Tuesday 3rd April 2018 marked the Second Black Minority and Ethnic (BME) Early Career Researcher - How to stay in Academia conference, supported by Wellcome Trust, King’s Centre for Research Staff Development and Royal Society of Chemistry. For the second year running it was held at the Great Hall, Strand Campus. It was bigger and better than the very first one, people having travelled from different parts of the UK to attend, including Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central, Shadow Minister for Industrial Strategy, Science & Innovation. Chi talked about her journey as the only black female person in her field as an Engineer, and how she persevered.Professor Sir Robert Lechler opened the conference, explaining that though we have started the journey discussing race there is still a long way to go. Our very own Dean, Professor Mike Curtis, attended to support speakers including my mentor Professor Luciana Di-Silvio, who spoke about her challenging journey as a female scientist as well as also being recognised for her excellent mentorship and guidance to young researchers, recently being awarded the Klaas de Groot Award, 2018 by the European Society for Biomaterials. We also heard from Dr Mandeep Ghuman, who told us about his journey into Dentistry and how he was the first person in his family to attend university.
I personally felt empowered for the first time in my career, being in an academic space and NOT being a minority. On the other hand, it was also interesting hearing from non-BME delegates about how they felt being a minority.
Many accomplished speakers, from students upwards, spoke, but Dr Marcia Wilson, Head of Health, Sports and Bioscience at UEL, summarised the conference by saying “stay in academia, we need you”.
The networking at Bush House was phenomenal, with the keynote speaker Professor Funmi Olonisakin, our Vice President/Vice Principal (International), speaking about her journey, which encouraged many people that were planning on leaving academia. Her final sentence was “stay in academia and stay together”.
The success of both conferences has shown the appetite and need for this to be a yearly conference. It was thereby announced that the third conference will be hosted and supported by University of East London, April 2019.
A video about the conference can be watched here.