February 15, 2016, by Michael Jennings

What can the Graduate Research Showcase do for you?

Ewa Szypula is a lecturer in the School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies, currently working on her project ‘Balzac’s Love Letters’. In this post, she shares her impressions of the Graduate Research Showcase 2015.

As a postdoctoral researcher keen to get feedback on my book project, I jumped at the chance to present a poster at the Graduate Research Showcase on 17 June 2015.

The Graduate School provides training to postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers in order to help write a press release and then produce an effective poster. I spent a happy morning designing a nineteenth-century-esque medley of writing paraphernalia, bearing the legend ‘French Letters: A Novelist in Love’. The feedback I got from the judges and members of the public was encouraging. Senior University managers, lecturers, and members of the public – one with a small baby! – stopped by during the course of the morning and asked questions about my project. Perhaps the one encounter that made me happiest was with a Hallward librarian, who told me he now felt inspired to visit the Balzac section of the library.

Ewa Szypula at Graduate Research Showcase 2015

Ewa Szypula at Graduate Research Showcase 2015

I came away from the Showcase having learned several things. I learned about exciting funding opportunities with the Wellcome Trust, and about a terrific job opportunity. The range of research topics being presented was impressive, and all these talented young researchers were jut standing there next to me, ready to share what they had learned.

In the world outside of academia, there is still a lingering perception that a PhD is something to do with science, maths, or, at a pinch, economics. ‘But you’re a PhD student – I thought that meant maths is your thing!’ – a colleague once exclaimed, when I once sheepishly admitted that statistical analysis was not really my forte. Misconceptions such as these played a part in my decision to present my Arts and Humanities research at the Showcase. I spoke to many people who had not known anything about nineteenth-century literature, or love letters, or Balzac, for that matter; all the things which had been familiar and obvious to me for a very long time were entirely new territory to them. I came away from the showcase with the odd new idea to follow up, a new way of explaining something which I had thought was clear but which turned out to be more complex. And I certainly came away with a reaffirmed commitment to get Arts and Humanities research into the spotlight more often.

In the words of comedian Stewart Lee, the voices of ‘all these troublesome thinkers and artists’ do need to be heard: ‘It’s a cliché to say it, but you understand the modern world through its echoes in the past… We do need people to know about these things, and for the trickle-down effect of their knowledge to enrich the culture, and the people in it.’

How to enter Graduate Research Showcase 2016

Submit a press release outlining your work and why it is of interest to the wider community. If you have no experience, don’t worry – we are running a press release course on Wednesday 2 March.

Find out more about how to apply, how to write a press release, and training opportunities to help you hone your skills and get started with your poster at www.nottingham.ac.uk/go/researchshowcase

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