Conference overview - the Irish Section Postgraduate Conference 2020

Published online: 19 February 2020

This year’s popular Irish Postgraduate Conference was held at The Clayton Hotel Leopardstown in Dublin on the 12-14 February. Hosted by University College Dublin (UCD), the two-day conference was attended by over 70 postgraduate students and early career nutritionists from across Ireland and the United Kingdom.

On Wednesday evening there was a welcome reception and social mixer, which featured a fun, interactive activity to ‘break the ice’ and catch up with old friends and colleagues as well as meet new ones. Conference attendees heard the wide range of impressive new research currently taking place all over Ireland and the UK. 35 postgraduates presented throughout six symposia. Topics included nutritional standards in Irish school meals, the role of vitamin D in bone health of older adults, as well as a review of dairy consumption in China. All presentations were delivered at an exceptionally high standard.

Throughout the conference there were several excellent keynote speakers representing diverse experience within the nutrition sector. 

Dr Geraldine Canny from the Irish Universities Association (IUA) gave a keynote talk on grant writing and how to make your application stand out, with a focus on Marie Skłodowska-Curie (MSC) grants. There is 'no mercy' when applying for research grants, so Dr Canny’s advice on how to make an application of the highest standard was invaluable. The second speaker was Professor Cormac Taylor from UCD, who spoke of the importance of establishing and maintaining good supervisor-student relationship during postgraduate studies. Professor Taylor touched on how important it is to take care of both your physical and mental health during a PhD, stressing the importance of not letting your studies take over your life, and remembering to maintain your external hobbies and relationships.

On Friday it was an honour to have Professor Julie Lovegrove, President of the Nutrition Society, speak about the Academy of Nutrition Sciences which launched at FENS in October 2019. The Academy of Nutrition Sciences is a new charitable organisation which aims to provide a powerful and unified voice to promote evidence-based nutrition science.  Dietitian Maeve Hanan, writer of Dietetically Speaking then gave an insightful talk on her career so far; from working in the NHS to setting up her own private practice, and how to make the most of social media as healthcare professional by sharing evidence-based advice. Lastly, Dr Caoileann Murphy discussed her inspiring career ‘From PhD to Postdoc’, and what she has learned so far; making the most of the opportunities you are given throughout your postgraduate years and how to travel the world doing so.

Whilst time was spent networking during coffee and lunch breaks, the conversation flowed throughout the day on social media with the hashtag #nsirishpostgrad20 used to discuss presentation topics and career advice given. One of the biggest networking opportunities was the conference dinner on Thursday night, at which attendees heard from Professor Mairead Kiely, taking the reigns as newly-appointed Chair of the Nutrition Society Irish Section as well as Professor Claire Corish for whom this was her last year as Irish Section Chair. The dinner was a great success, as were the speeches which were followed by dancing into the early hours of the morning.

Sophie Govzman - Scientific Programme Organiser