A researcher must be able to identify the important research questions and think of ways to address these questions. This requires creativity. The creativity workshop will give explicit training in this key skill.
We will build on the Creativity@home project which the EPSRC has already piloted with a set of research groups including the CICADA research project from Manchester of which Dr. Shapiro is Deputy Director. The Manchester group found this highly beneficial, and although PhD students were not included in the EPSRC pilot, one of the recommendations of the pilot was to target early career researchers. EPSRC has recently launched the “Creative Thinking in Research” initiative, and our CDT workshops will follow a similar.
The CDT aims to make students aware of research impact at an early stage of their research career, by teaching them to produce an impact survey, and by having them carry out studies of impacts of research.
In the impact studies, students will be able to evaluate the likely impact and success of a research approach. This will include case studies of research which did and did not have impact with a goal of understanding what leads to impact in research.
The bulk of the time after the first half year is spent carrying out focused research under the supervision of a leading expert or experts. In the second and subsequent years, the student will become integrated into a research group or project team, and will be housed with their research colleagues. It is an essential part of research training that the students interact with the postdocs and more senior researchers in their group, participate in their research group activities, and ultimately give presentations at international conferences and workshops associated with their research area.
The Research Student Symposium is a four-day event, which takes place the first week of November. All students in their fourth years give oral presentations of their research, all students in their third year give poster presentations of their research, and students in the second year present their research proposal to the school in a poster session. There is also a keynote speaker, a presentation session of student publications, and best paper and best thesis prizes. For students in the first year, this provides a showcase of research in the school, and so will help them hone in on a research area.
Science in Practice
The goal of Science in Practice is to help students make good choices about what area to research. During the first teaching block, a series of presentations and seminars will be held around the two integrative themes, describing the research questions, the unsolved problems, and research approaches taken at Manchester. During the second semester, students will have the opportunity to shadow one or more researchers (postdocs or advanced PhD students) and get involved in small aspects of the research. Science In Practice will allow students to get a flavour of the research in different research areas.
Scientific Methods Courses
All students will take these three courses, which run during the second, third and fourth 5-week blocks of the first year. These courses will give students a thorough grounding in scientific evaluation for all phases of a research project, from evaluation of the quality and importance of a research proposal, to the experimental verification and analysis of the outcome. These courses will teach scientific methods, scientific evaluation, experimental design, data analysis and the elements of statistics.
One of the goals of the CDT is to give all students practice at applying research skills to different problems. The study groups are a mechanism to do this. They will focus on a small number of research problems generated by industrial or other collaborators, which will be presented at the beginning of a workshop. The next phase of the workshop will be organised around breakout sessions at which groups of students coalesce around the problems which interest them. This will be the beginning of the process of trying to address the problem. The groups of students will then work for another two to three weeks, at the end of which they will present their results. They will also write a report outlining the results of their work, addressed to the user who presented the problem. The group study will be facilitated by senior researchers from within the school.