Magali Christensen Messel report 2016

In 2016, Magali Christensen was awarded an SCI Travel Bursary to attend the Gordon Research Seminar for Flow and Transport in Porous Media 2016 which took place in Girona, Spain, between 30 July and 5 August 2016. Below, she tells us how attending the conference enabled her to present her work in both oral and poster presentation format, which gave her a chance to receive valuable feedback and introduce her work to experience researchers.

‘I am a final year PhD student at the University of Aberdeen in the School of Engineering. My research has focused on understanding fluid dynamics of multiphase flow found in oil reservoirs, CO2 geological storage sites, and contaminated aquifers. Using a novel protocol to artificially create wettability conditions identical to field conditions without the costly and lengthy use of crude oil, the fluid displacement sequence that takes place in a reservoir is reproduced in the laboratory. I have built a data set of waterflood oil recovery measurements using a combination of coreflood and lab-on-a-chip methods that could be of great use to improve current understanding and update the models commonly used in the industry.

‘With the generous support of SCI and the Messel bursary, I was able to present part of my PhD work at the Gordon Research Seminar for Flow & Transport in Porous Media 2016 and attend the associated conference, taking place in Girona, Spain. The Gordon seminar and conference provide an off-the record environment where all attendees must present unpublished data and ideas in the form of talks or posters. The relatively small size and unusual format of the event were so that all attendees have a chance to interact with one another. Every day, a time slot was dedicated for free time between talks and poster sessions for informal interaction, which is often when in-depth discussions take place or when new collaborations start. The seminar was an opportunity for young researchers with similar levels of experience to interact and was followed by the conference where leaders in their field present their latest work. The event gathered researchers from academia, national laboratories and industry giving a wealth of perspective on a common scientific field.

‘I first attended this conference series as a first year PhD student in 2014 in Maine, US. It was extremely valuable in terms of feedback, networking, and scientific collaboration. Following the conference, I was invited to undertake laboratory work in a research institute in Germany using equipment not available at my university. This work turned out to be a crucial part of my PhD and this shows just how valuable attending the conference was for me. I was then very excited to return this year, but this time as an invited speaker at the seminar, focusing this year on the impact of interfaces in permeable media. I gave my talk, titled ‘Dependence of Waterflood Oil Recovery on Pore-Scale Wettability Contrast’, on the first day of the seminar to an audience of graduate students, post-docs, and early career researchers.

‘I also had the chance to present my work as a poster twice during the conference. This was a chance to take on further questions following my presentation and introduce my work to the more experienced researchers who attend only the conference.  In the final year of my PhD, thesis completion, the final viva examination, and submission of results to peer reviewed journals are the next steps for me. Exposing my work to such a multi-disciplinary porous media audience was extremely useful. I received positive feedback and comments on the strengths of my work as well as some of its weaknesses that I could address. As an experimentalist, it was also very useful for me to interact with modelers who have a stronger focus on the theoretical aspect of my research, and to understand how experimental and modelling approaches can be combined for a better understanding.

‘In addition to the talks and posters, a Power Hour meeting was organized to discuss the challenges met by young researchers, and especially women in their professional growth in academia. The meeting was attended by senior and junior attendees, both men and women, and resulted in a very constructive and informative discussion. During the free time sessions, I took part in a historical tour of Girona and in a boat trip around the Costa Brava. These informal activities organized as part of the conference allowed me to explore new places but also to get to know other attendees in a more informal manner.

‘Overall, the conference was a very enriching experience, and once again it materialized into another laboratory invitation. By the end of the event, I had learnt a lot from my peers, expanded my network, and made new friends. I am very grateful to SCI for providing me with their generous financial support through the Messel Bursary to attend the conference. I am also grateful to my supervisor Dr Yukie Tanino for supporting my attendance and for all colleagues and technicians who have contributed to my work.’

Magali Christensen
PhD Student, University of Aberdeen

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