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Posts Tagged ‘QUESTOR’

ATWARM Meeting: May 2011

May 13, 2011 1 comment

The second ATWARM meeting has come and gone. It was held from the 10th-12th May 2011, at the University of Duisburg-Essen. I had written about my first ATWARM meeting in November previously, and the format of the meeting was relatively similar. On the first two days, the QUESTOR meeting was held, and on the last day the ATWARM meeting was held. Since the ATWARM programme is coordinated by the QUESTOR centre we were all invited to all the sessions.

We traveled over to Germany on Monday evening, since the programme started on Tuesday morning. The first activity was a choice of 2 site visits, and I joined the Water Purification Plant site visit. We visited the RWW Mülheim Water Treatment Plant, where we had a shot introduction to the processes they use, namely the Mülheim method. They do not use chlorine during the treatment, but rather treatment is based on the use of a sand filter, activated carbon, ozone, UV etc. After the short presentation, we all went on a site visit of the plant.

After lunch, and a formal introduction to the QUESTOR meeting, a brokerage event was organised, for one-to-one meetings between the industrial members of QUESTOR, academics and researchers. I had requested meetings with three different companies, and it was a good opportunity to meet with them, discuss my project, how we could collaborate and see their opinions. In the evening a networking dinner was then held at the Museum der Deutschen Binnenschiffahrt (namely museum for German inland shipping). We had an opportunity to visit the museum, followed by a delicious dinner at the restaurant within the museum.

On the second day of the meeting, presentations by students and academics involved in QUESTOR funded projects, updates on the progress of new initiatives and also 2 ATWARM project presentations. In the evening, the QUESTOR industrial advisory board had its meeting, and therefore we had some free time, for some sightseeing.

The third day of the meeting was the ATWARM meeting. This was the most intensive day and the most productive. The first session was on the progress of the ATWARM programme and a discussion of issues related to the programme in general of interest to all researchers, academics and industrial members. After that came 10 minute poster presentations by each ATWARM researcher. This was the first time that all projects were represented, since at the last meeting not all researchers had been appointed or could make it. That made 16 presentations in all. We had all prepared a poster, and we had to present to all the other attendees what our project is about, progress made and future plans. This was followed by questions from the audience. I found this session to be highly interactive, with comments, queries and suggestions, including suggestions for collaborations and the like being discussed. I think the relaxed nature of the session, whereby people were standing/sitting informally on chairs helped for such an informal discussion.

Once all presentations were delivered, and lunch eaten, a session on the secondment process was held. This was followed by the student council meeting. During the student council meeting, all researchers meet to discuss aspects of the ATWARM programme which are of interest to them. Aspects discussed during this meeting included financial issues, how to acknowledge the funding agency and secondments. Once the meeting was reaching its end, an election should be held to elect the student council president and secretary for the next 6 months. Since during the previous 6 months the students were from QUB and UDE, we agreed to have representatives from DCU and Cranfield this time round. Francesco Ometto from Cranfield and myself were nominated to the positions, and therefore for the next 6 months I will be acting as student council president and Francesco as secretary.

Following the student council meeting, the supervisory board meeting was held. The previous president and secretary of the student council attend to bring forward any issues felt by the students, and the newly elected president and secretary attend as observers. It was interesting for me to attend the meeting, and understand the way the supervisory board functions, and how willing they were to take on board our opinions.

Alas, the meeting was now over, and we started making our way to the airport, saying our goodbyes to all our ATWARM friends, and looking forward to our next meeting for the ATWARM summer school, to be also held in Germany in July.

As all ATWARM meetings to date, this was a successful meeting. I feel honoured to be part of the ATWARM programme, and the QUESTOR centre. In particular I believe the strong industrial-academia partnership is extremely important as it allows for immediate and continuous feedback from individuals from industry and also academics from different institutions, allowing for more effective collaboration.

If I were to change anything in the meeting format it would be factors such as the short length of the student council meeting (we had 30mins scheduled and stretched it to 1 hour, however if perhaps it could happen at the same time as the industrial advisory board meeting, it could have been more successful, as we only end up talking about the more important aspects, and less about the possibilities for collaboration and the like). another aspect is the financial aspect. I believe that if for example, we shared rooms or so, we could have all stayed in 1 or 2 hotels (rather than being spread over 4 – due to the Eurovision being held in nearby Dusseldorf, most hotels were quite full) and also saved money from our funding.

However, overall, the meeting was extremely successful. I always feel energised coming back from these meetings, and being in the company of the ATWARM fellows, all of which are really nice and supportive.

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Making Connections

March 17, 2011 1 comment

Since my research concerns environmental and local issues as a start, I am fast recognizing the importance of having connections with the relevant agencies and companies working in the area. Being part of QUESTOR certainly helps in getting the foot in the door, particularly for first contacts, for meeting QUESTOR industrial partners. Therefore, over the past months I have been trying to get into contact with relevant agencies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

I have met informally during QUESTOR events with one of the companies in the RoI, who have shown willingness to give support to my project. I have been in contact with them, and hopefully things will move forward soon. Yesterday, I had a meeting with another agency in Northern Ireland. I had been in communication by email for a couple of months now, and had finally managed to organise a trip to their offices, where I was to meet people involved in water chemistry.

Over the past week I was pleased to see that my supervisors were showing interest in attending, with 3 out of my 4 supervisors (the fourth is sick and so could not make it) attending the meeting. It feels good to see their interest in this project, and that they could be present to show support. Therefore yesterday morning saw my two supervisors attending from DCU and myself driving up to their offices. Once we arrived we met with my supervisor from QUB and in we went.

First up, after initial introductions was a short presentation I prepared about my project. This was the part I was most scared about. I was not sure of how much detail I should include or how technical the people I was meeting were. I decided to give a short presentation of around 10minutes. Had only managed to try it completely from start to finish once, yesterday morning. However it seems to have gone well. They commented that it was succinct and to the point at the end, and my supervisor from QUB requested that I send a copy. So it seems that my worries were unfounded.

After my presentation, we got to discussing our possible collaboration and what logistical issues need to be sorted out, what support they could offer etc etc. In general it was a very positive meeting, and I hope that something fruitful comes out of it. They seems really interested in the project, and as usual the main feeling at the end of me explaining what I am working on is that ‘if this works, it will be great’. But Oh Well. That is research.

I hope that what we discussed will come to fruition, but I am sure that even if it does not, this initial contact has been useful and will bring some benefits somehow.

QUESTOR@DCU

As I have said previously, although my PhD is funded by the EU, through the FP7 Marie Curie people project, the QUESTOR centre is the coordinating body. Apart from the 5 ATWARM students at DCU, there are a couple of other QUESTOR funded (these are actually funded by QUESTOR) students within DCU, and yesterday (Friday 4th March), we had the annual QUESTOR@DCU meeting. It was the first time, I think, that all QUESTOR funded students at DCU met since I have started my PhD, although most of us met in Belfast for the QUESTOR/ATWARM meeting in November. The director of the QUESTOR centre was also present, as were a couple of people from industry, who are either part of QUESTOR or are thinking of joining.

After introductory presentations form the QUESTOR@DCU coordinator, Prof Fiona Regan and the director of QUESTOR, the student presentations were next. We were 12 students in all. In order to limit the length of the day, we only had poster presentations. So the way it worked out was that we all got to stand in front of our poster and speak for around 5 minutes about our project. After this, questions were asked by the people present. I think I did quite well in my presentation and I got a couple of questions I could answer and a couple of suggestions etc. However the problem which always comes up in my presentations cropped up again, where I start talking and halfway through the presentation my mind wanders and then my brain notices that my mouth is talking but I have no idea what I am saying. People say that they do not notice it (although my sister has commented on it before, in that my eyes start to wander), and so think it was overall successful.

After lunch, we had two presentations from the Industrial partners. The presentation by Mark Bowkett from T.E. Laboratories was particularly interesting, as it showed me how companies look at research, and how academic and industrial partners can come together and make it work for them. After that was a presentation by Dr Conor Tonra from PatelTonra Ltd. who gave us a case study on the application of scientific and environmental knowledge to the business mindset. Although this last presentation was interesting overall, I think it was too focused on what the company does, rather than how we can get into such an area or make it work for us.

The day had come to an end, however before we left we had some important discussions to make. The next QUESTOR/ATWARM meeting, will happen in May in Germany, and we all got together to discuss how to organise the trip. We will probably all go together, get the same flights and stay at the same hotels etc. We should be getting further details in the coming weeks, however by next week we will probably know what flights we will be getting. Germany here we come.

The QUESTOR@DCU students with Prof Regan and the director of QUESTOR

The QUESTOR@DCU students with Prof Regan and the director of QUESTOR

QUESTOR/ATWARM meeting

November 30, 2010 5 comments

My PhD project is part of a QUESTOR coordinated Marie Curie Initial Training Network programme funded by the EC FP7 project People: ATWARM. As part of the ATWARM network, we have Bi-annual network meetings, where all the research fellows and their supervisors meet. The first network meeting for the ATWARM fellows was held in Belfast, on the 18th November. This was preceded by the QUESTOR meeting on the 17th, which is also held bi-annually. I was not planning on going, but on the previous Monday, my supervisor received a request for us to go, and since some of the people from my lab were going up on the 16th for the meeting on the 17th, I decided to make the trip with them.

I was excited to attend both meetings. In the QUESTOR meeting I was mainly interested in a presentation given by one of the QUESTOR funded students, who is also using stable isotopes in his research. It was also interesting to learn more about how QUESTOR functions. Basically it is composed of an Industrial and Academic board. The industrial board is made up of various companies who are interested in the research carried out in QUESTOR.:

“Providing application focussed environmental research to generate knowledge and technologies for the future needs of industry.”

The attend the bi-annual meetings and they determine which projects QUESTOR will fund, depending on their company’s requirements and whether they see an industrial scope to the project. In fact each funded project has an industrial partner in it. The academic board is made up of researchers from various Universities and institutes in the UK, Ireland, Germany, Canada, US and elsewhere.

The next day was the ATWARM meeting. I was really looking forward to this. I got to meet the other ATWARM students who are carrying out research at the other Universities, and understand better what they will be researching. This is because we all got to give a 10 minute presentation about ourselves and our project. I was one of the last people to present so my nerves kept building and building. I was particularly worried that I simplified everything a bit too much. However I think that overall I did well. I also got a couple of people congratulating me, so I was a happy girl.

The ATWARM fellows

The ATWARM fellows

Since my supervisor from DCU and I were up in Belfast, we also scheduled a meeting with my supervisor at QUB, who was also attending the meeting. We had scheduled to have it after the ATWARM meeting, but since we had a long coffee break (we were running ahead of schedule) we held it then. This turned out to be a good thing, since we realized we could talk to people from the Industrial board who were also present, and whose help we might need there and then. The two companies we talked to were really interested in my project (one came up to me himself) and I look forward to working with them in aspects of my research. I also got to discuss my project with both supervisors at the same time, which was really helpful. We talked about my progress to date and how I will be proceeding from now on.

Overall I guess this meeting was a success personally. This was not only in relation to meeting the other ATWARM students, who are really nice and I look forward to meeting again and again, but also in relation to understanding better the way QUESTOR works, and how I can best benefit from its industrial relations. The meeting between both supervisors and myself was also really helpful, so I have nothing to complain about. I also got to hang out in an informal manner with the other students at DCU, my main supervisor at DCU and other individuals involved in ATWARM during dinner the night before, and a very insightful train ride back to Dublin with the ATWARM principal scientist.

Next ATWARM meeting…Germany in May.