B) Matthew Whittle

This has been reposted from Matthew’s personal blog which can be found at: https://mattbikes.wordpress.com/

On Thursday I attended my first conference as a PhD student, the Royal Geographical Society’s Mid-term Conference. I was told this was one of the more friendly conferences within my research field as it is attended almost exclusively by PhD students and hosted by PhD students. This appealed to me as the last conference I went to there were definitely some egos in the room who went out of their way to ask some difficult questions! Overall this advice was certainly true, everyone was supportive and welcoming, and to my surprise actually interested in my research!!

I presented a paper that has been submitted to Area back in December (still in review!) based on the crowds of the 2014 Grand Depart. At first I thought I had a difficult task having the very first presentation after the initial keynote, however a few seconds into my presentation and I felt fine. One issue though was I had practiced using the new presenter mode on PowerPoint and this computer didn’t support the feature, so I had to use my hastily written notes that were jotted down somewhere between York and Northallerton at 8am that morning (my fault I should have been more prepared!). This meant I left out some points that I wanted to make but fortunately they weren’t crucial. The most surprising thing I found was people were actually interested! This was a project I had started in January 2015, therefore it was easy to lose sight of its importance. However after the presentation I had 7-8 people coming up to me wanting to either know more about the research or offering an insight into their experience of the Grand Depart.

Once the presentation was over I then seemed to almost close the book on that part of my academic career. I’ve done what I can with the Grand Depart study, there might be another paper on the economic data but as I’m getting further into my PhD finding the time for something completely different is becoming more difficult.

The added benefit of going first is that you get to take in everyone else’s work, and this worked well for the afternoon sessions as it allowed me to take in some presentations on topics that I haven’t touched since A Level geography. The last session of the first day however was more my cup of tea, transport geography, and it was good to see that 4 out of the 5 researchers were in some way interested in active travel. This gave me some confidence in my own research as it shows that the area of research is important and not in stagnation.

On the second day of the conference I came across two researchers who were after my own heart; both of them presented on citizen participation – the same area of research I have devoted the past 6 months two. From these presentations I gathered some important pointers for further reading as well as drawing parallels between us.

From this experience I have learnt one or two things for the future:

  • Know where you’re going – I got off the train and googled “University”, but little did I know that Newcastle has two universities and sod’s law my phone took me to Northumbria University. Fortunately they are just a stones throw away from each other, so I didn’t look like too much of a wally (I get the irony of a transport geographer getting lost).
  • Not all computers have the new Presenter mode in PowerPoint, so make sure you’ve got some written notes as back up.
  • I was surprised when I discovered that people were researching a similar field to myself… but I shouldn’t have been as everyone abstracts had been emailed via the conference organisers. So actually read them!
  • The 3 N’s – NetworkNetworkNetwork. If you’re interested in someones research, tell them! If they have a Twitter account, follow them and tweet them!
  • Don’t be that guy that gets a reputation at the conference dinner who gets a bit too tipsy and does the YMCA solo with everyone watching.

Overall the conference was definitely a success, almost providing book ends between two chapters in my academic career – the end of my Grand Depart work and the beginning of my Thesis.