Reflections on the DTA programme, fellows and new videos

“It is hard to believe that the final year of the DTA3 COFUND programme is fast approaching. The past four years have been a whirlwind of activity from undertaking student recruitment to welcoming and inducting our new recruits, and then delivering a wide range of training and networking activities. It has been exciting to see candidate names written on application forms become PhD Fellows who we have got to know as they have developed in their skills and their passion for their project work. Recruiting internationally has brought together researchers from across the world; our DTA3 cohort has representation from 27 different countries. The global reach of the programme has grown and grown as our student body has gone from strength to strength.

With lives turned upside down by the pandemic it has been an extraordinarily difficult two years for most people, and the DTA3 Fellows are no exception. Arriving in the UK shortly before or after the onset of the pandemic, our international students were faced with the challenge of undertaking lockdown alone, in a new country, many miles away from family, friends and home. The ability of many to undertake project work was also hampered, with many losing data, access to research participants and becoming unable to travel to conduct fieldwork or access other key resources. They had to pivot quickly, generating new challenges to overcome and paths to tread. Restrictions on in-person events also hit hard for early career researchers who didn’t have the fortune to have firmly established connections and alliances before the pandemic arrived. DTA3 Fellows have missed out on face-to-face networking and opportunities to broker essential connections within their academic field and industry.

In spite of the challenges they have faced, as we come out the other side of Covid, our Fellows are engaged, eager to network and keen to grasp all opportunities to disseminate their passion and project work. It is amazing to see our Fellows not just surviving but thriving: they have shared their research in the Exhibition of Research held during the DTA Summer School in Brighton, presented at the MSCA European Green Deal Cluster event, chaired and presented at the International Conference on Energy and Sustainable Futures, collaborated across the cohorts to co-deliver at The Street-Level Bureaucracy Conference, as well as a whole host of other dissemination activities.

Our new DTA videos provide a small sample of the Fellows’ enthusiasm for tackling real world challenges and their drive to make a difference. The energy and passion they put into their research, training and networking is inspiring. It was wonderful to see Surya in action in her workshop, creating innovative cement in industrial looking kitchen appliances, conducting testing her samples and viewing them through state-of-the-art microscopes. Surya’s passion and enthusiasm for her research is evident in all that she does. (Read Surya’s latest blog here).

Ana’s confidence has grown in her time with the programme. She was voted in by her peers to represent them as part of the inaugural DTA Student Representative Committee. She ably managed student feedback during the height of the pandemic, collaborating with us and her peers to create a better pathway between the DTA and its students, thus helping us to develop the programme and enhance our support for the student body. She undertook a secondment with the UK Health Security Agency as a Research Lead that not only enriched her research, skills and knowledge, but also directly contributed to supporting essential Covid work. (Read Ana’s blog here).

As the programme enters its final phase, we share in the celebration of our first DTA3 graduates who are going to do amazing things. Already we can count Data Analysts, Postdoc Fellows and Lecturers amongst our alumni. We are excited to see what comes next for them, and what comes next for the DTA programmes.”

Video Production by Slinky Productions

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