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The Effective Researcher

47 ESRs from five Initial Training Networks met in Durham, UK, in November 2104 for a workshop entitled “The Effective ITN Researcher”.  This workshop was run by Hutchinson Training in conjunction with the award-winning Centre for Academic and Researcher Development, CARD, from Durham University.  The workshop was a tailored residential written around communication, impact, personal effectiveness and collaborative working.

    ESRs from Notedev, Nanoembrace, Molesco, Fluor21 and Micsed

The workshop was held in the historic hotel, Lumley Castle, and the multi-disciplinary and multi-national attendees further enhanced the learning experience, with ESRs attending from Reykjavik to St Petersburg.  Most of the learning experience came through a series of exercises designed to encourage people to develop their skills. For example an introduction to academic integrity, that could have been approached from an abstract moral high-ground was explored by the discussion of case studies; participants had to engage with how they would deal with a particular situation.  Communication and team skills were developed by a task to develop an outreach program for the general public.  Another exercise neatly illustrated how easily it can be to lose a team spirit.

As well as team-work, the ESRs also worked on tools that would help their personal effectiveness, time management and project management skills.  The ESRs were introduced to a system that evolved out of Japanese manufacturing processes, but with applicability to any work place environment.

Some of the most appreciative feedback for the course came from ESRs who had been in the workplace before embarking on their PhDs, and who expressed how useful such training would have been to them.
Many benefits arose just from the opportunity to meet with others.  For some of the ITNs this was the first to time to meet their colleagues, and this has resulted in collaborations and further communication. As stated by a Notedev ESR “we had the most fascinating discussions”.

After the residential course, ESRs from Notedev, Molesco and Nanoembrace spent a further day considering the industrial and commercial applications of their work.  The ESRs visited the Centre for Process Innovation, at NetPark. who have internationally renowned expertise and unique technical equipment in opto-electronics, integrated smart systems, materials and displays and vacuum coating. Their facility enables companies to reduce the cost and associated risks of developing production-ready processes through prototyping and scale-up to low volume manufacture for applications in photovoltaics, lighting, displays, intelligent packaging and sensors.

The visit was followed by a series of lectures.  Floor van de Pavert, a high-tech entrepreneur from the Netherlands, described her experiences with start-ups.  Eric Don, founder of Semimetrics, a successful and long-running semiconductor measurement company, shared some of his business experience. This was complimented by the insight given by Jamie Marsay of local company Labman. Labman manufacture bespoke robotic solutions for many industrial, laboratory and medical applications. Jamie also talked about recruitment, with a valuable insight into writing CVs and the job application process.

The lectures dramatically illustrated the importance of many of the skills that had been developed over the preceding residential course, notably the importance of communication skills and a good understanding of team working.