Coverage & Best Bits of the Doctoral Capability and Development Conference

The Doctoral Capability and Development Conference #DCAD18 was a three-day conference held by the Doctoral College at Coventry University. I will be taking you through the best bits and general goings on at the conference on Day One, Tuesday 24th April 2018.

Day one: Getting Started

The day started with a little creativity making our own name badges! The conference kicked off with some short introductions from the Vice Chancellor of Research and the Director of the Doctoral College.

Managing Research Relationships

A fantastic, informative and engaging session from Emma and Pete at VOX coaching, played the role of a postdoctoral researcher, Sarah, and a Principal Investigator (PI) of a research project, Professor Hamilton. They did a really great job of acting out scenarios including communicating about the progress of a research project. The audience got really involved asking questions to Sarah and Prof Hamilton and giving advice on how to improve the communication between them at meetings.

It was really interesting to learn about ways of communicating from both perspectives. And they were fantastic and engaging speakers. Personally, I found the relatable as a PhD student communicating with my supervisory team and how to make the most out of them and learn as much as I can as a student. Also, thinking about my career in academia going on to post doc after my PhD and hopefully becoming a PI one day, it is important to communicate to colleagues positively and clearly about expectations and challenges.

PGR Presentations

Next up were presentations from my fellow PhD students. They weren’t just traditional presentations, they were 20/20 presentations. Presenters had only 20 slides and 20 seconds for each slide. A huge challenge, but they did a fantastic job to get a specific research area across in a short amount of time to a wide audience.
After a lovely (free) lunch there were traditional presentations of 15 minutes each. There was such a variety of topics from the experiences of being very tall to illegal fishing activities in Cameroon. Also, in this session I presented my preliminary findings from my qualitative systematic review. This was my first proper presentation for my PhD and although I was a bit nervous, I really enjoyed giving my presentation. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to present my work and practice my presentation skills. From the lovely comments after my presentation and on twitter I think it went really well.

Confident Networking

After a short coffee break, I attended the confident networking breakout session with Emma from VOX coaching. Emma was fantastic, with five of us participating, I learnt in just an hour how I could improve my networking skills, how to politely enter and leave groups chatting at conferences, and be more confident with talking and introducing myself to new people. Doing a little bit of acting myself, I played the role of Professor Wilde (I like the sound of that!) stood waiting for a taxi in the rain. The task was for James to come up to Prof Wilde, introduce himself and potentially make a new contact within his research field. James did a great job and helped us all to learn some tips for using that elevator pitch. Coming away from this session I felt really excited and confident, and look forward to networking at future conferences – watch out!

Postgraduate Discussion Group

The final session of the day was a postgraduate research discussion group on how to establish yourself in an academic environment. Two fellow PhD students, Khoula and Agha, ran this session brilliantly! We had a lovely discussion about the challenges we face as a PhD student and how each of us felt like we overcome those challenges. I felt the most helpful points raised were around managing the expectations we put upon ourselves, setting realistic targets, and not beating ourselves up when we don’t reach those goals we could probably never meet. It was also highlighted about the importance of planning and preparing for supervision meetings, having an agenda or a list of questions written down so we don’t forget them. Overall, a really interesting and useful session.


Unfortunately, I was only able to attend the first day of the conference, but it was really useful and interesting day for me. Also, I would have loved to have gone to the other parallel sessions but that would require a cloning device to create more Laura Wilde’s.

I look forward to the conference again next year and hopefully I will have some more results from my PhD to present by then too!

A huge thank you to the DCAD team for organising and setting up the event and a massive well done to all my fellow PhD students for contributing and getting involved!

If you have any other questions about how I found DCAD18 or my presentation, please get in touch!

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