Wednesday 27th November was our annual UoA-School of Biological Sciences Research Day, and what a fascinating and fantastic day it was!

The aim of research Day is to showcase the breadth and depth of research ongoing within the School, and celebrate our research successes over the past 12 months. The focus of this year’s event was on getting to know our new-start PhD students and hear all about their research plans for the next few years.

This year’s intake of PhD students is unprecedented in size, primarily because it includes the first cohorts from our NERC QUADRAT doctoral training partnership, the SUPER doctoral training partnership and the National Decommissioning Centre initiative. Combined with our other established PhD funding streams such as the BBSRC EastBio DTP, this meant that this year we got to hear talks from ­­­27 (!) new students.

One can slice and dice the content and focus of the talks in lots of different ways: We heard about studies on animals, plants and microbe, and these criss-crossed our “4E” research clusters of Ecology, Evolution, Environmental science and Ecophysiology. Studies spanned from the equator to the poles and from deep-ocean to montane habitats, and included theoretical, modelling and empirical components.

A number of things really stuck out for me from the day:

First, the quality of the student presentations was outstanding – given where our new-starts are in their PhD journey they demonstrated a clarity of thought about their research plans and a capacity to communicate their ideas in a compelling, exciting and professional way that speaks volumes for their ability and their potential as first-rate research scientists. Second, there was a real feeling of cohort and broad community among the students. From both the talks and also subsequent discussions it’s clear the students automatically and quite naturally consider their research in the broadest possible context, are comfortable drawing on collaboration outside their discipline to develop and deliver impact and outreach activity. The old-school models of students working in isolation, only talking to colleagues in their immediate field and with just a focus on their immediate thesis have been well and truly consigned to history.

Third, the students are comfortable dovetailing approaches from across disciplines within their studies. It was striking that the students simply see it as natural that they draw on a range of tools from, say, modelling, molecular techniques and social science to enhance their research even if those aspects are not core to their project or their training to date. Our view of what counts as multisdisciplinarity is clearly changing.

Congratulations are in order for the two students who were voted as giving the best presentations – Lana Dunan (Unravelling the joint evolution of dispersal and mating behaviours in spatially-structured populations using experimental evolution) and Anders Poulsen Charmouth (A theoretical description of the causes and consequences of inbreeding mating systems). Well done, both! Special mention also goes to Eirini Linardaki who despite not being able to present in person because of fieldwork commitments in Chile sent over a brilliant video presentation to ensure everyone knows about her work. This to me exemplifies the enthusiasm and engagement the PhD students bring to the School and the broader research environment.

Thanks to all the students and staff from across the School who contributed to an excellent research day and helped achieve the broad goal of celebrating our research success.