Royce host first ‘Rising Stars’ event to support early career researchers from underrepresented backgrounds

On 13 January 2023, the Henry Royce Institute played host to the inaugural ‘Rising Stars in Materials Science’ event at its Hub in Manchester. The event focused celebrating and supporting outstanding talents within underrepresented groups in Materials Science through a series of career skills workshops, panels and creative networking activities. 

Organised by the inter-university group of researchers MAINSTRAEM, consisting of Dr Alexandra Ramadan (University of Sheffield); Dr Katie Shanks (University of Exeter); Dr Jess Wade (Imperial College London) and Dr Lucy Whalley (Northumbria University), Rising Stars brought together eminent researchers and industry professionals with an aim to foster the talent of early career PhD students and Postdoctoral Research Associates.

On organising the event, Dr Jess Wade, Research Fellow at Imperial College London said:  

“If we’re going to build a more inclusive and equitable materials science research community, we have to give everyone the same chance to succeed. Our Rising Stars workshop was modelling on MIT’s intensive careers development programme for underrepresented faculty members.

After a few years of trying to make it as early career researchers, we’ve worked out what we really need – so we came up with the most useful timetable and our dream speaker list. I hope participants left the event feeling better prepared, better connected and more optimistic about their futures, whether that is in academia or industry. I hope speakers left the event better understanding the challenges early career researchers face, and realising how powerful their mentorship and support can be,”

Forty participants from Materials Science and Engineering backgrounds were selected to join the Rising Stars event from across the UK and, thanks to the generous support of sponsorship from the Royal Society of Chemistry and the L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Programme, funding was made available to cover travel, accommodation, and caring responsibilities for all delegates to aid accessibility.

The unique programme of career skills guidance and community building networking opportunities kicked off with a panel discussion featuring experts from academia and industry. Panellists Professor Sarah Haigh (University of Manchester), Dr Natalie Lok Kwan Li (Nature Publishing), Dr Nakita Noel (University of Oxford) and Dr Lucy Whalley (Northumbria University) each Provided their advice on job searching and provided insights from recent successes in their career paths.

A series of workshops followed to promote the development of essential research skills including Fellowship and Grant Writing (Georgina Drury, UKRI), Career Planning (Jess Popplewell, Imperial College London and Dr Ajit Pillai, Univesity of Exeter) and Science Communications and Presentation (Dr Lizzie Driscoll, University of Birmingham).

Dr George Miller, Student Engagement Manager for the Henry Royce Institute said: 

“It’s great to see Royce engaging with researchers who are at this stage of their career, as they’ll be leading research in the future. Rising Stars is also focused on celebrating and supporting groups that are currently underrepresented in materials science, providing an opportunity for Royce to lead by example on its EDIA commitments.”

Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive, with praise for the transferrable skills taught throughout the programme and the supportive community atmosphere present.

Planning for a future programme of Rising Stars events is now underway and registrations of interest can be made on the Rising Stars website. If you are interested in sponsoring or participating in a future event, please contact the organisers directly.

Rising Stars in Materials Science was sponsored the Royal Society of Chemistry, L’Oréal-UNESCO’s For Women in Science Programme and the Henry Royce Institute.