Richardson Travel Bursary Recipient, Orla Williams, Reports from New Orleans

11 Sep 2015

Orla Williams was awarded a Richardson Travel Bursary in 2015. Here, she describes how her attendance at the 2015 ASABE International Meeting, which was held between 26 and 29 July 2015 in New Orleans, helped her to gain new and different perspectives on her work as well as experience in presenting to a new audience.

‘Academics and industrial researchers from all over the world gathered in New Orleans for the 2015 American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) International Meeting. The three day event, held between July 26 and 29, was one of the largest gatherings of academics and industrial researchers in the field of agricultural and biological engineering this year.

‘I was honoured to be awarded the Richardson Travel Bursary to attend the conference and present my research to my peers. ASABE 2015 provided myself, and those attending, the forum to expand awareness of industry trends, promote and acknowledge innovations in design and technology, and provide opportunities for professional development. All of this was done with a focus on the economic, political and societal impacts facing the industry, over a four day period.

‘Day one of the conference began with networking. There were also several cultural and continual professional development events. This was then followed by the main technical conference which ran over three days. The main focus of the conference this year was on soil, water and bioenergy, with over 1,600 posters and presentations made at the conference.

‘Each morning and afternoon session had seven parallel events, with talks and poster sessions grouped into the categories of applied science and engineering, energy systems, information technology and control systems, machinery systems, natural resources and environmental systems, plant, animal and facility systems, and processing systems. The talks in the applied science, energy systems and processing systems were of particular relevance and interest to my field of study, and the talks on moisture content and its influence on the mechanical strength of pine were of particular relevance to my research.

‘The conference gave me the opportunity to discover what is happening within my field, and it was heartening to discover similar research to my own being conducted. Other highlights were the talks on comminution pathways for wood chips, the latest developments in microwave sterilisation and pasteurisation, and the densification of biomass products. These sessions were interesting and engaging, and exposed me to new ideas in emerging sectors. This also gave me the opportunity to understand how my work can be applied to areas beyond the current scope of my research.

‘The ASABE conferences proceedings are one of the main sources of information about the latest developments in biomass milling research. It has strongly influenced the experimental and analytical methodologies I have used throughout my engineering doctorate. I presented my talk entitled, ‘Impact of Mill type on Biomass Mill Behaviour' in the Heat and Power Generation from Renewable Energy - Part 2 session. The talk was well received by the delegates and led to a lively discussion on the challenges facing the agricultural and energy sectors in the USA and Europe.

‘This was the first time that I have presented my research to a non-European and non-power sector based audience, and it was an incredibly valuable learning experience. I found the experience of presenting to an American audience very different to that of a UK or European audience. I gained new and different perspectives on my work and the opportunity to understand how it relates to areas beyond its current scope and applications.

‘One of the highlights of the conference was the extensive non-technical programme which had been arranged throughout the three days. There were numerous opportunities to network and all the delegates were incredibly friendly and welcoming. One of the best networking events was the Women in ASABE Speed Networking event, where female industry and academic leaders in the sector could be questioned by four delegates for seven minutes before the delegates moved on. It was invaluable to be given the opportunity to talk to leading female professors, lecturers and industry leaders about their careers, and discover what excited them about research and the agricultural and biological engineering sector. Other events included a strong young and pre-professional networking career fair, and CPD programme, as well as the technical and cultural tours of facilities and attractions in the New Orleans area.

‘Attending the 2015 ASABE International meeting was an incredible experience that allowed me to report my research findings to my peers, as well as the opportunity to receive useful and constructive feedback, including new insights and collaboration opportunities. The conference was immensely useful in providing new perspectives on my research which will be incorporated into my thesis dissertation. Thanks to my attendance, I made several contacts while at the conference and I will aim to cement these connections into collaborative relationships in the future.

‘Reflecting on the conference, I can say I am more aware of what is happening in this industry and I believe that attending future conferences would be of benefit to others working in the area of agricultural and biological engineering. I would like to thank SCI for awarding me the Richardson Travel Bursary, without which I would not have been possible for me to attend this conference that has had a huge impact on my work.’

Orla Williams
Research Engineer, Centre for Efficient Fossil Energy Technologies at the University of Nottingham

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