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January 2013: A PhD students experience at their first International conference

As a PhD student in the Faculty of Health, Education and society on a studentship funded in part by the Institute for Sustainability Solutions Research, I am conducting research into the sustainable management of healthcare waste. This led to my participation in the 3rd International Conference on Industrial and Hazardous Waste. The conference was held in Chania, Crete from 12th to 14th September 2012 and organised by the International Waste Working Group (IWWG -

On the second day of the conference I gave an oral presentation titled ‘Towards Sustainable Waste Management: An Observational study of Healthcare Practice’. As the only person presenting research on the psychological and behavioural aspects of waste management my one concern was how my research would be received at a conference dominated by chemists and engineers. I need not have worried. Following my presentation and the round table discussion I received positive feedback from a number of conference delegates. Many researchers from physical science disciplines had encountered person centred issues while conducting their own research. Previously they had not been aware of how to investigate such issues. My approach to the topic of waste management appears to have opened up new possibilities in interdisciplinary research not previously considered by many scientists.

The interest in my work displayed by other conference delegates led to a number of networking opportunities. The conference has provided me with research contacts from across Europe with whom I can potentially collaborate on future research projects. The chair of the IWWG hospital waste working group also extended an invitation to join the group. These opportunities are now being pursued.

It is important for PhD students to attend international conferences as part of their professional development. The experience of preparing and delivering a presentation at such a conference gives the student the opportunity to disseminate their research to an international audience, develop a reputation in their specific field and have their work critiqued by established experts in that field. The whole experience builds not only the students confidence in their academic abilities but also their self-confidence when conversing informally with other researchers. This process of developing international contacts will aid the student in their future career.

My experience at the 3rd International Conference on Industrial and Hazardous Waste conference has been invaluable. The success of the conference was not just due to my own hard work but also that of my supervisory team and the Institute for Sustainability Solutions Research without whom none of this would have been possible. I hope other PhD students and I are able to continue to benefit from such fruitful experiences.

Sean Manzi