Each year at the Summer Conference, we invite PhD students to submit an abstract for the Postgraduate Competition.  Winners are invited to present their research to the audience in the main lecture theatre as well as having their work published in Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (PNS) journal.

We asked 2015 winner, David John Clayton, about his experience presenting his research on whether dietary energy restriction induced compensatory alterations in appetite, energy intake and metabolism.

What encouraged you to submit  your research for the postgraduate competition?

I attended the 2013 Nutrition Society Summer meeting in Newcastle when I was in the first year of my PhD and remember the Postgraduate Competition Winners’ presentations were some of my highlights from this meeting. I was impressed with how the Nutrition Society provided such an outstanding platform for young researchers to present their work, and I thought the students’ presentations were excellent. I remember thinking that I would love to have the opportunity to do this myself in the future. After discussing this with my supervisor, he suggested that I should aim to submit my research for the Nutrition Society Postgraduate Competition in the third year of my PhD.

When it came to applying for the competition I was very busy with my PhD work. However, few conferences provide such an excellent chance for postgraduate students to present their work as part of the main conference programme. Therefore, I decided this was an opportunity that I didn’t want to miss.  

As a PhD student, what was it like presenting your research in the main lecture theatre at the NS Summer meeting?

I had presented my research at previous conferences, but to present the entire body of PhD work in the main lecture theatre at a major conference was an incredible and rewarding experience. I was nervous beforehand, but I had prepared well for my presentation and as soon as I got up on the stage, I thoroughly enjoyed discussing my work. This presentation is one of my proudest achievements from my time as a PhD student, and something that the majority of students finishing their PhD would not have experienced.

It also provided a fantastic opening for networking and meeting new people during the conference. Most delegates attend the Postgraduate Competition Winners’ presentations.  Therefore a lot of people approached me at the conference gala dinner to discuss my work and congratulate me on my presentation. It was very satisfying to discuss my work with colleagues from different institutions, and hopefully build some useful links for the future.

How has winning the competition benefited you?

I think that it is very important to maximise your professional development during your PhD by applying for opportunities that are not directly related to completing your PhD thesis. Winning this competition enabled me to present my work as a central speaker at a major conference, and publish a review article on my PhD in the Proceedings of the Nutrition Society Journal. Both of these achievements would have been unlikely had I not won this competition and these help me to stand out from the crowd when it comes to applying for jobs.  I am very proud to have ‘Nutrition Society Postgraduate Competition Award Winner 2015’ on my CV. I had job offers before my PhD came to an end, and I am now working as a Research Associate at Loughborough University.

What advice would you give to other postgraduates considering submitting their research for the competition?

Just go for it! There is nothing to lose in applying, and the experience of presenting in the main lecture theatre at a major conference is an opportunity that is rarely available to PhD students. Winning this competition is something that really helps you stand out from your peers when you are applying for jobs in the future. I am very happy that I applied, and I believe winning this award has contributed to my current success. I would strongly encourage other young researchers to do the same.