Reflections on the East Midlands Universities Postgraduate Research Conference 2012

After forecasts of torrential rain, it was a pleasure to arrive at the green and pleasant Sutton Bonington campus of the University of Nottingham yesterday in glorious sunshine for this annual conference.  The welcome from the organisers, presenters and participants was equally warm.

The keynote address by Professor Aradhana Mehra from the University of Derby was on a topic that, anyone who knows me will know, is close to my heart; tea.  World tea consumption has increased from 1300 thousand tonnes in 1970 to 3600 thousand tonnes in 2006 so Professor Mehra’s research on the toxic and essential elements of tea has increasing importance.  Looking at two elements of tea, aluminium and fluoride, we were warned of the neurological damage that aluminium can have and shown the very small beneficial range of fluoride uptake, outside of which it becomes toxic.  However the research by Professor Mehra’s team concluded that, unless we have specific absorption or medical problems, we can carry on being the second highest tea drinking nation (look out Eire, we’re chasing you).  Oh, and maybe we should treat ourselves to the finer tip & shoot pickings found in loose leaf tea.

We then split into the parallel sessions which included Energy Waste Management & the Environment; Health & Well Being in Society; Creating Technology for the Future; and Identity, Religion & Belief.  It was my privilege to be chair of the Natural Sciences: New Discoveries and New Ideas stream where we were treated to four talks on the theme of genetics.  The research was innovative and well presented giving, even novices like me, a glimpse of the potential developments to help improve health that will be coming our way. The sunshine and sumptuous lunch then gave a welcome opportunity to network with researchers across the region.

The afternoon commenced with more parallel sessions.  I decided to try something different rather than stick to topics closer to my own field of study and headed towards the Identity, Religion & Belief stream.  This was fantastic exposure to the research methods and presentation styles used in other disciplines.  I was stimulated by an exploration of the self-identity of Sykes in Oliver Twist, convinced by the power behind the use of ‘toleration’ and intrigued by the emerging themes on citizenship exposed by white South African migrants.  Finally, in a study on internationalisation by micro businesses, we were told how the Internet has brought the death of time and distance.  The final keynote by Dr Tim Foster of the University of Nottingham urged us to explore the potential consequences of our research so that we can anticipate its impact.

I was amazed by the breadth of research going on and I’m looking forward to keeping the conversation going with the interesting people I met.