This is a guest blog by Bedour Alshaigy, a 2nd year PhD student from Oxford Brookes
I got you to click.
But don’t worry, unlike other click bait articles, your curiosity will be rewarded by reading about my personal experience attending my first ever “colloquium”.
A little bit of background information for those of you who are not familiar with the event:
The London Hopper Colloquium is a free 1 day event celebrating the achievements of women in the field of computer science and technology. It aims to bring together researchers and students from different areas of the discipline to discuss their research, exchange ideas and inspire the next generation of women to join their league. The day also features a competition with cash prizes.
The event came to my attention last year during my 1st year as PhD student. I have never been to a colloquium before (I had to look that word up) and have never been particularly keen on discussing my research with people that I am not on a first name basis with. In my defence I was still in my first year, buried knee high in research papers (literature review stage anyone?) and did not have a “clear” direction of where my PhD was going.
But I thought “I have to start attending conferences at one point, there’s no better time than the present, I’ve got nothing to lose, what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger..”. Let us just say that there was a lot of pep talk to myself that day. Also the prospect of winning a cash prize didn’t hurt.
The day of the event kicked off with a welcome speech and introduction to the day’s activities, followed by talks from leading women speakers in academia and industry discussing their latest research in their respective areas. They have also provided an insider’s perspective on what is it like to work within each field.
The competition was next, each participant had to present her research work within 2 minutes aided by a poster. That poster will be then on display in the conference area where you get to discuss it with the audience. The first prize is awarded to the best poster. As I looked around the room, I was overcome with feelings of dread. There were professionally designed posters packed with computer jargon that I thought I should be familiar with given my area of study, supported by graphs with statistical analysis and results, while my poster didn’t even have a chart.
Nevertheless, I stood by my poster and started talking about my work to inquisitive people passing by, and then out of nowhere I realised that the more people I have spoken to, the more confident I have become and was proud of my work.
I started walking around the conference area and asking people about their posters. It was a very friendly environment, people were interested in my work and I was fascinated by theirs. There was an incredible range of computing projects that can only be described as awe-inspiring and innovative. The presenters spoke with such passion that demonstrated their level of skill and creativity.
Not even once was I intimidated about asking questions out of fear of looking stupid, on the contrary, I was encouraged, supported, and even got nuggets of wisdom from students studying in the years above me on how to survive my first year. I felt like I was part of a sorority and I just got accepted. I was very happy.
To my surprise, I won 1st prize, and was invited back to this year’s 10th London Hopper Colloquium as a speaker to present my research in addition to being on the judging panel of the research spotlight competition. I was impressed by this year’s entries, the competition was fierce, and it was very difficult to select the final winners.
Looking back on my experience, I am happy to report that I have made great strides since then, and in turn, would like to share with you my reasons on why you should attend the 11th London Hopper Colloquium:
1. It is an excellent networking opportunity to connect with other researchers in computer science and industry professionals (don’t forget to update your LinkedIn account!).
2. You get to learn about the latest cutting edge research in computing which makes you stay ahead of the game.
3. It’s a great social platform where you get to showcase your research, discover what others are working on, and bounce some ideas off of each other. It really gets your creative juices running!
4. It also provides a chance to become part of a research community and perhaps collaborating with others in the same area.
5. The conference is a great place to refuel yourself, regain your focus, and boost your concentration and motivation levels to help you with your research.
6. You can participate in the competition, there is always a chance you could win cash prizes.
7. A good experience to brag about on your CV. It demonstrates your presentation and interpersonal skills.
8. Meet old friends, make new ones, have fun.
See you next year!