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National Postdoc Conference 2023 – Programme

The NPDC23 programme and session timings are listed below. Once registered for the conference, delegates are required to book on to the talks and workshops that they are interested in using our booking platform, Inkpath. There is limited availability for some sessions.

18 September: Pre-Conference Event

  • 19:00Street food buffet with entertainment and networking Village Bar, Loughborough University
    Arriving a day before the conference? Join us at the NPDC23 pre conference event, which will be taking place at Loughborough University campus from 7pm and will include entertainment and a vegetarian street food buffet. The conference is free, but there is a £25 charge to cover catering costs for this event. You can pay online by card or through an invoice.

19 September: NPDC23 Conference Programme

Onsite sessions at James France Building, Loughborough University.

Keynote Sessions

  • 9:30-11:00 Vice Chancellor’s Welcome Professor Nick Jennings
    Plenary Professor Dame Jessica Corner & Hetan Shah
    Professor Dame Jessica Corner will share her experience as the Executive Chair for Research England and talk about enabling Postdocs through the working environment. Hetan Shah is chief executive at the British Academy, the UK’s national academy for humanities and social sciences and will address the policy environment for research and the role of the British Academy.
  • 11:30-12:15 Panel Discussion Dr Rachel Bray (University of Oxford), Susan Black
    Opening the careers box: Linking what you do with where you want to go
    This session will shed light on the range of postdoc competences and experiences that employers value most within and beyond academia, and enable participants to connect their current research contributions to future career possibilities. The panel will draw on lived experience and showcase an online platform of researcher career profiles developed by postdocs, inviting participants to explore the resource and/or join the team.
  • 11:45-12:30 Talk Dr Lucy Bradnock & Dr Oliver Cox
    The postdoc voice in developing research culture / Using the skills developed through research in new contexts
    Dr Lucy Bradnock’s expertise lies in American art, art criticism, and curating from 1950 to the present day. During her talk, Lucy will discuss the importance of the postdoctoral voice in shaping and leading institutional research culture and strategy, and will share thoughts about supporting researchers in the transition from doctoral to postdoctoral research in ways that benefit both individual researchers and local and institutional research communities.. Dr Oliver Cox is a historian and Head of Academic Partnerships at the Victoria and Albert Museum and will explore opportunities for using the skills developed through PhD and postdoc level research in new contexts adjacent to academia.
  • 13:30-14:15 Plenary Professor Turi King (University of Leicester)
    Professor of public engagement and genetics, featuring on BBC Two’s DNA Family Secrets – Turi King will be talking about her work linking genetics, forensics, genealogy, and, of course, leading the identification of the remains of King Richard III. 
  • 14:30-15:45 Talk Dr Jess Wade, Dr Anatu Mahama, Professor Pragya Agarwal
    Dr Anatu Mahama, director and editor-in-chief of The Academic Woman, will share her own career journey after a PhD and explore new horizons based on your values and aspirations. This talk will be run together with Professor Pragya Agarwal – visiting professor of social inequities at Loughborough University, and author of a number of widely acclaimed non-fiction books and Dr Jess Wade – an Imperial College Research Fellow, involved with several science communication and outreach initiatives.
  • 14:30-14:50 Talk Dr Robert Drake
    How effective is the Researcher Concordat?
    During this short talk, Robert Drake from Postdoc futures will present the outputs from the NPDC23 pre-conference round table that was centred around an open and frank discussion about how the Concordat is working in practice and sharing good practice from different universities.
  • 15:00-15:45 Talk Frances Burstow (Director, Talent and Skills, UKRI)
    How can we support our postdoctoral researchers to meet their potential?
    UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is the largest public funder of research and innovation in the UK, investing over £8bn into the R&I system in 2023-2024. Crucially, a large part of this investment is supporting researchers and innovators in universities, institutes and in business. Despite their importance to academic research, we know early career researchers face many challenges, including heavy workloads, precarious employment, and career uncertainty. This session will cover how UKRI currently supports postdocs and future plans to address the issues they face.


Cluster Talks

  • 11:30-12:30 Career Cluster Talk 1Project management and industry-academia collaboration
    Dr Tosin Adedipe, Dr James Sherwood
    Postdoc Careers: A Path into Project Management 
    The ‘Research Staff Liaison Officer’ model for postdoc support
  • 13:00-13:45 Career Cluster Talk 2 – Career path challenges and multi disciplinary collaboration
    Dr C M Santosh Kumar, Dr Natasha Bayes
    Career Path Challenges: Overcoming Hurdles in Postdoctoral Research
    Reflections of a Transdisciplinary and Interdisciplinary Collaboration: Encouraging Bean-based Meal Consumption in Primary School Children
  • 14:00-15:00 STEM Cluster Talk 1 – Technical lightning talks with a chemical theme
    Dr Preetam Sharma, Dr Elvin Aliyev, Dr Vikas Sharma
    Earth Abundant Cu-Sn Catalysts for Selective Electrochemical Conversion of CO2 to CO​ 
    Optimisation of GO-incorporated Nafion Mixed-matrix Composite Membranes for Intermediate Temperature Fuel Cell Applications 
    Combustion Diagnosis of Green Ammonia for Carbon Free Energy 
  • 15:15-16:00 STEM Cluster Talk 2 – Technical lightning talks with an infrastructure theme
    Dr John Kolawole, Dr Junlin Heng, Dr Deblina Majumder
    Contributions of 3D Concrete Printing to Net-Zero Infrastructure: Highlights of a Postdoc Experience
    Digital Twins-based Prognosis of Floating Wind Turbine Towers under Corrosion Fatigue 
    Cross-Sector Symbiotic Innovation towards Net Zero


  • From 11:00 Morning Coffee
  • Open between 12:00-13:30 Networking Buffet
  • From 14:30 Afternoon Break

Awards (4 pm onwards)

Workshop descriptions

A. Integrating EDI into your work to improve its relevance and impact
Dr Sarah Higginson, University of Oxford

This interactive workshop will outline the main concepts you need to understand EDI. Participants will then work in groups, using the ‘EDI cube’ tool, to interrogate a case study before a final feedback in the plenary.  

B. Systemic Revamp – how and why to integrate systemic perspectives into your research career
Dr Tom Dolan, University College London

In the context of increasingly complex, interdependent global and national arenas, modern research challenges include societal, economic, environmental, historical, and technological characteristics. This demands greater systemic familiarity and scrutiny. Systemic perspectives can and should be integrated into all research projects, enabling higher quality, more impactful research undertaken by increasingly skilled researchers.
This workshop will explore a systemic mindset, adoption of systemic approaches and developing a systemic skillset. You will consider application to aspects of practice, including framing research challenges, developing proposals, designing methodologies, undertaking research activities, communicating outcomes, peer reviewing and critiquing established approaches. Such approaches are rapidly becoming and essential skill for a successful research career with potential for career advancement for those postdocs who upskill in this area.

C. Embracing Emerging Technology – empowering postdocs in the AI era
Dr Joe Preece, University of Birmingham

The rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) and associated technologies are revolutionising multiple industries, including research, higher education, and postdoctoral work. Many of these exciting technologies are set to transform our productivity, taking research and collaboration to new heights. But where do we draw the proverbial lines with these highly disruptive tools? How do postdoctoral researchers fit into the equation?
This workshop will explore the potential of these emerging technologies and their impact on the postdoctoral environment, by promoting discourse around the applications and ethics of AI in academia and research.

D. Figuring out how to Prosper
Dr Fiona McBride, University of Liverpool

As a postdoc you’ve lots of career options but working out the detail of your next steps can feel unclear, and you may have questions:

  • You’ve got lots of skills but how do you figure out which of these skills you want to use and develop in your career?
  • What skills do employers value?
  • Where would you like your career to take you?

Whilst this can seem overwhelming, you can use Prosper to make this feel manageable. In this interactive session we will start to unpack some skills that you may be taking for granted, share what we have learned from employers about the skills that matter to them, explore what motivates you and outline how our Prosper portal can help. You can then plan your next career steps. This session is for postdocs looking to develop in their career, whether in academia or beyond.

E. Postdoc Transitions and New Horizon World Cafe
Dr Lennie Foster

Based on The World Café method this virtual workshop will bring together postdoctoral researchers to explore career opportunities open to postdocs across a broad spectrum of employment, share ways they’ve increase the impact of their research and how discuss how best to enable postdocs through the work environment. Participants will move between stations based on these themes and capture their thoughts on the interactive mural to create a living collaborative dialogue.

F. Unlocking entrepreneurial potential in research communities
Dr Orsolya Ihasz, Cranfield University

This workshop will explore and untangle the concept of ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ and its role in building a rich research portfolio career across sectors and addressing wicked problems. We consider professional researcher career development from a business and entrepreneurial lens and think about how to create opportunities within and beyond academia, through engagement with the principles of entrepreneurship.
You will reconnect with your personal values and motivations and consider some questions, including:
• Where am I going?
• How can I grow and develop personally and professionally?
• How can I create meaning and purpose in my work?
We will consider links between resourcefulness and a career in or beyond academia, link to the UKRI values and the research funding landscape.

G. Making the most of your professional and career development review
Dr Alison TIdy, University of Nottingham

The UK Research Staff Association (UKRSA) supports postdoctoral researchers in their careers, building researcher communities and empowering research staff to take ownership of their careers. The Researcher Concordat and Professional & Career Development (PDR/CR) meetings provide an excellent opportunity to work with your employer to help develop your career. This workshop will explore how to make Professional & Career Development meetings work for you; linking to developing your professional skills, creating career opportunities to help impact your future career, and supporting your current role.
This interactive workshop will consider the questions:
• what Professional & Career Development activities will benefit your career?
• what questions should you ask during your PDR/CR meeting?
• what support does your University offer?

H. Cultivating a Fellowship – from the seed of an idea to germination of a proposal
Dr Humera Amsari, Dr Tom Dolan, Dr Daniel Evans and Dr Alex Elliott

Our C-DICE fellows will lead you through the process of building a fellowship proposal from a research idea. You will be introduced to the ‘three P’s’ as the core building blocks of a proposal. You will identify the source of novelty in your research idea, exploring the potential value of your research. You will consider a range of practice in developing KPIs and be introduced to some practical tools to build your research proposal.

This interactive workshop will include self-reflection, peer-peer learning and elevator pitching. You will gain the opportunity to explore examples, explain and build on your ideas, learn from each other, and practice your proposal development. Our fellows will draw on their successful (and unsuccessful) experiences in fellowship application processes from their position of recent experiences in this arena.

I. How to tell the story of your research – a storyboarding workshop
Dr Antonia Liguori, Loughborough University

This workshop introduces the concept of digital storytelling for researchers, exploring its use as a tool to self-evaluate and recognize subject-specific practical and professional skills. You will start to create and share a storyboard, working toward a short personal narrative multimedia film, to tell the story of your research experience.

Stories are always told from the perspective of the storyteller and for maximum benefit, it is vital to carefully choose the right story to tell. We will watch some digital stories created by a group of researchers and discuss the benefits and challenges of applying digital storytelling to tell a research story. You will explore your research experience, your academic journey, and your learning experience in relation to your current research leading to a visual representation of your story.

J. Panel discussion with C-DICE Fellows – from an idea to a fellowship proposal
Dr Humera Amsari, Dr Tom Dolan, Dr Daniel Evans and Dr Alex Elliott

This panel discussion provides the opportunity to meet our C-DICE Fellows and find out how they developed from an initial idea to a successful fellowship. The Fellows will outline their experiences and you will have the opportunity to ask questions about their research journey.

K. Overcoming a sense of academic failure
Dr Rachel Bray, Dr Emily Troscianko and Dr Kelsey Inouye, University of Oxford

Many of us have phases where we have no idea what we’re doing, or everything feels like it’s going wrong: that we are failing, or even that we are failures. Sometimes such phases feel less like phases than a permanent default. And often we assume—incorrectly—that no one else ever feels the same.

This workshop will help make it OK to think and talk about failure. Emily and Rachel will draw on interactions with PhD students and academics at all career stages to open conversations about academic culture and the implications of how we define failure and success. Participants will have opportunity to acknowledge perceived failures, talk about them, reframe them, and learn from them in ways that empower onward personal and career development in any chosen direction.

L. How to get your research read beyond academia
Michael Parker, Membership Editor – The Conversation UK

Universities, funders, and researchers themselves increasingly want to see their research findings travel further than journal articles and perhaps a press release that are often their final destination. This short workshop will explore why researchers should strive to make their expertise more widely accessible, and how to go about it, with examples drawn from 10 years of The Conversation’s published work.

Virtual Delegates: Live Streaming

If you are unable to attend the event in person, plenary sessions will be available to view online. To join the live stream, book your place below.

Join the conversation #npdc23