The STEPS blog is a place for researchers to tell their stories, showcase their research & share their knowledge

I had a discussion with some final year PGRs, just a quick chat about what they thought was missing from their experience at Manchester and what additional stuff they wanted to happen whilst they did a PhD.

“I really liked the research showcase event in the summer because it was really interesting to find out about what other researchers are working on in the University, you don’t actually know anything about what other people do.”

I can believe it. Having worked at the University for 6 years, I see that we have this stove pipe problem; we are all stuck down little tubes and can’t see what anyone else is doing.

Recently for some work about conference presentations I went to see Ian Cotton in the Ferranti building and he showed me the high voltage lab.

The high voltage lab in the Ferranti building at the University of Manchester

The high voltage lab in the Ferranti building at the University of Manchester

I was unable to hold in my excitement at such a seussian place; I would like to say that the technician was bemused by my repeated exclamations of “woweee!”, but I don’t think he was.

My experience of working with researchers is like this too: they are doing extraordinary things, but it’s all hidden away.

Many areas of research do not have the obvious wow-factor of the high voltage lab, and perhaps researchers imagine that this is important when they think about trying to showcase what they do.

I asked a researcher if I could come and take a picture of him in his working environment and he replied:

‘Unfortunately we don’t really use any cool lasers or anything in the maths department but I think we’re some of the only people left using chalk boards!’

It is interesting that mathematicians still use chalk but I did not know this until I saw a mathematician demonstrate an equation; there was a coherence between the spoken language and the chalk marks, which speeded up my ability to follow what was going on.

So that’s where Alex and I come in; we can help you to find and shape your story.

You can use the STEPS blog as a forum to engage other people; to share the amazing things you are doing, to find out about what other researchers do, and to take advantage of studying at a University that is the size of a village.