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The University recently hosted the 2nd Universitas 21 Early Career Researcher Conference on the theme of Healthy Living in December 2011. The event was organized and led by Dr Anna Phillips, Senior Research Fellow from the School of Sport & Exercise Sciences with the support of her team of graduate students, Gemma Marakas from the U21 Secretariat and Matt Clulee, the International Relations Universitas 21 Officer. The majority of the conference was hosted in the School of Sport & Exercise Sciences building, but delegates also had a cocktail reception and keynote talk in the Barber Institute and a gala dinner at Hornton Grange with a speech from our VC, David Eastwood. A major objective of universities across the U21 network is to ensure that researchers appreciate the value of belonging to rick intellectual communities and have the opportunity to meet global peers for networking and research communication, and to gain valuable skills and training in critical aspects of research career development.

Topics for invited speakers and the keynote address were selected from the key issues comprising the theme of healthy living, namely: nutrition and ageing, exercise, sleep, and stress.  These were presented by mid-late career academics and included advice and tips for early career researchers as well as coverage of their topic and latest cutting-edge research. Early career development training sessions were identified from the range of training needs faced by researchers. These included: editing academic journals, interacting with the media, licensing and spin-offs, personal wellbeing, networking and communication, grant writing, collaborative design of research proposals, and career development.

Forty-one participants from 10 countries attended, from Australia, New Zealand, North America, China, Sweden, Ireland, Mexico, Sigapore and the UK, and 16 U21 member universities: Auckland, Connecticut, Dublin, Edinburgh, Fudan, Glasgow, Hong Kong, Lund, McGill, Melbourne, Monterrey, New South Wales, Nottingham, Queensland, Singapore and Birmingham. Given the theme of ‘Healthy Living’, researchers were from a wide variety of backgrounds including biosciences, medicine, mechanical engineering, sociology, biostatistics, primary care, psychology, and sport and exercise sciences who all focus on key global issues such as the ageing society and obesity.

The conference received very positive feedback throughout in regard to its goals of international networking opportunities and advanced training for researchers. Invited speakers and trainers alike were rated highly by the delegates, who also appreciated the opportunity to meet international colleagues at similar career stages in related fields. There was also the opportunity for our own graduate students to present their research and interact with their international colleagues.