Success of 2020 Engage Research Conference

Amidst a global pandemic a team of postgraduate researchers from the School of Human and Health Sciences still managed to host one of their most successful events to date

THE unforeseen global pandemic caused a sudden halt to events taking place at the University of Huddersfield from mid-March onwards. However, despite the obstacles, this did not stop the organisers of an annual postgraduate research conference from hosting one of their most successful events to date.

The Engage Research Conference is for postgraduate researchers within the University’s School of Human and Health Sciences. The conference encourages research students as well as members of staff to come together, connect and engage with each other and share their work confidently in a supportive environment.

The conference organising committee, overseen by the University’s Dr Chris Street, comprised of postgraduate researchers and included the University’s Sarah Ward, who is also the School’s research administrator, Chelsea Leadley, Liam Corr, Regina Osterauer, Rebecca McCarthy, Kimberley Newman-Hey and Kirsty Spall.

Together they brainstormed ideas and redesigned the 2020 Engage Research Conference to go ahead virtually, using ‘Zoom’ video calls and poster presentations, to deliver a day-long showcase of research for postgraduate students to promote their work.

Engage Research Conference logo

“We recognised that it was more important than ever for our vibrant research community to still have an opportunity to come together and celebrate the dissemination of the research undertaken by the School’s postgraduate students,” said Sarah Ward, whose PhD in Sociology focusses on the experience of students who are the first of their family to enter Higher Education.

Excellent feedback

The range of topics covered throughout the day ranged from education to health, to crime and victimisation and reflected the vast array of research being undertaken within the School.

The conference has since received excellent feedback and many of the delegates applauded the team for what they achieved.

“I just wanted to thank and congratulate you and your fellow PGRs for organising an outstanding conference,” said one of the comments left by the delegates. “There were some really interesting presentations, the day was really well structured, and the organisation was absolutely excellent,” they added.

“Organising a conference is a lot of hard work at the best of times and doubly so given the disruption due to COVID-19” said another. “All credit to you for switching the conference to online at such short notice.”

Anonymous feedback

Conference proceedings

Opening the conference was the University’s Dr Leanne Monchuk with a keynote speech exploring public engagement in research and how postgraduates can incorporate it into their research. Dr Monchuk was awarded her PhD from the University in 2016 and is now a senior lecturer and the Director of External Engagement within the School.

A second keynote speech in the afternoon was presented by Dr Leanne Livsey who gave an honest overview of her experience as a postgraduate researcher. Dr Livsey recently received her PhD from the University and offered insights on mistakes to avoid and areas to maximise upon for researchers to get the upmost from their postgraduate experience.

A panel session followed the afternoon’s presentations with advice from the University’s Professor Nigel King, Dr Warren Gillibrand and Dr Dara Mojtahedi on various aspects of academic writing and publishing. As the conference drew to a close prizes were awarded to the best research presented during the day.

Award-winning research

Winning joint first prize for best oral presentation were researchers Derry Canning with ‘How does gender influence juror attitudes towards cases of child sexual abuse in educational settings?’ and Sharon Newson who spoke about a mixed methods study that explores ‘The impact of a novel ‘Walk & Talk’ intervention on physical health & emotional wellbeing in overweight and obese women living with polycystic ovary syndrome’.

The judges prize for best poster presentation was awarded to Sarah Ward for ‘Resisting the deficit: An exploration of educational success for first in family students’, with the People’s Choice Award going to Lara Hudspith for her research poster entitled: ‘The effect of providing rape myth information to jurors in rape trials: A systematic review’.

Looking ahead Sarah Ward believes the success from this year’s online event could open the scope for the School to host more online conferences in the future.

“The feedback speaks for itself,” said Sarah. “People liked how they were able to drop-in to the conference when it suited them, without having to commit to taking a whole day off work or arranging for someone to look after their children.

“Ideally, to maximise conference participation and if we have the technology to do so, it would be great if next year, we could cater for both those who prefer to attend in person as well as a virtual audience.”

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