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Richardson Travel Bursary recipient Sarah Hedberg reports

Richardson Travel Bursary recipient, Sarah Hedberg, reports from San Francisco, USA

23 Jan 2017

Sarah Hedberg was awarded the Richardson Travel Bursary in 2016, to attend the AIChE Annual Meeting, an educational forum for chemical engineers, in San Francisco. Here, she tells us about the networking opportunities that attending the conference provided her with.

‘I recently attended the AIChE Annual Meeting 2016 in San Francisco, California, USA. This is an annual conference held every year in different locations in the US, visited by over 5000 delegates from both academia and industry. The conference emphasises that it covers a wide range of topics relevant to cutting-edge research, new technologies and emerging growth areas in chemical engineering.

‘AIChE Annual Meeting 2016 was a 6-day conference between 13 and 18 November, starting off with a student conference (11-14 November), allowing undergraduates from the US and all over the world to showcase their research and talk to faculty and graduate students about different career opportunities. After the student conference, the main meeting started with a wide range of parallel sessions of different topics of chemical engineering; everything from advances in computational methods to drug delivery, green chemistry and chemical engineering education.

‘Every year there is a large group of PhDs, post docs and faculty as well as communication officers attending from the Chemical Engineering department at Imperial College. There is a large exhibition space and our department are among the exhibitors every year.

‘This is my 3rd year in a row attending the conference and what I took advantage of more this year was the direct opportunity for job networking. I was fortunate to have been selected for 3 sessions; a faculty candidate session, a poster session and an oral presentation. As I was participating in the faculty candidate position, I was informed of a number of opportunities and useful sessions to attend.

‘These sessions mostly took place on the Sunday, starting off in the morning with a workshop session, Career Planning for Prospective Faculty, covering the faculty position application process with application advice and information on how to apply for grants when you start out as faculty. After this workshop it was the faculty candidate session in the early afternoon where PhDs and post docs had the opportunity to discuss with current faculty about opportunities in their department as well as showcasing their own research and future research ideas. After this session there was a teaching workshop for prospective faculty, which I also took part in.

‘Prior to the meeting I had applied for the Future Faculty Mentoring Programme where I had been selected among many applicants and was paired up with a mentor from Michigan Tech University. The meeting with our mentors rounded off our programme on Sunday before the opening ceremony took place and the majority of the technical sessions. After the initial meeting we were funded by the education division to grab a small meal or coffee together with our mentors some time during the conference and then keep in contact regularly throughout the following year. My mentor is a very kind and inspiring professor in medical diagnostics who promised to send me her own application material from when she applied to faculty positions as well as introducing me to people useful for my career.

‘ In the technical sessions I presented in the mAb and Stem Cell Engineering poster session and the Innovations in Biopharmaceutical Discovery, Development and Manufacturing oral session. In these sessions I had the opportunity discuss my research with many international world leading researchers in my area. It was very rewarding and inspiring to discuss my research and future plans after my PhD with leading experts in the field. It was great to get so many connections and talking to several people that encouraged me to start thinking about applying to faculty positions even though I am just finishing my PhD.

‘I would definitely recommend this conference to PhDs and Post docs in chemical engineering and related fields as it gives so many opportunities to give oral presentations and meet other researchers. The networking opportunities the conference provides will certainly help whether thinking about a future faculty position or a job in industry. Therefore, I’d like to thank SCI Richardson fund for awarding me this bursary and enabling me to attend this meeting.’

Sarah Hedberg
Imperial College London

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