“If you want to run fast, run alone. But if you want to run far, run together”. This well-known proverb pretty much summarises my experience of doing a research degree at Manchester Met so far, as well as clearly illustrating what I have gained from my recent attendance at the 7th International XR Conference in Lisbon.
I chose to start a research degree at Manchester Met because of its renowned research team in the field of immersive technology. The existence of the Creative AR VR Hub at the University in itself is a huge testament to the successes of the researchers at Manchester Met who, globally, are recognised as some of the leading experts in this research field. Surely enough, studying here has far exceeded my expectations. Since my arrival, I have been involved in various projects with the Hub and have had many opportunities to learn new skills under the guidance of the research team. I have been particularly grateful for these opportunities as they have helped me broaden my horizons in relation to my own research too, allowing me to apply things that I have learnt from other projects to my own.
My PhD is on the use of virtual reality in the context of legal education. Naturally, due to the novelty of the technology, it is often difficult to find others who work in the same field. And so, I feel extremely lucky to be able to have this community here at Manchester Met. This sense of community was made even greater through my experiences at the conference in April.
Academics and companies in the field of immersive technology gathered for 3 days to present their research and discuss ideas on how to collaborate for the further advancement of immersive technologies. Workshops were held on various topics for a more hands-on approach, focusing more on discussion amongst the participants.
One workshop focused on the various methodologies that can be used in immersive technology research. This was particularly useful as I was able to take away some tips for my own PhD project. Another workshop focused on promoting sustainable food consumption through the use of immersive technologies. Here, people from different sectors and research fields were placed into groups to design a sustainable and immersive food experience. This really helped me understand the importance of collaboration amongst different actors in the implementation of technologies, but also the various ethical concerns that I should be taking into consideration as a researcher.
This was also my first time presenting at an international conference, to an audience of immersive technology experts. To say that I was extremely nervous is definitely an understatement. The preparation in itself was a steep learning curve, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t really remember what I did on stage during my presentation – I was much too nervous! However, the feedback that I received and the entire presentation experience itself was extremely rewarding. I have never felt so confident about my research. Having the people that I regularly cite in my research in front of me during my presentation and receiving feedback from them was extremely exciting and beneficial to say the least. I was given very clear and useful guidelines on how I could further improve my research as well as the warm affirmation that my research was moving in the right direction.
In addition, throughout the conference, I had many opportunities to meet people from across the globe with similar research interests. Not only was I able to expand my network, I also made many friends. The community itself was very welcoming and inclusive, and although it was my first time there, I felt like I belonged from the get-go. I have made plans to discuss potential collaboration opportunities with PhD candidates from other universities as well as with some of the businesses that participated. The willingness of everyone to work together was really surprising but very encouraging. All in all, the few days at the conference were extremely fruitful particularly for my current PhD research, but also for my future career and life.
When I started my PhD, many told me that it might be a very lonely experience. However, it doesn’t have to be. I have learnt that although it may be easier to do things on your own, you can do much more when you work with others. It makes the journey a lot more enjoyable too. I am very grateful to have been able to attend this conference through the Research Support Award, and I would definitely recommend attending conferences to any PhD students or researchers reading this.
Justin received a Research Support Award to help fund his attendance at the 7th International XR Conference in Lisbon. To find out more about Research Support Awards, visit the Funding section in Moodle.