & Teaching Innovation Centre talked about the importance of Research-Informed Teaching and Research-Rich Teaching for connecting two core pillars of the University's activity as reflected in our strategic plan: teaching and research. Dr Barefoot explained that teaching and research are not inherently connected, as we sometimes assume; rather the connections between them need to be fostered, and explicitly drawn out. The Learning and Teaching Innovation Centre hosts an online toolkit for doing just that.

Dr Helen Barefoot discusses Research-Informed Teaching and Research-Rich Teaching. Photo: Grace Lees-Maffei.

The next session showcased the work of 18 researchers in just over an hour! How? Using the 3 -Minute Thesis (3MT®) format, we were given snapshots of 8 doctoral projects from finalists in a competition run by the Doctoral College. Speakers included Hayley Goode, who bravely began the session, and Alex Hocking, Jean Petric and David Turner. They talked about topics as diverse as the recognition and experiences of informal carers (Akua Owusu Nyantakyiwaa) and the impact of environment on galaxy evolution (Nancy Hine). The final 3MT addressed the difficulties faced by homeless men, whose lives are precarious and very short, typically extending no further than the forties, as Coral Westaway poignantly explained. Kathryn Kellett won the prize of £1000 in travel vouchers or cash equivalent. All other participants received runner-up prizes of £50 book vouchers.

Prize giving for the ResDev16 3MT Competition. Photo: Frances Bunn


While the judges deliberated, conference delegates were treated to a whistle stop tour of research being undertaken across all ten Schools, again using the three-minute format. From the School of Life & Medical Sciences, Dr Rosalind Fallaize introduced her work ‘E-Nutri: The Future of Digital Personalised Nutrition Advice?’

Law's Dr Thomas Dunk outlined ‘The Role of the Individual in the Process of International Law Creation’.

Dr Annabel Jay (Health & Social Work) examined 'How Women Experience an Artificial Onset of Labour’, with her study of 'Being Induced' concluding that the experience is one of liminality, betwixt and between two separate states.

From the School of Education, Barry Costas outlined the usefulness of his literature review for uncovering a wide range of different perspectives on ‘The Voice of the Learner’ and its importance in education.

For Engineering & Technology, Dr Saeid Safavi spoke about his project ‘Objective Control of Talker Verification’.

New recruit to the University, Dr Ceri Houlbrook (Humanities) itemised some of the surprising things that people have put up chimneys and into the fabric of their homes, as has been discovered in her research with Prof Owen Davies in ‘The Concealed Revealed'.

From Computer Science, Dr Ben Torben-Nielsen showed vividly how ‘Beautiful Brains Keep Us Healthy’ by examining some medical imaging which makes clear the different patterns witnessed.

Next, Dr Wendy Williams (Physics, Astronomy & Maths) explained ‘The Evolution of Radio-Loud Active Galactic Nuclei using Low-Radio Frequencies’.

Dr Nika Balemenou (Hertfordshire Business School) changed the subject completely with her talk about her 'pseudo-longitudinal study from 2003 to 2016' into 'the development of Kavos, Corfu, into a tourism destination and the impacts on the local community’ as one of ‘Utopia or Dystopia?'

Finally, Dr Silvio Carta from the School of Creative Arts gave us a snapshot of his research into big data, and 'How Computing is Changing Public Realm Data and Physical Space’.

Many more researchers from across the University exhibited their ideas at a Poster Session in the Atrium where delegates networked over lunch.

The conference then moved to our Law Court Building for two rounds of four parellel sessions, with each delegate choosing two topics from the following: 'Research-Informed Teaching and Research-Rich Teaching' with Dr Helen Barefoot; 'Setting Up a Mentoring Scheme' with Jill Lees; Bridget Russell and Frances Harris' introducing 'Ways to Raise Your Research Profile'  and Kevin Flinn on 'Career Progression'.

Throughout the day, colleagues were tweeting positively about what they saw and heard. Take a look at the #ResDev16 twitterfeed for a flavour of the proceedings. Now delegates can reflect on what we have learned and begin to put that into practice, while the Researcher Development Working Group can reflect and use the feedback we will receive to start planning #ResDev18 See you there!

Selfie by Francesca Batzella of colleagues from the Law School in the audience at #ResDev16

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