On Wednesday 17 March, the 13th annual Manchester Metropolitan University Postgraduate Research Conference took place, this year hosted virtually. In this post, members of the organising committee reflect on the highlights of this year’s conference and the benefits of getting involved. 

Chloë – I have loved being part of the PGR Conference Committee this year and what an experience it has been! I can now really appreciate the level of work which goes into such a conference. The part of the conference I enjoyed the most would have to be the PGR presentations. The range of research which was discussed throughout the day meant a variety of subjects were covered, each with a significant importance and relevance to the Conference topic. The presentations were so engaging and I even felt quite emotional with a couple of them! I really enjoyed being able to listen to some wonderful speakers and learning more about their research in the future through following them on different social feeds. 

Rebecca – Being a part of this year’s conference committee was such an immense privilege. I first put myself forward to be a part of this owing to the wonderful experience I had attending the 2020 iteration of the event. I knew I wanted to contribute to any event which sought to support and uplift my fellow postgraduate researchers. We all had a bit of a shock when we first came to the understanding that our chance to organise this wonderful annual event would be entirely online. That initial apprehension quickly subsided once we began the organisation process. We were assured of the value of our online accessibility on the day of the event as we had speakers ‘zooming’ in from all corners of the world. I feel the day was a real success with impressive and consistent attendance for an online event. We also had thrilling variety in the presentations offered. Further to this I think we can be proud of the manner in which we dove headfirst into the multimedia opportunities afforded by our digital platform; our conference presented videos, posters, interactive brochures, podcasts and its own social media networks with Twitter, Slack and Padlet. All in all, I think the conference was a great success, not least of all these successes was the personal highlight for my having the pleasure of meeting and working with all of the wonderful and diverse people who came together against the odds to pull off the 2021 Manchester Met PGR Conference. 

Zarah – Being part of this year’s conference has been so eye opening for me as a part time PhD student. Being able to hear about so many people’s work and how passionate they were about their topics was inspiring. It was wonderful to be able to contribute to such a successful event, which allowed delegates from across the globe to hear about a variety of research areas. While we had to overcome some challenges moving to an online event, I really feel that it was a privilege to be able to highlight the importance of working in the “new normal” and how successful it can be. The questions that were posed for the presenters were interesting and really allowed our wonderful students to discuss their research in depth, both through live Q&As on the day, and through our Twitter and Slack networks, which allowed the conversation to continue well after the event finished.  

Anton – Planning and running an academic conference wasn’t what I expected when I originally took on the responsibility, as there is so much going on behind the scenes that you would miss as a normal participant. All sorts of people give up their time and expertise for little or no reward, just so they can help motivate the next generation of researchers – by itself that is pretty inspiring. This year’s PGR conference wasn’t like the others, we had challenges other conferences didn’t have and probably won’t have again and I’m proud to have been a part of it. I’m thankful we were able to create an open and accessible space for people to share their ideas freely, and the value of that cannot be overstated. I suppose if I could only choose one highlight it would be the conversations themselves, even as one of the organisers it connected me with lots of other researchers. This networking is crucial as PGRs can feel quite lonely sometimes, being locked away in our lofty academic towers sometimes being denied that essential human connection.   

Sals – I have thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this year’s PGR conference committee; especially having the opportunity to work with such an amazing group of students and Graduate School staff who were able to run a massively successful event despite all of the restrictions and challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was overwhelmed by the creativity of the committee in adapting to the circumstances and in using the situation to our advantage to create a highly accessible and inclusive conference which attracted PGR students from institutions right across the globe. I hope that the conference has played some part in highlighting the importance of accommodating and appreciating the vast range of style, creativity and platform through which research, in any discipline, can be communicated, and that we can encourage this diversity and inclusion in future events.   

Anita – The experience of organising an academic conference was nothing like what I expected after our first committee meeting in August 2020. It was so exciting to be a part of a truly international event, with delegates attending from all over the globe from 4 different continents! Being part of a team with incredible PGR and Graduate School colleagues brought a sense of togetherness, regardless of working from home and being physically distant from each other. We came together, supporting each other, to create a successful, online, accessible conference. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved and the space we created for PGRs to connect, despite the challenges and isolation of the past year. 

Dom – Although I am sad that it has finally come to an end, I am so happy and proud to have been a part of the 2021 Manchester Met PGR conference committee. It really was the highlight of my year and it is so heart-warming to see that it was so well received by delegates, presenters and attendees. I would like to thank my fellow committee members, without whom this important and wonderful event would have never got off the ground. I would also like to take a moment to thank our brilliant volunteers who did a fantastic job promoting the conference on social media and live tweeting the sessions as they happened. Similarly, I also want to thank all of our academic judges for offering their time and expertise to ensure that all the submissions received the highest standard of scrutiny. My favourite part of the conference was by far the keynotes. Haleh and Richard both gave such interesting and varied talks and really managed to hone in on several issues affecting both research and more widely the word that it really was a treat to be there for both. I’m also extremely pleased and proud to see that the conference helped PGR students from across the globe connect and network with one another. These opportunities remain crucial to the continued growth of academic research and ideas that we sought to highlight at the conference. 

Check out the 2021 conference highlights yourself: 

The Graduate School will be looking for volunteers to form the 2022 conference committee from June 2021. Keep an eye on your weekly Graduate School newsletters for a chance to get involved! 

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