The ULB-VUB Joint PhD Day in Psychology and Educational Sciences will take place at the VUB on the 5th of November. I met Emilie Caspar and Guillermo Borragan, who are both PhD students at the CRCN and members of the organizing committee of this event.
Q. Where does this idea of a joint PhD day come from?
Guillermo: This event has been organized every year at the ULB for many years already. Three years ago, Emilie and I joined the organizing committee, because we thought it would be a good way to take an active part in the university and to motivate people to share their research. The year after, we realised that PhD students from the VUB were interested in that kind of event. Meeting them at other events, such as the BAPS meeting, it struck us that we were addressing the same kind of questions, and that it would be great to have opportunities to interact and to help each other with our research projects. Thus last year, we have invited PhD students from the VUB to join the ULB PhD day. It was a great success: many people attended the meeting and presentations were of high quality. This year, we will switch and the venue is thus at the VUB. Next year, it will be back at the ULB. I want to take the opportunity of this interview to make a call for new members of the organizing committee, as Emilie and I will most likely not be be here anymore.
Q. What is the program of such an event?
Emilie: We will have an invited speaker, but I can’t tell you more, because it is a surprise. We will have eight oral presentations, equally distributed between ULB and VUB PhD students. We are seeking for a sample of presentations as diverse as possible, in order for many different research fields to be featured. A poster session will be organized during lunch time, with the chance to win the best poster award. And the deans from ULB and VUB will say a few words to open and close the day on a more official note. The purpose is to give the opportunity to PhD students only to present their research during the PhD day. Postdocs are very welcome to attend the meeting, to evaluate the posters for the best poster award, and they are also asked to review the abstracts. It is interesting for PhD students to present their work during this event, because this gives them ECTS for their doctoral program. It is also a good opportunity to practice presenting in English, which is usually the case in international conferences anyway.
Q. The logo of the event is very nice: it represents Manneken Pis, which is emblematic of Brussels. He is peeing, as he usually does, and we can see that he has a brain in his skull. The text is also creative: “Under the same (b)rain”. How did you proceed to get such an original logo?
Guillermo and Emilie: We have to admit that we are very proud of this logo, and we enjoyed a lot brainstorming about it. We wanted to represent several elements that are common to PhD students from both universities: their home institutions are in Brussels, their research concerns psychology (that is why we represented the brain), they have the same goal (getting a PhD), and they all experience the complexity, the ups and downs of working on their PhD. It is quite metaphoric: We wanted to reflect that this rain, this piss, this complexity of the PhD, that all of this is for all of us: that is why the event is placed under the same (b)rain. It is important to mention that this logo is supposed to reflect this feeling of being together, with other Phd students as well. Sometimes, we all feel “pissed off” by the complexity of the PhD life. But overall, this is a fun logo, meant to call attention to the PhD day and to reflect its friendly atmosphere. And to avoid any misunderstanding (as if Manneken Pis was actually urinating on our home institutions), we have put the text “Under the same (b)rain” in between Manneken Pis and the logos of both the ULB and the VUB. We will also put the logos of ULB and VUB alternatively to the right or the left, in order to prevent any potential misunderstanding, as if he was pissing more on the ULB side or on the VUB side of the logo… But in any case, we are sure that people in both institutions are open-minded enough not to take this logo the wrong way.
Q. What are the plans for the future?
Emilie: Next year, it will take place at the ULB. At this stage, the overall organization of the event goes smoothly, so I do not expect many changes on that level. This year, PhD students from other belgian universities asked whether they could attend the meeting. We never thought about that before. It might be worth considering it for next year. It would still be a VUB-ULB joint organization anyhow. That is just an idea, that the organizing committee will have to discuss, because of financial issues, among others.
Q. Let’s say I am a PhD student in psychology and educational sciences, enrolled either at the ULB or at the VUB. Why should I attend the meeting and present my research?
Emilie and Guillermo: We both presented our own research during the PhD day. It was the perfect opportunity to present our work, to practice, to get interesting feedback and to improve ourselves. So we definitely recommend it.
Interview by Vinciane Gaillard.