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Researcher Development Day a resounding success

The Department of Psychology hosted its inaugural Researcher Development Day on Friday 25 July. Postdocs and research assistants from across the Department met for a day of networking and professional development activities.

The event started with a welcome from the Department’s new Research Staff Development Officer, Professor Nicky Clayton. This was followed by introductory remarks given by the event organisers, Dr Nicole Horst (a postdoc in Angela Roberts’s research group) and Dr Rory Devine (a postdoc in the Centre for Family Research). Professor Chris Abell, the Director of Postdoctoral Affairs, described the resources available for postdocs at the University of Cambridge, along with the goals for the new Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. The Head of Department, Professor Trevor Robbins, concluded the first session with a ‘State of the Department’ address, highlighting the success of past researchers who have gone on to both academic and non-academic careers.

These informative presentations were followed by a scientific networking activity. Group members described their research to each other then had to develop aims for a collaborative project, incorporating elements from each researcher’s work. The collaborative project ideas were presented to all of the event participants, and everyone voted on the craziest and most likely to succeed. During this activity researchers had the opportunity to learn about the breadth of research in the Department, and several researchers actually established potential collaborative connections!

Researchers next attended custom-designed workshops. Anne Forde, from the Careers Service Office (with planning assistance from Sharon Saunders in the Personal and Professional Development Office) ran a workshop that focused on identifying career paths and strategies for pursuing different careers. Professor John Wakeford, from the Missenden Centre, presented a comprehensive list of what NOT to do when applying for research funding, and used this list to emphasize strategies for writing strong funding applications.

A panel of current and former researchers from the Department rounded out the day. Joining the participants for a lively and informative question and answer session were the current Deputy Director of the Centre for Family Research (a senior research associate), a Group Leader in the Department of Pharmacology, a Commissioning Editor for the Neurology journal Brain and Assistant Features Editor from eLife Sciences Publications, Ltd., and the recently appointed Head of Innovation at the Government Office for Science. The panelists talked about their career journey and took questions on a variety of subjects, including advice on funding and career transitions.

The enthusiasm for this event among the participants and from academic staff signals a positive development in the Department of Psychology. This promises to be the first of hopefully many similar opportunities offered to both postdocs and research assistants.

Nicole Horst and Rory Devine