Welsh Crucible 2018

We are often told that various schemes, workshops and courses will be good for our CV and I always cautious about whether this will necessarily be true. But the Welsh Crucible is a programme that I found to be not only CV enhancing but it genuinely changed the way that I view academia and where my research might go in the future.

Not to be confused with anything snooker related, the Welsh Crucible is an award-winning programme of personal, professional and leadership development for the future research leaders of Wales. But what does that mean in reality? While I don’t want to give to much away here, these are my personal experiences and views about the Welsh Crucible programme.

25.05.18Wrelsh Crucible Picture by Nick Treharne:
The Welsh Crucible Class of 2018! #CrucibleFamily

From the outset it was made clear that only 30 researchers would be chosen for the programme from all of the applications received. While competition is nothing new in academia that seemed like a pretty small number of people. The other thing that stood out was that all three of the ‘labs’ or sessions were residential and you had to commit to being able to attend all three labs, six days in total. As I tend to, I wanted to give the application a shot. It struck me that although the application asked about your research outputs and publications, it also asked questions about you as a person and what you might bring to the programme as an individual.

As I say, I don’t want to give too much away, as part of the fun of the programme is the surprises that await. But I will mention some of the things that were my personal take home messages.

The first of the three labs was held in Cardiff. Although it felt slightly odd to stay away from home in the city that I live in, it was a great start to the programme. Unlike other schemes it seemed like I was surrounded by lots of like minded people and there didn’t seem to be as much awkwardness as their often is at these types of introductory sessions. At the end of the two days I was certainly glad that it was the weekend, the sessions were very intense but I learnt an awful lot in what was a relatively short amount of time.

The sessions were each a month apart and before I knew it the second lab was upon me and I was on a train on my way to Bangor. In the second of the labs we had already made our introductions so it felt like we were being reunited again. After a quick catch up we were off and discussing everything that we had been up to in the past month and how our careers might progress in the future. After the two days of learning, bonding and reflecting, we all went our separate ways. At this point I realised that there was only one lab left, which did make me a little bit sad, the sense of community had become really strong and it certainly felt like we had spent longer together as a group than four days (in a good way!).

The final lab in Swansea was upon us! Two final days where we could enhance our skills as future research leaders and plan our futures. It all seemed rather scary, but our final meal as a group gave us an opportunity to appreciate how far we had come, both as individuals and as a group. We were now all part of the Welsh Crucible alumni network and I am glad that we are part of a wonderful community, that I have no doubts will continue to grow over the coming years. A massive thank you to the Welsh Crucible champions who are dotted across Wales, the programme would not be same without your support, guidance and brilliant abilities to keep up to date with all of the Cruciblees who are on Twitter. Another thank you to all of the other Cruciblees who made the experience incredibly valuable, I have no doubts that I will work with many of you in the future and the variety of research on display (which can be seen in the word cloud below) reflects the bright future of research in Wales.

I saw that a previous Cruciblee wrote on Twitter shortly before our groups started that ‘The worst thing about Welsh Crucible is that you can only do it once’ and that is certainly true. If I could go back and do it all again, I definitely would. So when applications for the scheme open next year I would give it a go. For me, the programme gave me a huge confidence boost, it changed the way that I think about my research and it has changed the way that I will do things in the future.

welsh crucible word cloud
Here is a word cloud that summarises the varied research interests of the Cruciblees that took part in the 2018 programme. I’m proud to see that ‘Brain’ and ‘Huntington’s disease’ both made it into the word cloud.

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