Ryan Hamilton MRPharmS is a PhD student at Liverpool John Moores University investigating antibacterial polymer-phyllosilicate systems for the treatment of infected wounds.
As soon as you start a career in research you are encouraged by your fellow researchers and your supervisory team to consider going to conferences. Initially these can be generalist conferences within the UK, but as time goes by you will be given the opportunity to attend more specialist conferences and the chance to travel abroad.
For the most part people will tell you that conferences are great places to discuss your work, get feedback from other researchers, and meet individuals and teams that work in similar fields. However, submitting and presenting work at a conference can bring many other opportunities.
Conferences are a great place to generate ideas that can influence your work. Conferences often showcase the latest techniques and theories in the field, but they’re also a great place to see how more established techniques can be put to different uses. I have attended a number of conferences that were not necessarily linked to my research area but I still came away with a long list of ideas, as well as things I needed to learn more about. As my research has progressed I have also found it easier to share contact details with other students and established researchers, in the hope of building fruitful collaborations.
If your work is accepted, and you present it as a poster or orally, this can open up a number of doors even after the conference has finished. A number of journals employ article commissioners whose job it is to seek out and invite researchers to write papers and review articles. One method they use to find such researchers is through conference proceedings. If invited to write an original research paper you will likely be invited to cover the same areas indicated by the published abstract.
If you are invited to write a review article the scope will likely be much larger. However, even as a PhD student it is not impossible to write a review article and it can even compliment your literature review. Review articles also present great opportunities to cite your own work, if already published, and also get your name more widely known. Both of these are important ways to increase the impact and audience of your research, whilst establishing yourself as a figure within your field of work. These latter reasons may seem elitist but they can be important when securing future research funding and establishing collaborations.
Having just published my first review article  I should add that it takes a lot of work, a lot of your time, but there is definitely a sense of satisfaction once it is done.
- Gaskell, E.E., & Hamilton, A.R., (2014) Antimicrobial clay-based materials for wound care. Future Medicinal Chemistry, 6(6):641-655. [available online: http://www.future-science.com/doi/abs/10.4155/fmc.14.17]
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