JCSMR HDR Student Conference

The JCSMR HDR Student conference, a conference organised by students, for students, was along awaited event!

On the 28th-29th June 2022, 35 honours, masters and PhD students gathered on the superfloor of Marie Ray building to spend two days discussing everything science. It was the perfect opportunity for students in varied stages of their research journey to come together to share interesting stories, discuss their research, work on collaborations, help troubleshoot problems and exchange new ideas.

Finally, a student focussed conference!

This conference encouraged students to present their research and ideas to their peers in a supportive and friendly environment. All questions and discussions stemmed out of pure curiosity and the intent to support and help their peers with their research. Students came from varied backgrounds such as genome science, cancer, neurobiology and immunology, which meant the posters and presentations had to suit a wider scientific audience and paint a big picture. This meant most of us as presenters had to step back and re-write the script of our research story to make it accessible to the audience, an important skill we were lucky to work on in such early stages of our research careers.

Presenting my work to my peers came with a mix of nervousness and excitement. I was very excited to hear their feedback and inputs into how I could improve my work, but also a little bit nervous as these were a bunch of people I knew personally and had shared my PhD journey with and what they thought of my work meant so much to me.

I thoroughly enjoyed the questions and discussions that followed my presentation. Winning the student choice best oral presentation was the cherry on top!


One message that resonated through the talks/presentations from students, plenary speakers, organisers, JCSMR alumni and various professional support staff was the importance of finding the right mentor for your goals. Associate Professor Riccardo Natoli also organised a mentoring session to help us better understand what to look for in a mentor and what an ideal mentor-mentee relationship looks like.

As PhD students, we are only beginning our research journey and possibly have very different aspirations and goals, finding the right mentor who can help us visualise our career trajectory can make all the difference.

Beyond academia

The JCSMR HDR student conference provided a great platform to discuss everything PhD- how to maintain a work-life balance, research support services provided by the university, counselling support services at ANU and career opportunities (in/outside of academia) post PhD.

On day 2, we heard from a panel of JCSMR PhD alumni who had gone on to do non-academia jobs after their PhDs. The panellists had varied jobs, from management consulting, clinical placements, venture capital and industry. As PhD students, we are often so engrossed in research and are very intent on becoming successful academics and seldom explore options outside academic. It was rather refreshing to hear from people who were in our shoes only a few years ago on how a science PhD can be translated into diverse professional settings.

One key takeaway was that the problem-solving skills, multitasking capabilities and analytical skills we develop during our PhDs will be in demand from a range of employers, and our future career opportunities are not just limited to academia!

Overall, the JCSMR student conference was such a fulfilling experience. Thank you to the organising team (especially Sarah!) for putting it together. Following the success of this year, I hope JCSMR HDR conference becomes an annual event going forward.