20 – The TRL PhD Day 2017

Hi crew,

Today I want to share with you the fantastic experience that I had a couple of weeks ago at TRL (https://trl.co.uk/) for the PhD Day 2017 (19th July 2017). The event was meant to bring together PhD students that collaborate with TRL in their projects, giving them the opportunity to meet, and share their experience and ideas. It was the first edition of the event and it was my pleasure and honour to be part of it, having the possibility to introduce my research and experience with other PhD students.

In total, eleven students with a couple of supervisors attended the event organised by the TRL Academy. Dr Alan Stevens Chief Scientist and Research Director in the Transportation Division at TRL, Dr Nick Reed the Academy Director, and Dr Helen Viner Chief Scientist Research Director in the Infrastructure Division at TRL presented and directed the operations throughout the day.
The PhD Day meant to be a chance for PhD students to share ideas with their colleagues working on different topics, and for TRL to recap progress in the research carried out by the students in collaboration with the company, and receive a feedback from the students about the pros and cons of different PhD models, experience at different universities, different scholarships, etc.

The event started at 11 am with a welcome coffee on arrival and a brief presentation of the event given by Dr Stevens. After that, PhD students introduced themselves and their work in a 1 slide 3 minutes presentation format. This was a cool and challenging experience which tested not just the technical skills of the student but also his/her communication skills by having to compress 1-2, or more years of work in a few minutes.
Here it is a picture of my presentation:

After having some rest and an opportunity for discussing at lunch time, the day continued with a group talk towards different models of PhD support. In particular, based on the experience of the students, advantages and disadvantages of part-time and full-time studies, differences in supervisory approaches, differences in funding, among other PhD studies related topics have been considered.
The afternoon activities continued with a critical review of the TRL Academy Fellows paper. In this sort of challenge, different sections of the paper have been reviewed in groups and this has been discussed all together with the students and the presenters.
Finally, each PhD student had to answer some questions from an individual perspective on motivation and experience of undertaking a PhD. In particular, students at the beginning of their path shared their motivation and expectations, while ‘experienced’ gave anticipations, reflections, and tips to keep motivated to the younger in this ‘sort of jungle’ that the PhD studies are; and they are, guys, believe me. I am sure that other PhD students agree with me.
So with this and a final refreshment including delicious cakes, tea, and coffee, the TRL PhD Day 2017 ended really. Obviously, a group picture has been taken (and to be honest I also took a selfie which I shared the same day of the event on Twitter directly ;)).

It was an amazing experience and if possible I would be glad to attend it next year also. A day to meet other researchers, make friends and talk about future collaboration, discuss methods and techniques used for data analysis, and share our experience with other PhD students.

So, let’s try to answer once again to the questions given by TRL to ‘experienced’ PhD students:
‘What advice would you now be able to give to your younger self?’ and ‘Is it (the PhD) like you thought it would be?’
To my younger self, I would probably say: “ok, if you really want to start this journey (and I would do that), you must learn to be patient, brave, and be ready to study lots of Statistics. Of course, the path has not been as I was expecting. Every day you must adapt your plans to something new (e.g. data are not available, new literature is released, scripts do not work as they should or they are perhaps too slow, etc.). However, if I have to give my suggestions about how to go through the PhD studies I would say: be curious, be determined, never give up, keep motivated, play teamwork, do not miss the opportunity to make friends and do not miss the opportunity to have a beer at the pub with them. Yes, believe me, also that beer will be useful in the end. Do not feel guilty if one day you have no energy to stick at your desk in the office. Have a rest sometimes. You worked hard and you deserve that beer dude! ;)”

To conclude, I hope you enjoyed this post, I wish you good holidays, and I give you appointment to next month for a new one. Stay tuned crew!




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