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Annual Post Graduate Symposium 2013

By Abdulrahman Aldawood

The Post Graduate Annual conference was held on 19 November 2013 in the Glamorgan Building at Cardiff University. The Annual Conference is a student led conference organised by PhD students at the School for Health Care Sciences and is an opportunity for students to present their research in a supportive and informative environment. Sixty-seven delegates attended and participated in the one day Conference, which brought together post graduate students, professors, readers, lecturers and faculty members from Cardiff University.

Committe members with Professor Terry Marsden. From left, Dominic Roche, Jane Davies, Prof. Terry Marsden, Sarah Fry, Alison Seymour

committee members with Professor Terry Marsden. From left, Dominic Roche, Jane Davies, Prof. Terry Marsden, Sarah Fry, Alison Seymour

The conference started with a Keynote address from Professor Terry Marsden, Dean of the Graduate College, Professor of Environmental Policy and Planning. Professor Marsden spoke about his field of research, sustainability of people and place. This was very informative and provided a good introduction to some of the student presentations about health and society.

There was a busy schedule for the rest of the conference with ten PhD students presenting their work. Each student had twenty minutes to talk and there were excellent presentations from students at different stages of their research.

Qualitative research topics ranged from marginalised and hard to reach communities, communities overseas with specific cultural needs, how therapeutic relationships work and decision making in teenagers and young adults with cancer. Presentations with a quantitative research focus ranged from respiratory function in Huntington’s disease, recovery of knee injury in athletes and reducing harm to patients with cardiac pacing wires during radiotherapy.

Poster prize winner Lorraine Joomun

There were poster presentations on display for the duration of the conference and these were judged by Professor Terry Marsden for first, second and third prizes. The first prize was awarded to Lorraine Jooman for her poster about her PhD research; How homeless women with dependent children access healthcare services.

 

The conference was closed by Dr Katie Featherstone, Director of Postgraduate Research School of Healthcare Sciences.

My PhD Poem – Marie Lewis

I stood and looked out to sea,
I said ‘Hey Sea, you look at me’.
I have my boat of inspiration, my bravery,
My curiosity and I will conquer thee.

I paddled out with oars and glee.
It was pure excitement that was carrying me.
Day turned to night, night turned to day,
I knew exactly what I would say.

I stood and looked out to sea,
I said ‘Hey Sea, you look at me’.
I have my boat of inspiration, my bravery,
My curiosity and I will conquer thee.

The waves crashed, my oars broke.
But I stood firm, I would not choke,
Just rest a while.
Maintain that smile.

I stood and looked out to sea,
I said ‘Hey Sea, you look at me’.
I have my boat of inspiration, my bravery,
My curiosity and I will conquer thee.

I lay a drift, with no oars to row.
How to get to shore, I just didn’t know.
The sea was harsh, my boat would sink.
I needed to take some time to think.

I stood and looked out to sea,
I said ‘Hey Sea, you look at me’.
I have no boat of inspiration, my bravery,
But my curiosity and I will conquer thee.

My bravery had turned to stone.
As now I felt all alone.
Drowning in the big blue sea
Wondering ‘Where is me?’

I stood and looked out to sea,
I said ‘Hey Sea, you look at me’.
I have no boat of inspiration, no bravery,
But my curiosity and I will conquer thee.

I look around and all I see
Are words and words that float by me.
Like fish, quotes pop up from out the sea.
A distant light shine’s- ‘Is that for me?’

I stood and looked out to sea,
I said ‘Hey Sea, you look at me’.
I have no boat of inspiration, no bravery,
But my curiosity and I will conquer thee.

I gathered the words.
I built a raft.
That one star chapter.
The ‘good final draft’.

I stood and looked out to sea,
I said ‘Hey Sea, you look at me’.
I have my raft of inspiration,
With pure grit and determination
I will conquer thee.

On my raft I began to float
Gathering more words onto my boat.
I saw the light upon the shore.
Scared and alone I was no more.

I stood and looked out to sea,
I said ‘Hey Sea, you look at me’.
I have my raft of inspiration,
With pure grit and determination
I will conquer thee.

The words were too many for my small raft.
More was needed for me to craft.
But the light it faded far away.
In the big blue sea I must stay.

I stood and looked out to sea,
I said ‘Hey Sea, you look at me’.
I have my raft of inspiration,
With pure grit and determination
I will conquer thee.

More rafts I built,
To make sense of this world.
Took time to think
But I did not sink.

I stood and looked out to sea,
I said ‘Hey Sea, you look at me’.
I have my raft of inspiration,
With pure grit and determination
I will conquer thee.

So here I sit in my PhD boat.
Where I must learn to bob and float.
But the shining light that guides you in, it fades so fast.
I hang on to the thought that one day, this will be my past.

I stand and look out to sea,
I say ‘Hey Sea, you look at me’.
I will conquer thee.

Marie Lewis PhD Student October 2013

When the Going Gets Tough – the Tough Get Muddy!

When I first told people that I was training outdoors (bootcamp/circuit style) 5-6 days a week, a lot of them thought I was mad. When I then told them that I was training for “Tough Mudder”; a 12 mile obstacle course designed by the Special Forces, nearly ALL of them thought I was mad.

I had 5 months to ready myself for ice baths, 10,000 volt electric shocks, 12ft Berlin walls, muddy underground trenches, incline monkey bars, and a back crawl through a cage full of water… alongside writing my research proposal and submitting it for an ethics review.

Amazingly, after a few weeks of manic rushing around to fit in training, work, and some sort of social life, my schedule started to come together nicely. Intense exercise was a good way to re-energise and de-stress after a long day of sitting at a computer worrying about funding interpreters in my research…and sitting at a computer was a rather nice break from all of that exercise!

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I started to get up for early-morning pre-breakfast runs (my mother has probably just had a heart-attack reading this…not only was I always rather difficult to drag out of bed in the morning, but the word “run” had never previously entered my vocabulary – especially not when used in the same sentence as “morning”!) I found that getting up and exercising before a shower and breakfast was the perfect way to get me up and ready to work. I felt more awake, more energised, and it prevented the otherwise inevitable repeated pressing of the “snooze” alarm on my phone.

About three months before the event I got rushed to hospital with Glandular Fever, and a temperature of 39.8*C (my mum later expressed that she “thought 40*C meant you were dead”). I took 2 weeks off work and 3 weeks off training. Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed with either. Despite my temperature dropping and the aches and pains easing, I had a distinct lack of energy.  Walking downstairs for water felt like an hour of outdoor circuits, and half an hour’s work in bed felt like a full day in the office. Most people I knew came to believe at least one of two things would happen:

1)      I would have to back out of Tough Mudder

2)      I would have to take an interruption of study from my PhD

Luckily, the ridiculous level of resilience passed down through my Nan shone through – and neither of these had to occur. Both training and work re-commenced, and although slightly bitter about being behind in both, I powered on. A month later my housemates and I moved into a flat which can only be described as inhabitable, and appallingly managed. Six weeks of confrontation and angry letters commenced; almost resulting in a legal battle between ourselves and the letting agents (those who shall not be named!).

So how did it all end, you’re wondering? (…or not, if you know me at all; for some reason I always manage to get myself into ridiculous situations, and somehow come through it all laughing). I completed Tough Mudder in 3hrs 30mins (the electric shocks were way worse than I could have imagined!) and I have just finished my Research Proposal, ready to be submitted to ethics. I have escaped the “Flat of Mould”, and have managed to avoid homelessness (so far!). I have had an extremely positive and exciting 12 month review, and I am ready to take on the world again.1276422_10152233171007501_509790592_o

It would be a massive cliché to turn the Tough Mudder course into a metaphor for my PhD journey, but I’m going to do it anyway. I genuinely think it fits perfectly – and it helps calm me down when the workload looms over me like a 12ft Berlin Wall (sorry – couldn’t resist!). “Obstacles” will shock you; trip you; cover you in mud. They’ll come in all shapes and sizes, and you’ll be deceived by their appearance – under or over-estimating the ease in which you will overcome them. But your PhD, just like the slogan of Tough Mudder, is a challenge, not a race (which could almost be a direct quote from Dr Featherstone herself!). Don’t measure yourself by the speed/ability of others, and don’t be afraid to ask for help; some of the fittest, warrior-looking men at Tough Mudder couldn’t complete all of the obstacles without a leg-up from their mates. As long as you eventually overcome the obstacles, whether it be Ethical approval, funding, personal issues or the dreaded “writer’s block”, you will get round that course. You may have a few bruises and scratches to show for it (my legs were purple for a good few weeks after Tough Mudder), but you will also have an overwhelming sense of achievement and pride.

HOO-rah!

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In the limelight by Nikki West

For the past few months Maverick TV have been following me in my day-to-day work as a Nurse Consultant at University Hospital Wales. The request came from the nursing board that channel 5 were doing a documentary on ‘Nursing’ and wanted nurses to show the diversity of their roles. As breast care is always somehow in the news, the latest being Angelina Jolie and her risk reducing mastectomies, I knew our department would be a target. The specialist nurse was not keen to do it and, in a way, I had reservations but we were gently persuaded.

Nicki running pictureAlthough I have been on TV many times in team sports, such as It’s a Knockout, Body Heat, Fort Boyard and Desert Forges, this was for pleasure and fun, whereas in my professional role I had to think about the consequences before allowing any filming; I was worried about the patients because of the sensitivity of the specialty. I had it in mind that at the end of the day they want to make a documentary and by the time it was edited they may have changed what was said and what was done so there was added pressure on me to be one step ahead.

 

The crew were very sensitive to my patients and almost subservient to me. I called the shots at every point and by the end of the filming I was so used to them being with me that I almost forgot they were in the room. I was amazed at the amount of patients who actually agreed to be filmed, both men and women. Any hospital appointment is scary but having to attend a clinic to investigate the breast is a sensitive and a very private affair. Most people do not want others to know about their appointments despite all the publicity and awareness that breast cancer receives.

The process was very exhausting and time-consuming, but well worth it, especially in light of the Francis Report and the negative press about nurses in the NHS. I really did feel that this may bring back some public trust and confidence in the nursing profession. To add a personal touch the crew followed me in my private life and filmed me running around Roath Park. They realised very quickly that my sport is very much a part of who I am and that without it I would not be as effective in my professional role. They also came to the university and filmed me teaching students which they recognised as a major part of my role and very important to me.

Nikki West at Oncology Nurse of the Year Awards (right)

Nikki West at Oncology Nurse of the Year Awards (right)

The highlight of the filming was being shortlisted for the British Journal of Nursing Oncology Nurse of the Year award and having to go to London for the dinner. The crew were really keen to film me at the ceremony and met us in London. We arrived in the rain, ball gown draped over my arm and a black cab waiting for us.  We had a staged get away to the opera house and were interviewed in the cab. The crew stayed all evening and ensured we got into a taxi back to our car for the 2 hour drive home. I really did have a ball!

The crew were amazing and genuinely interested in what nurses really do. They were surprised at the amount of autonomy and expertise that exists within nursing and how care has changed. The programme is being aired on Channel 5 this autumn.

Watch this space!

DEVELOP YOUR POTENTIAL THROUGH RUNNING. Three views on how running is about more than fitness.

Exercise grows more than muscle
Dr. Katie Featherstone
Senior Lecturer
Director of Postgraduate Studies

I have been running on and off since I was a teenager and I now run for about an hour 5-6 times a week. During my PhD I ran every day and I found it really helped with improving concentration and stamina, decreasing stress and anxiety and that’s why I still run. A PhD and academic life in general requires long hours and resilience (talk to Mohammad Marie who is our in-house expert on resilience) so running every day helps. It keeps me strong, physically and mentally – I am afraid the challenges of research and the pain of drafting and re-drafting doesn’t go away- they are constants, you just learn how to manage them.

So running helps me.  It regulates my day by punctuating my pattern of work, helping me to move from email to writing and reminding me its time to have a break or stop.  It is also a good time to process the day – when you run you can’t focus on a particular issue or topic, rather ideas and thoughts float through your mind and its important to let them- but I always come back from a run with something solved,it may be small but it usually moves my thinking on a tiny bit.

Being an academic means you spend much of your working life reading and typing, sitting in offices with little natural light.  It is important to be physical and be outside getting natural light experiencing the changing weather (yes, I know it’s often rain, rain and more rain). After this long winter it feels nice to be able to finally put away my wooly running hat and waterproof jacket and experience the seasons.  One section of yesterday’s early evening run featured lilacs, followed by hot chips doused in vinegar, followed by wisteria – I couldn’t decide which was the outstanding scent of the evening.

Rosemary Williams, Dr Katie Featherstone, Sarah Fry

Rosemary Williams, Dr Katie Featherstone, Sarah Fry

I am focusing here on running, but all exercise can help you achieve your goals and be good for you in different ways.  Exercise, particularly running is an effective brain gym. It improves ‘neurogenesis’, our ability to grow neurons and stimulates the brain to develop new brain cells particularly in the hippocampus an area associated with improved learning and memory function. It increases blood flow and promotes efficient energy use to improve cognitive functions. Importantly, the benefits are also emotional, having a strong impact on mood, improving our ability to manage stress and anxiety, and working as an effective antidepressant (one review found it equivalent to cognitive behavioural therapy).  Doing a PhD is the time when you are asked to develop and grow at a really fast rate, and to stay the course you need to be physically and emotionally strong, so get out there….I promise it will help.

Running through a PhD
Sarah Fry
PhD Student

Sitting at a desk all day becoming frustrated with research data or literature reviewing?  Try running to blow away any residual tension.

For the past 4-years I have been long distance running as a full-time hobby.  I started running because it’s an accessible and fairly cheap way to keep fit.  As I entered more races and set my sights on my first marathon, London 2011, running quickly became a central part of my life.  The feeling of elation at the end of the marathon encouraged me to do more and I haven’t stopped since.

At my first PhD supervision my supervisor told me doing a PhD was like running a marathon and I think he’s right. Like a PhD, running has its ups and downs.  The downs are usually to do with the weather (rain, snow and ice) and the occasional injury but these are nothing compared to the feeling of achievement at the end of a long run and the camaraderie and support from running friends.

Running gives me space to think; my PhD proposal was refined whilst training for the Edinburgh marathon in 2012.  I am now almost 1-year into a part-time PhD and I realise that running is going to play an important role in getting me through the next 4-years.  Apart from the obvious benefits of running (physical fitness and energy) running has also taught me self-discipline, self-belief and commitment.  These are assets which I hope will get me through the PhD process in a relatively calm, constructive, and timely manner.

Have you ever thought about running and been too worried to give it a go?  If you have the commitment and motivation to take on a PhD you will find running easier than you think.

I am running 31-miles along the Thames Path on 14th September 2013 for Cancer Research UK.  Please support me with this run by visiting my justgiving page at www.justgiving.com/Sarah-Fry3

Notes from a new runner
Rosemary Williams
EO: Research Administration

Why do I run?  I began running on a regular basis about two years ago so I’m a comparatively ‘new’ runner.  I now aim to run three times a week interspersed with cycling.  I try to do one longer run and two short 3 mile runs.  Initially running was simply a means of improving my fitness for cycling; cycling mates assured me that it would have a positive impact on my ability to cycle up hills and mountains.  In the beginning I found it hard but within a very short time I began to feel the benefits and was surprised to find that it wasn’t just about feeling fitter physically, I also felt much stronger mentally and more alert.
One of the other benefits of running is that it gives you time to appreciate your surroundings, to enjoy the flowers, birds and other wildlife that you see whilst you’re out on a run.  I usually run either early in the morning or in the evening and I’ve found roads and trails I didn’t know existed before I started running.  What began as just something to do in order to become fitter is now a focal point of my life. The freedom, the camaraderie, the feeling of running down the street with the wind (or rain!) on my face – it’s an exhilarating experience.

 

Stress; Prevent rather than Cure!

by Shema Ammer

I am currently working on an analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data (mixed methods). Although a mixed method design is challenging due to its inherent complexity, I believe that this method enables me to gather a wide variety of data to measure and compare the outcomes of the intervention. To analyse the quantitative data I used the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS 18). To analyse the qualitative data I decided to use Thematic Analysis. The process of data analysis is challenging and takes time, so to motivate myself I attended several workshops. These included:

  • PhD Comics – ‘ The Power of Procrastination’ (a talk by Jorge Cham)
  • Stress Management
  • Fearless

The things I learnt from all of these workshops are helping me to cope with the stress that I experience from data analysis and my PhD studies in general. The presenters of each helped me to learn how to manage and control my stress in order to feel more happy and productive as a PhD student.

The main thing I learnt through these workshops was that we should prevent, rather than cure, stress by:

  • developing resistance
  • improving productivity by realistic planning and time management
  • setting realistic targets and expectations
  • analysing or recognising ourselves (self-awareness is knowledge, and knowledge is power).

I believe that attendance at these kind of workshops improves self-awareness, particularly regarding the challenges being presented by PhD study.

Sarah Worley-James, who gave the talk on “stress management” taught me that the stress and anxiety produced by undertaking a PhD is unique due to the following factors:

  • Isolation and limited support
  • Pressure from self (perfectionism)
  • international students
  • Pressure of Viva
  • The Imposter Syndrome

I learnt that when we are facing a problem or challenge, one of the key questions we need to ask ourselves is: “Okay. So what do I plan to do differently so I can have a chance at a different outcome?”

If we can succeed in doing this, managing our stress and anxiety effectively will equip us with the ability to:

  • solve problems effectively
  • identify difficult situations
  • think calmly under pressure
  • believe in ourselves and  improve self-confidence
  • cope with deadlines
  • plan our time effectively
  • communicate well with others
  • feel positive
  • avoid procrastination and perfectionism!!

 

The TOP TIPS I learnt from these workshops:

  1. Take 1 minute at the end of each day to write 3 things that you have achieved. (This should help to build your self-confidence and self-esteem.)
  2. Focus on the evidence for positive outcomes of your efforts
  3. Reduce mental stress by identifying and challenging fearful thoughts, as well as relaxing through imagination and mediation.
  4. Reduce physical stress using muscular relaxation, deep breathing, exercise and a healthy diet and environment.

I hope that these tips will help us to progress along our chosen career path; minimising the risk of stress overload and burn out.

 

Some websites I would recommend:
www.robertsoncooper.com/iresilience
www.nhs.uk/moodzone
http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk
http://www.cardiff.ac.uk/counselling

Bringing research to life

I was recently awarded funding to attend a European conference exploring the experiences of teenagers and young adults with cancer. The conference took place at the world famous Curie Institute in Paris which was an added bonus (and it was so much warmer than the UK!). The event was organised by the European Network for Teenage and Young Adult Cancer (ENTYAC) and included a wide range of speakers and delegates from countries including: Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Denmark, France and the UK.

The subject matter for the conference was diverse with attention given too many different perspectives of the cancer journey. The first day was focused on the organisation of cancer services around Europe and how practitioners worked within organisations. The second day was a mixture of clinical management and the experiences of teenagers and young adults with cancer, and the final day explored some of the key issues for this age group both during and after treatment. These sessions highlighted areas such as fertility preservation, consent and ethical dilemmas.

The conference gave me the perfect oJane Paris editpportunity to meet and network with people from a number of disciplines who are leaders in this emerging field. I had discussions with philosophers, specialist and consultant nurses, haematologists, oncologists and most notably teenagers and young adults who had experienced cancer treatment. Indeed a workshop held on the second day consisted of a panel involving a patient group which revealed a great deal of information, particularly relating to my own area of research interest, decision making. The young people talked about the different types of decisions that they had to make, how this was sometimes difficult and how at times they felt either isolated or over protected by their families when making decisions. I was also struck by one young person’s account of the secrecy that surrounded her initial diagnosis, with her parents not wanting to reveal what was happening in the very early stages as she arrived at the hospital for a discussion with the medical team.

My other notable memory is of how keen people were to help me develop my research. They happily gave me their contact numbers and one of the young adults offered to help me develop my interview questions which was, I felt, really really encouraging. I plan to work with him in the near future as I develop the study and am really looking forward to spending some time talking with him about his experience.

I would really recommend that students apply for funding to attend such events. It is beneficial in terms of learning new knowledge, networking and helping further refine your own study. I also got half a day free due to flight times and went along to the Louvre for a look around which is where the picture was taken!

Jane Davies

 

Hello from Wafa

Hello, I am Wafa from Saudi Arabia; I started my PhD study (full time) this April. My research topic will be about “Assessing the Needs of Breast Cancer Survivors in Saudi Arabia”. I believe that this study has the potential to help breast cancer patients break their silence and improve their quality of life.

WafaMy masters degree (MSc. Nursing Science) was obtained from Trinity College in Dublin. Being abroad for the last two years has helped me to become more mature, independent, self-confident and open-minded; especially in terms of change.

When I first started, my feelings were a mixture of panic and excitement. However, with excellent help from academic and administrative staff in Cardiff University, all the worries faded away and I was able to “collect” myself again.

I really enjoyed joining Mrs. Sarah Fotheringham this week on a visit to Fitzalan High School, where I helped to promote nursing as a career. It was an amazing experience to talk about nursing, in Saudi Arabia and in the world generally, to teenagers who came from various different backgrounds. I am looking forward to our next school visit as I believe that nursing is a truly challenging and exciting career option.

International Food Day by Mohammad Marie

I agreed with my PhD colleagues to do International Food Day. I woke up in the morning and started to cook Palestinian food (Melokhia). I am not the best cook but I tried to do my best…..it was wonderful day and all of us enjoyed different dishes. We tried Welsh, British, African, Saudi, Oman, Malizian and Palestinian food. I preferred the hot Malizian chicken and the Welsh cake. I love Welsh food since I have come to the UK. My Welsh friend showed me how to do salmon and I love fish pie. We always visit each other and we learn new stuff.

I would like to thank the school who always support these activities and Katie and her team look after the fine things and this will increase trust between the PhD student family. We share the office with many countries and the school encourage us to be supportive of each other. We always exchange our ideas about many things and explore the cross cultural mosaic. I think if the world had one culture or one colour this will be less exciting and I consider my study period in Cardiff one of the most exciting periods in my life. I daily discover and learn new things about the fascinating Welsh culture, I enjoy learning about things that Welsh people had before us as a developing country. Many things touched my heart in this city; last week I said to my friend I will miss Wales when I’ve got my PhD and return back home. I visited a female farmer yesterday with my friend; I liked her farm with horses and sheep. She talked from her heart and she knew the importance of land for any farmer. She talked about the challenges of sheep food and lack of grass due to this winter. We don’t think about these challenges when we drink milk and eat meat. We don’t think about climate change as farmers do.

In the Palestine and Arabic region we have a good food culture. We invite relatives and friends for food as customs, especially for weddings and in the fasting month (Ramadan). Food is part of Palestinian culture and many biggest dishes are registered in the Guinness Book of Records such as: Tabula and Konafa. Rice and bread is the main course in homeland as this may be easier to cook for many people at the same time. At weddings people cook for hundreds or thousands of individuals and rice may be an easier choice.  People bake bread because many refugees in camps receive flour bags as a monthly donation from the United Nation. The farmers used to plant wheat and this makes bread a good economic choice. These reasonable choices enable people to invite others for food which is part of folklore and tradition.

I hope we will do International Food Day again and these activities help us to become closer to each other. Food will increase the understanding of multiple cultures. It was a good opportunity to be away from our projects and study.

“Gatecrashing” a conference

It’s not often that I have to explain my presence at a conference. For most postgraduate students conferences are the perfect opportunity to learn about the current research in their field, and to build up useful working contacts. My attendance at this conference, however, was for very different reasons indeed.

Explaining that I came from a Psychology background, and was now based in the School of Nursing and Midwifery studies, I received many a puzzled look from the delegates at the Tyndall Centre “Climate Transitions” Conference. The conference was hosted and organised by members of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and postgraduate students from Cardiff University. I soon realised that I was the only individual attending who was not professionally linked to Climate Change, and this made me somewhat of a novelty. Many of the postgraduates attending the event were extremely interested in my own research, and I spent a lot of time talking to people about maternity care and midwifery (something I had expected to escape from for the week!).

My personal interest in climate change arose from a relatively “green” upbringing. Tips handed out from the government such as turning the tap off whilst brushing your teeth, using hot water bottles instead of the heating, and only filling the kettle with as much water as you need, have always been second nature to me. Showers had to be turned off whilst putting shampoo in, dishwashers and tumble-driers were devilish creations, and there would certainly be no central heating until you had 5 layers of clothes and a hot water bottle strapped to your chest. Being aware of the human impact on our planet became a part of my identity as I grew older; my housemates still suffer persistent nagging regarding correct recycling and minimising food waste. Added to a module on “Environmental Psychology” during my undergraduate years, my “climate curiosity” led me to this widely acclaimed “Climate Transitions” Conference, and they kindly accepted my request to attend despite being professionally unconnected.

The Keynote talk, given by Professor James Scourse, gave the perfect introduction for anyone interested (but not necessarily involved in) climate change research. The talk outlined the evidence for a climate transition over the last 5 years; including findings from research focusing on changes in CO2 emissions, temperature, sea level, and sea ice. The objective stance taken by Professor Scourse was extremely refreshing, and furthered my confidence that the conference would be an extremely interesting and insightful “catch-up” with the climate change evidence.

Throughout the course of the next three days, I was treated to speed talks and presentations regarding research encompassed by the themes “Land and Water”, “Energy and Emissions”, “Cities and Coasts”, and “Governance and Behaviour”. Although the seriousness of the evidence for climate transition remained clear throughout I was able to take a few amusing quotes and “lessons learnt” from many of the presentations. An interesting talk from Sarah Lee (Cardiff University) on the transformation of Cardiff Bay from estuary to lake taught me not to swim in the estuary during summer (due to high levels of phytoplankton relocated here from the bay). Laurence Smith from Cranfield University encouraged me to eat organically to improve energy efficiency (but not apples- organic apples are less energy efficient than regular ones, apparently!). Jonathan Kershaw’s (Coventry University) presentation on low carbon cars expressed claims from participants that “Going green is not sexy!”; a statement which I am inclined to disagree with – Bradd Pitt, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Pierce Brosnan included in the “Top 10 ‘Green’ Celebrities”. My personal favourite, however, was probably from William Lamb’s presentation on human development and carbon emissions; providing evidence that Costa Rica is one of the optimum countries for balancing high life expectancy with low carbon emission. Emigrate to Costa Rica, you say? Well…if it helps the environment then how could I say no?

A dinner debate on the role for shale gas in sustainable energy transition proved exciting as well as informative; strong opinions were assertively expressed with encouragement from a few glasses of wine.

One of the most personally interesting parts of the conference was the debate titled “Do climate researchers have a responsibility to live sustainably?” Ideas such as “Carbon shame”, “lock-in”, and “conference hypocrisy” were introduced and debated over amongst panellists and delegates. As always in these types of events each panellist had an extremely valid and persuasive argument, leaving me with more questions than answers concerning this topic.

As well as a wealth of new knowledge about how I can reduce my human impact on climate change, I came away from this conference with a new enthusiasm for inter-disciplinary research. It became obvious fairly early on that quite a lot of the theories and issues in this field of research were actually the same as those I had (and probably WILL) face in my own work. Psychological principles such as stereotyping and habit formation apply to so many aspects of human behaviour and belief systems, and recognising the parallels between research was extremely interesting. I also made a valuable contact through a delegate who had a friend doing very similar research to mine; proving that networking opportunities extend further than the delegates in the room.

All in all, I would strongly recommend that postgraduates attend the conferences that they have personal interests in, as well as those that apply to their work; you never know what you might learn.