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Post Graduate Institute Conference inspires next generation of researchers

Jamie McMillan, PGI Conference Chair, Higher Research Scientist at NPL and Post Graduate Researcher with the University of Surrey and Ben Webster, PGI Development Coordinator and PGI Alumnus

“What a great time to be a researcher in Science, Engineering and Technology!” proclaimed Professor Sir Jim McDonald, Principal of the University of Strathclyde when welcoming delegates to the PGI Conference 2021. 

Back in January, when we began planning and crafting this year’s conference, we had no idea what the PGI Conference 2021 would look like. There was even the unknown of whether the conference would be online or in-person. One thing that was certain as we embarked on this journey was that we wanted to give PGI researchers a platform to communicate their research. We wanted to celebrate and highlight the importance and impact of research that is influenced by measurement science. 

Nine months of hard work later, the PGI Conference brought together over 100 delegates from across NPL, industry and academia to celebrate how postgraduate measurement science research helps to address key global challenges. Introductions from Professor Sir Jim McDonald (University of Strathclyde), Professor David Sampson (University of Surrey) and Chief Scientific Advisor to BEIS, Professor Paul Monks, set the scene ahead of the series of high-standard Keynote and Postgraduate Researcher (PGR) talks and poster presentations. All these did indeed highlight the depth, breadth, impact and importance of measurement science research being carried out by PGRs working in collaboration with NPL.  

As a community we are always looking for new ways to inspire the next generation into STEM and provide a platform for researchers to share their ideas. This year’s PGI Conference  saw the inaugural #GrAbPGI Twitter Competition which invited PGI postgraduate researchers to communicate their research in an accessible way to the diverse Twitter audience – check out the #GrAbPGI feed to see the fantastic Graphical Abstract entries. 

Congratulations to the Prize Winners for the best PGR talks, posters and #GrAbPGI winners – you can see the winners here!! 

On the second day, a careers debate and panel session helped PGRs to consider post-PhD career options with refreshingly honest contributions from Rowena Innocent (Spectris plc.), Prof Scott Heath (University of Manchester), Prof Ian Gilmore (NPL) and several PGI Alumni  Hearing directly from experts working in STEM, we hope to inspire the next generation of researchers.  

Dr Jess Wade (Imperial) brought the PGI Conference to an uplifting close, inspiring and encouraging PGRs by highlighting how they, and their research, can significantly impact the society and world around us. 

The conference also provides the opportunity for researchers to develop their networks, integrate themselves in the community and develop transferrable skills. Here's what Jennifer Blair, second year PGR at the University of Strathclyde, Communications Lead and Session Chair at this year’s conference, had to say about her experience: 

“I am so relieved and proud of how the conference went. The speakers were inspiring – using their enthusiasm and knowledge to expertly welcome delegates into unfamiliar subjects. 

I personally pushed myself by volunteering to chair a session. This has helped me feel more comfortable presenting in front of others and even enjoy doing so! I’d had no experience of hosting an event, so following the conference development process was educational and hard work! But being a part of a team that values your contribution, provides opportunities for you to develop your skills, and supports you while you do so. It was an incredible experience. My confidence in my abilities has improved, and I feel much more capable to take on new challenges in the future. 

I'm grateful to have shared this experience with the members of the committee, whose dedication turned our ideas into a reality!” 

Today is also ‘This is Engineering’ Day, dedicated to celebrating the engineers and engineering innovations sharing our net zero future. Meeting COP26’s ambition of a net zero carbon future will not be achieved without engineering expertise. Several members of the PGI community are working first-hand on projects and research within energy and environment and supporting the UK’s climate targets.  

Through the PGI conference and work of our community, we aim to inspire the next generation into STEM to build a sustainable future.  

03 Nov 2021