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FuseNet PhD Event 2014: A retrospective

More than 120 PhD students gathered last week in Portugal, for the 4th edition of the FuseNet sponsored PhD event. This year it was organized by Instituto de Plasmas e Fusao Nuclear (IST) in Lisbon's district where the World EXPO 1998 had taken place.

Despite being plagued by rain and with short time for organisation, the PhD event brought rich discussions and enabled students to disseminate their research, develop a network of contacts and learn from each other's experiences. New relationships have been built and the exchange of knowledge continues beyond the event.

For an inside look in the course of events and a taste of the atmosphere, read on for eye-witness reports of the three day-event:


Wednesday 18/11/2014

By Vladimir Kvon

First day in Lisbon: discovery begins with a rainy start

 "Coming to Lisbon in November? Take an umbrella, a waterproof coat and boots!" That could be a headline for the first day of FuseNET PhD meeting 2014. Many participants came with expectation of warm weather and images of surfers on the beach, but unfortunately sunny weather went to another place. You can start wondering why weather could be an obstacle to a scientific meeting, which is usually devoted to presentations, reports and poster sessions. The answer lays in the fact that the PhD event is not another conference but especially has networking activities.

After arriving we were divided into small groups of 8 people and were given a journal. Most of us were thinking that it contained a usual description of our agenda for the event. But imagine our surprise when we read that we had to complete several challenges. And they were not about science, but meant to explore the city and get to know each other. The tasks involved finding different places and points of interest across the city, take pictures and also smaller sub-tasks that involved some calculations. But now you can guess why an umbrella and boots were essential for us.

Group of 8 PhD students - happy to be inside!

So there were about 14 international groups deployed in Lisbon with mission to discover particular places and complete tasks. Some took the challenge, some preferred to deviate and relax after long flights, considering bad weather. In any case, our team arrived at the meeting point at 18:30 in the evening with accomplished several tasks. Of course, we could accomplish all of them if our flight had not been delayed and the weather had been better. Overall, it was good experience with obtaining knowledge in very uncommon and curious way. But looking for a place or a statue under heavy raining in the evening could remind us also of a soft version of survival run. Thus, if you coming to Lisbon in November be prepared for rainy weather independent of a kind of activity you are planning to do!

Thursday 19/11/2014

by Emelie Nilsson

No lack of deuterium

There is certainly no lack of deuterium in Lisbon at the moment! Enough rain fell today to power the city with fusion for years. Luckily all the indoor activities keep us busy. Some participants complain about being sick because of the weather, but I think they just had a few too many drinks last night.

The eventful day started with an inspiring lecture by the rock star of nuclear fusion- Roger Jaspers. He tackled criticism of ITER and discussed whether the feasibility of fusion can be demonstrated by other concepts. The conclusion is that sure we can, but it will be much more difficult!

Then, the bravest PhD students among us presented their research in oral presentations. The rest of us discussed our work in the poster session. It went well and was very peaceful except for a small dispute when Milos tried to manually add COMPASS data on some graphs.

Live edits being made on the spot during the first poster session

After an excellent lunch we headed to the technical institute of Lisbon where Bilal and me got lost and ended up in an introductory Matlab lecture. We were so happy chat with the students, they made us feel so young and innocent again. After all our experience with Matlab we thought we would understand everything in the lecture but it was in Portuguese so we left after a while and met some other lost FuseNet PhDs wandering around in the corridor. There was a rumor going around that there was a bar in the building, so we decided to check it out. They didn’t have shots so we had a coffee and the amazing pastry ‘pastel di nata’ – a must try in Portugal!

Dinner with all attendees

Piero Martin at the IST then gave a phun (physics+fun) history lesson on nuclear physics. Then we all had dinner together at the institute, mingled and hung out with to the local Portuguese PhDs who made sure we got enough refill on the wine… I mean the water! After we scattered across the bars of Lisbon. We had fun drinking 50 cent beers in the street and enjoying being in such a multicultural group. We learnt how to say ‘Donald Duck’ and ‘breasts’ in five different languages. Such invaluable skills can be obtained only at PhD events! Thanks for a great day everyone. Ciao Paperinos and Paperinas!

Thursday 19/11/2014

by Gaurav Shukla

Good networking at the Poster session and a visit to ISTTOk

With the hectic program on the first day, ending late at night, it was tough to catch up with the early morning session next day. The second day was rather more productive in terms of networking and exchange of ideas, especially due to the first poster session. The very first talk came from Dr. Jaspers, which was general but informative. The session continued with oral presentations from PhD students followed by short discussions.

The poster session gave students a great opportunity to exchange ideas via one to one interactions. I myself finally found some help for my doctoral problem and also met some people who agreed to help through email! It was good networking. However, the hall arranged for poster session was rather too small to accommodate so many people, especially in the corner where my poster was on display.

The poster sessions: a tight fit but room for plenty of discussions 

A visit to ISTTOk at IST was planned after the lunch. ISTTOk is a small tokamak with a circular cross-section, a poloidal graphite limitere and an iron core transformer. We visited the ISTTOk tokamak in groups. It was difficult however to reach IST individually through the metro, which I think was a bad option. Lack of information and bad weather made things even worse.

The following talk by Dr. Martin at IST - Salão Nobre was interesting and stood out due to all the cartoons in his presentation. The day ended with a nice dinner at IST.

Friday 20/11/2014

Kajal Shah

Presenting science is a science itself

The third and last day of the event had some interesting talks and activities together with poster sessions and talks from PhD students. Talk given by Marta Fajardo on Communication in Science was very interesting, in particular to those early in their PhD career. Poster sessions continued with good discussions and effective networking. Also, the weather seemed to finally improve!

The quiz session and prize ceremony in the auditorium

The best activity was in the afternoon was related to public dissemination of science and our research. We were asked to describe our work - with certain time limits - in the simplest way without using any technical or scientific terms. The task was quite challenging, which led to some really funny descriptions.

We all gathered towards the end of the event at the auditorium for a quiz session, a final round of puzzling physics and a prize ceremony. I won the quiz session which yielded me a prize bottle of Champagne!

The dinner at the last day of our event was no different. Along with some other friends, I continued to struggle due to our dietary restrictions. The event was organized with good thought in order to help students towards more opportunities and exposure, however there were many organisational issues not addressed effectively. Weighing all good and bad experiences during the event, all students parted looking forward to a good weekend in the city.