In March, the very first #EntoCareers event took place to help entomologists map out their future careers. Organized by NRI’s Post-Grad representative, Manuela Carnaghi, and two other PG reps from the Royal Entomology Society, it was designed as a ‘one off’ virtual networking and careers opportunity. However, it was such a success, it may now become an annual event. Manuela takes up the story.
I came up with the idea of running an ‘Ento-Careers’ conference while chatting to some other post-grad reps from the Universities of Cardiff and Lincoln respectively. We wanted to organise a seminar to explore the question, “What do we, as PhD students or early career researchers, need to know in order to advance in our careers?”
We thought that a series of discussions around tips, advice, where to look for things etc, would be incredibly useful to us and other students. We knew it would have to be a virtual conference due to Covid restrictions, but that actually worked to our advantage because it made it possible for people all over the world to register, which they did in their hundreds!
In a regular post-grad forum, we’d normally have about 40 attendees, whereas for this event, over 300 people signed up almost immediately. I was surprised, delighted and terrified in equal measure! We’d been planning something quite modest but when the numbers started to increase, we realised we’d have to scale it up a bit.
We had delegates from the UK, Nigeria, the Middle East, the United States, South America – all over the world – it made it a very multi-cultural experience. Everyone brought a different point of view to the table; even though the subject of entomology was the same, it soon became clear that the approach was very different across the countries.
For example, we found that African attendees were focused on bio-diversity and the pest control problem, while the USA delegates were more concerned with insect decline and climate change. The variety of perspectives was enriching but the focus of the event was about where studying entomology can take you in life – we’re all going to have to get a job at the end of our PhDs!
We split the conference into sessions; the first one was on careers outside academia which was an area that I personally hadn’t given much thought to as I like research and assumed that I would stay within a university environment. However, we had guest speakers from companies and start-ups who explained how you can do research outside academia and we had a panel discussion on the pros and cons of doing research in a private company versus academia. It really opened my eyes that there is more out there than academia when it comes to research – and it’s better paid too!
The second session featured the presence of five former presidents, and the current president of the Royal Entomological Society. An insightful roundtable conversation -guided by students’ questions touched on several topics such as the history of entomology, career moves advice, and hopes or projections for the future of entomology.
Another session focused on diversity and equality in STEM and entomology; in addition to diverse country representation, we had many women, people of different ethnicities and from the LGBTQ community. The feedback from this session indicated that it was very well received and showed that we need to broaden the appeal of entomology as much as possible and spread the word about how fantastic this subject is and the many varied career paths that are available.
We also built in two interactive activity sessions and an evening quiz which allowed everyone to be more social and helped with networking.
In a year where no one’s been able to travel on field trips or to international seminars, an online conference like this went a long way to contribute towards bringing people together for a great networking experience. We’ve had so much positive feedback, I’d like to think everyone gained a lot from attending.
I’ll be stepping down as post-grad rep soon and handing over the baton, it will be up to the new rep if they want to repeat this conference in the future. From what I’ve seen, if it’s offered then people will definitely take it!
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