The second training school: discussions and lasers!

[By: Tommaso Ghilardi]

This month Radboud University hosted the second training school of the MOTION project and obviously Joanna and I tried to contribute to the organization of the event.

Organizing a training school may seem like an easy task but it is not. Considering the needs and demands of all the participants, while balancing interesting and useful lessons, to leisure and bonding activities can easily be compared to solving a jigsaw.

I will not bore you by describing every single aspect of the organization or the details of how the training school was. However, I would like to tell you about two aspects that, in my opinion, have made these five days a success.

First of all, the debate sessions! Discussion sessions on specific topics were held between lessons. Each topic was introduced by two ESRs with a short PowerPoint presentation summarising the main results and proposing discussion points. This daily schedule allowed us not to be overwhelmed by the lessons and information we were receiving as they were separated by animated diatribes that kept us active. The papers were selected by Professor Sabine Hunnius and then randomly distributed among the members of the group. Discussing these topics, not always directly related to our area of expertise, forced us to analyze the texts in a critical and analytical way, thus training our ability to evaluate papers. Such skill lies at the heart of research in any branch of science. Therefore, it was a good exercise that allowed us to defend our points of view and learn from the many different opinions of the group.

Figure 1  Aude presenting during a discussion session

Secondly, the bonding activity!

Being part of this international project is important for us ESRs, and one of the objectives of the MOTION project itself is to socialize between each other in order to build bridges between different universities through collaborations and projects. For this reason, although not directly related to research, we organized a bonding activity separate from the academic field.

We were going to face five days of lectures and discussions so we needed something to relax, relieve the stress and, if possible, bond even more. Laser Quest!!

After a quick consultation with the other PhDs, nothing seemed more appropriate than to lock ourselves in a very dark building, divide ourselves into teams and “fight” shooting laser beams.  I know it may seem like a very childish or even stupid activity for many but, in my opinion, it helped us a lot to get away from the stress and enjoy each other’s company.

When scampering around the arena trying to “shoot” as many companions as possible, laughing of our inability and clumsiness, we forgot about the stress of being a PhD, the tension related to finding new ideas or new methods of analysis. We were just a group of friends enjoying one of the few moments of “juvenile unawareness” that they still had.

Figure 2  Score sheet of one of the laser fights

I have reported this two particularities about this training school because, even if the lectures were extremely interesting and important, that’s what really gave something more to these 5 days that we spent together. I hope that the future training schools will be organized following the example of this one in order to always create a challenging and friendly environment.