Our second online training school

[By: Joanna Rutkowska]

As the MOTION ESRs, we are receiving the best training our PIs can provide for us. With the pandemic still going on, we have to resort to having our training schools online. Last months’ training school was organised by the University of London Birkbeck and took place mostly on Zoom.

We kicked off the school with presentations from every ESR. This is a second official opportunity we got to present our research to other ESRs and PIs from MOTION, the first opportunity being at our mid-term check. Everyone seemed very well prepared and confident when presenting, even though often you could see the research has been stopped, delayed or changed entirely due to the COVID-19 situation. Some of the ESRs, myself included, switched to conducting experiments online. Even with the little room the coronavirus left us, we are trying to be as flexible as we can with our work.

Following the presentation day, we had several days of workshops on communicating science and on the computational modelling. Although it would be impossible for me to delve into every workshop in detail in this short blog post, I will try to give you an overview of the covered topics. Two workshops focused specifically on communicating science within academia were: “Writing an effective grant proposal” and “An editor’s view of the journal submission process”. As most of us are now in the process of writing up our scientific papers and/or submitting them to different peer reviewed journals, these workshops came with perfect timing. What’s more, we will soon have to search for post doc jobs where we might need to secure our own funding, so it was great to have the introduction into the grant writing. The following two workshops were more business- and professional-related, as they were on speaking to the media and speaking to business. In both cases, it was the first time any of us considered what communicating our science to these audiences might entail, so it was very beneficial for all of us. The communicating science part of the training school was concluded by the workshops on speaking to government and translating basic science to practise. These might have been the workshops that made the biggest impact on some of our ESRs, as they are aspiring to make a change in a society with their research in the future. It was very inspiring and empowering to hear from people who have achieved such a thing themselves.

The second part of the training school was taken by computational modelling. We started with an extensive overview of the topic of connectionist modelling and then we moved on to trying connectionist models out ourselves in Python. It was a great opportunity for those of us who have not done modelling work before to get acquainted with the topic. We finished up the training school with workshops on recent developments in the area, modelling developmental disorders, and learning about model fitting and model evaluation. The amount of knowledge our workshop leaders managed to cram into such a short period of time was impressive. We also received more materials so we could explore the topic more ourselves after the training school.

Overall, this training school heavily focused on training our communication and computational modelling skills. This was a great opportunity to learn many new things that are extremely useful for those ESRs planning to stay in academia, as well as for the ones planning to go into the industry.