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Shannon Region Postgraduate Research Conference (SRPRC) 2021

Written by Michelle Daly, PhD Researcher, MLAL, FAHSS.

Hosted by Limerick Institute of Technology In partnership with the University of Limerick, Mary Immaculate College & Athlone Institute of Technology

Theme: Create, Communicate, Collaborate

A group of interdisciplinary postgraduate researchers from Limerick Institute of Technology, in partnership with postgraduate researchers from the University of Limerick, Mary Immaculate College and Athlone Institute of Technology collaborated to organise the 2021 Shannon Region Postgraduate Research Conference (SRPRC), which was held on May 18th and 19th. Under the theme of ‘Create, Communicate, Collaborate’, this two-day virtual conference brought together an interdisciplinary panel of lecturers, postgraduate researchers, lecturers, faculty members from the four partner higher institutions in Ireland. The SRPRC 2021 permitted over one hundred paper and poster presentations encompassing an array of engaging and cutting-edge research topics.

Opening Address

Ciara Davis, Postgraduate Researcher in Applied Science and Co-director of the Postgraduate Research Society at Limerick Institute of Technology, led the SRPRC 2021 Programme and Content Committee. In her opening address, she drew on the resilience of postgraduates over the past year amid the pandemic and welcomed a new partnership along with new conference committee members for Athlone Institute of Technology.

Officially opening the SRPRC 2021, Professor Vincent Cunnane, President of Limerick Institute of Technology welcomed postgraduate researchers and drew on the importance of continued research collaboration between the four partner institutions and the upcoming partnership between Limerick Institute of Technology and Athlone Institute of Technology to become a Technological University.

Keynote Speakers

Dr Liam Brown, Vice President of Research, Development and Innovation (RDI), Limerick Institute of Technology reflected on his personal journey through research under the theme of ‘Then and Now: Lessons Learned from a full-time research masters to a part-time PhD’. Drawing on the multitude of key attributes associated with postgraduate researchers, he spoke about the critical role of research today and the vital impact it has on the wider society. Dr Brown inspirational talk reiterated the importance of the contribution of new knowledge to research.

Professor Ann Ledwith, Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies, University of Limerick shared her insights into ‘Doctoral Education in Ireland: The National Landscape’ in her keynote address. She highlighted the role of the ‘National Advisory Forum for Doctoral Education’ which addresses the issues affecting postgraduate researchers and the supports available. Professor Ledwith shared some statistics on the key trends related to the growth of PhD researchers across higher education institutions in Ireland and emphasised the regular dialogue that occurs in terms of managing and progressing PhD researchers through several national bodies across Ireland.

Dr Des Cawley, Head of the Department of Nursing and Healthcare at Athlone Institute of Technology focused his keynote address on ‘A Postdoc in Academia: What comes next as an early-stage researcher?’. He drew on some of the challenges and varied pathways in academia for early-stage researchers and the importance of creating a personal and professional development plan. Dr Cawley stressed that Ireland needs a constant supply of innovative thinkers through the ongoing development of education. In relation to research impact, outreach and public engagement, Dr Cawley said, research is measured in a very different manner nowadays based on the current evidence. Engagement in external impact is of critical importance.

Dr Julianne Stack, Graduate School Director, Mary Immaculate College delivered her keynote address focused on ‘Planning for Life after your PhD’. She advised postgraduate researchers attending the SRPRC 2021 to think deeply about the purpose of why we are doing research and to create a plan for a career transition to meaningful employment, which could be in academia or externally, in industry. Dr Stack spoke about the multiple career opportunities surrounding the various disciplines and to remember to identify the skills and competencies gained throughout the research journey and to be proactive in the planning process of future career choices.

The Gather Town Experience & Kahoot

Networking opportunities at the SRPRC 2021 were fostered through the ‘Gather Town’ application, which allowed attendees to connect authentically through video in this 2D virtual space. Through this online platform, postgraduate researchers presented their research posters. It also featured inspiring and interactive talks by some of the SRPRC partners, namely, Humanli, Limerick Toastmasters, Dell Technologies, Ingenium, Efiko Academy and the Shannon Region Conference and Sports Bureau. Louis Wouters, Co-founder, Efiko Academy offered the SRPRC delegates a 10% discount. For further information on the Efiko discount, email pgrsociety.committee@lit.ie. Another engaging event organised as part of the SRPRC 2021 was the live ‘Kahoot Quiz’ jointly hosted by Jenna Barry and Ciara Davis (LIT). The contestants had their chance to showcase their general knowledge and be in with a chance to win some of the wonderful prizes on offer.

Panel Discussions

(Day 1): Academic Perspective of Life as a Postgraduate

An interactive panel discussion, featuring Dr Matt Cannon (Limerick Institute of Technology), Dr Jeffrey Buckley (Athlone Institute of Technology), and Dr Ger Downes (University of Limerick), granted the postgraduate researchers attending the SRPRC 2021 an insight into the panel members’ professional experience, research trajectory in academia and expert advice moving forward. Focusing on the demanding nature of postgraduate study, practical strategies were outlined to manage time effectively to achieve an enjoyable work-life balance. Encouragement was given to avail of the multitude of opportunities to upskill and connect with peer-researchers amid the current virtual working environment.

(Day 2): Support & Welfare for Postgraduates

This panel discussion featured Naomi Algeo (The National Student Engagement Programme – NStEP), Martin John McAndrew (Trinity College Dublin), and Adam Clarke (Union of Students in Ireland). These experts provided SRPRC 20201 attendees with some perspective on practical strategies and resources that support student health and wellbeing, which is a foundation for academic and life success. During the current time of increased uncertainty due to the pandemic and the increased feeling of isolation, the panel explored the move from isolation to collaboration and the value of engaging in student-led committees.

Award Ceremony & Closing Dates

Ashling McGrory, Postgraduate Researcher, Limerick Institute of Technology and Project Manager of the SRPRC 2021 delivered the closing remarks. In her address, Ms. McGrory reflected on the two-day virtual SRPRC 2021, congratulating all the participants inspiring talks and engagement achieved under the theme of ‘Create, Communicate, Collaborate’. She reflected on three reoccurring perspectives throughout the conference, namely, work/life balance, the vulnerability in terms of moving out of our comfort zones and the resilience of researchers amid the current challenging environment.

Ms. McGrory, thanked the committee members’ contribution in organising the conference and the sponsors from the four partner institutions which made it feasible to distribute prizes to the winners of the two SRPRC 2021 competitions, namely, the poster competition and the elevator pitch competition. The eagerly awaited award ceremony, hosted by Thomas O’Hara, Postgraduate Researcher, Limerick Institute of Technology and Project Lead of the SRPRC 2021 Competitions Committee, announced the winners of the competitions. The poster competition was judged by an anonymous panel from HEALR Research Group, Limerick Institute of Technology, the University of Limerick and Mary Immaculate College. The award recipients consisted of:

  • ‘Most Engaging Poster’ – Aaron Johnson (University of Limerick)
  • ‘Best Layout Poster’ – Edmund Gibbins (Mary Immaculate College)
  • ‘Best Use of Graphics on a Poster’ – Diana Garza Hererra (Athlone Institute of Technology)
  • ‘Best Overall Poster’ – Leonarda Engler (Athlone Institute of Technology)

The three-minute elevator pitch competition was judged by an anonymous panel from Limerick Toastmasters, Lero, the University of Limerick and Athlone Institute of Technology. The award recipients consisted of Hollie McDonnell (Mary Immaculate College), Elaine O’Keeffe (University of Limerick), and Michelle Daly (University of Limerick). The audience’s favourite elevator pitch was awarded to Naiara da Conceicao de Farias (Athlone Institute of Technology). Congratulations to all winners.

SRPRC Acknowledgements

ORGANISING COMMITTEE MEMBERS

LIT:Ashling McGrory, Ciara Davis, Ronan McDonnell, Thomas O’Hara, Ranjan Emani, Jenna Barry, Sinead Williams, Shelley Ann McCarthy Buckingham, Munmun Saha, Jacinta Moore, Jackie Kearney. UL:Andrea La Touche, Lea Deinert, Mariana Hugo Silva, Michelle Daly, Rania Shadeed, Neha Chopra, Josephine Atanga, Ada Aguocha  MIC:Christine Ratzlaff,Ana Caroline Murrieta Salazar, Mateus Miranda, Brenda Villareal.AIT:Anastasia Platonava, Eduardo Lanzagorta, Alya Karim, Ismin Zainol, Laura Rodriguez, Mehwish Tahir, Vicente Moritz.

PARTNERS

Humanli, Limerick Toastmasters, Dell Technologies, Ingenium, Efiko Academy, the Shannon Region Conference and Sports Bureau, Ormston House, Network Ireland Limerick.

SPONSORS

LIT: Graduate Research Office, Students’ Union, Computer Services Department. UL: Office of the President, Postgraduates’ Student Union, Faculty of AHSS, Kemmy Business School, Faculty of Science & Engineering. AIT: International Office, Regional University Network (RUN-EU), Materials Research Institute, Faculty of Business, Students Union. MIC: Students Union, Research & Graduate Office.

The Shannon Region Conference and Sports Bureau.

For further information about the #SRPRC2021, see:

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