AIT Postgraduate Research Showcase Inspires Early Stage Academics

“Strive for progress, not perfection” was a key takeaway from Athlone Institute of Technology's postgraduate research showcase

Athlone Institute of Technology held its biannual postgraduate research showcase earlier this month highlighting the scope of high quality and impactful postgraduate research taking place across its three research centres.

Now in its second year, the seminar acts as a vehicle for early stage academics to showcase their latest research developments in the company of their supervisors, peers and prospective postgraduate students while gaining presenting experience in a supportive environment.

Throughout the day, attendees enjoyed networking opportunities and heard inspiring talks from other academics and library staff about postgraduate research careers, publishing and surviving the oft-dreaded viva.

Among those speaking at the seminar was Evert Fuenmayor, a doctoral candidate within a hair’s breadth of completing his PhD. The 29-year-old Venezuelan researcher stressed the importance of ‘striving for progress, not perfection’ explaining that there was no point sitting around waiting for inspiration to strike.

“Perfection is a state of acceptance, not a lack of flaws. It’s vital that you make yourself sit down and write – it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be consistent,” he explained as he detailed the highs and lows of his own journey through academia.

Evert, whose fascinating PhD research concerns the mass production of polypharmacy pills – single tablets containing multiple prescriptions – using 3-D printing technology, offered current and prospective students some practical advice about the common pitfalls to avoid.

According to the doctoral candidate, setting unrealistic (self-imposed) expectations with respect to publishing and an intense fear of failure can induce “a sense of paralysis” – a feeling of being unable to progress in one’s research.

He stressed the importance of being able to take constructive criticism on board and see it not as a reflection of personal or professional failure but as an opportunity for growth and learning. The real shame, he said, comes from stagnation.

“Undertaking postgraduate research is challenging and can at times be quite an insular experience. It’s easy to forget that many of the people around you have overcome or are also dealing with similar struggles,” he said.

With this in mind, he extolled the virtues of events like Athlone Institute of Technology’s research showcase, which remind the research community that they are indeed a community working towards a common goal and purpose.

“I hope that it will encourage people to look across the room and start a conversation about their work and make them curious about the work of others, that’s a recipe for innovation,” he added.

Interspersed between keynote talks were three ‘Poster Madness’ sessions in which attendees were treated to a range of fun and informative poster presentations across the institute’s core research areas.

To encourage attendees to check out the full poster presentations, which were set up outside the institute’s Douglas Hyde Theatre, the postgraduate researchers were challenged with piquing the audience’s interest with an elevator-style pitch – the premise of which was to communicate their core research idea in precisely 60 seconds or less.

“It was fantastic to see the quality and diversity of applied scientific research being presented by our postgraduate student population,” Dr Therese Montgomery, a lecturer in the department of Life and Physical Sciences and chair of the bioscience ‘Poster Madness’ session, enthused.

“Events such as this help to foster a sense of community between our three research centres, inspire and motivate early stage academics and provide a rich breeding ground for inter-disciplinarian research collaboration across the institute, as well as showcasing our research talent to the wider undergraduate community.”

This was a sentiment echoed by Dr Niall Murray, a lecturer and researcher in the area of immersive technologies, who called the showcase a wonderful opportunity for the entire postgraduate research community to meet and discuss ongoing research activities, foster multidisciplinary collaborations and provide an awareness of the existing and evolving research landscape within the institute.

Athlone Institute of Technology is a vibrant, contemporary institution distinguished by academic excellence in teaching, learning and research. The institute has enjoyed considerable success in recent years, most notably being awarded The Sunday Times ‘Institute of Technology of the Year 2020, 2018 and Runner-Up in 2017. The institute also tops Ireland’s official league table for research and has been listed in U-Multirank’s ‘Top 25 Performing Universities in the World for Interdisciplinary Research’ in 2018 and 2019. Athlone Institute of Technology has ranked number one for student satisfaction nationally for six consecutive years.

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