Blog - Academy Mini-Conference
On Tuesday 14th March, the students from the Academy presented on their projects at a mini-conference. Lucy McCloughan, ACRC Programme Manager, was there.
The last time I was sitting in the Usher’s Craigmillar Room was on 20 September 2021 when I met the initial intake of the ACRC Academy cohort. Along with the Academy management team and the ACRC Director, I met ten very enthusiastic but slightly nervous looking, brand-new PhD students for the very first time. It was not just the PhD students who were nervous. Apart from the fact that it was the first in person meeting that most of us had been to for 18 months, the ACRC staff were gearing up to launch their ambitious programme to develop the Academy of Leadership and Training in Advanced Care.
Fast forward six short months, and I was back in the Craigmillar Room for the Academy’s first Mini Conference where the students had the opportunity to present their work. The nerves will still apparent: this was part of the students’ formative assessment. But when I walked into the room, there a clear sense of not just increased confidence but also the kind of group cohesion that has been generated by the cohort-building approach of the academy over the past two semesters.
The session itself was run as you would expect from a professional conference, with strict timing, a rigorous Q&A session after each of the presentations and an abstract booklet. The only thing missing was a lavish conference dinner: COVID restrictions meant that the conference catering was provided by the ground floor vending machine…
The multi-disciplinary nature of the projects was evident throughout. We heard about interventions in specific but very different domains such as homelessness and cognitive visual impairment. Different kinds of data were at the forefront of two PhDs: one looking at how they can predict broader ageing outcomes and another one the specific concept of frailty. Frailty is also being explored from “the other end of the telescope” in terms of how it is perceived by people in later life and their carers. Care was also at the forefront of the remaining presentations: one on an intervention to prevent falls, another on the impact of personalised music interventions, and lastly on how care is experienced by people living in remote communities.
While the topics were wide ranging, there were a number of golden thread apparent in the day’s presentations. The focus on interdisciplinarity was key- not just in terms of describing the different disciplines involved, but a clear exposition of what each discipline has brought to each topic, individually and when used together. The learning from current training year was also evident. This went beyond the traditionally academic input: it was clear to see that the training on developing clear infographics and thinking about longer term research impact had been incorporated too.
Thinking back to my own PhD (a lot further than September 2021!), I remember how challenging it was to start presenting ideas in a formal setting. The ACRC mini-conference was an ideal setting in which to practice these important skills in a formal but supportive environment. This is just the start of the journey for this cohort of students who will become the future leaders in this innovative and multidisciplinary domain. We were lucky to be joined at the start of the conference by David Brown, University of Edinburgh Director of Strategic Partnerships, who underlined the importance of this leadership role and their resulting contribution to the grand challenge of maximising “the healthspan” as people are living longer.