Dr Inge Kersbergen is an SSA funded fellow at the University of Sheffield and has been on the PhD symposium organising committee since 2019


SSA: Can you summarise what the PhD Symposium is?

IK: “So, it’s a free, 1 day event where PhD students who do research in the field of addictions come together to present their research, talk to other PhD students at different stages of their career and have a chance to start building their network. They also get feedback and can practice presenting to an academic audience.”

And where does it usually take place?

“It usually takes place on the day before the main SSA conference. So, for the last few years that was in Newcastle but of course we have to do it online this year, which has its challenges. It does, however, mean that we can offer twice as many delegate places. So, you know, swings and roundabouts.”

How many delegates usually attend the PhD Symposium?

“Last year we had a little over 40 delegates and this year we can accommodate up to 90 delegates.”

What kind of abstracts and presentations do you see at the PhD Symposium?

“They’re super varied. We have people from social sciences, people who do laboratory research with animals, people who do health services research and people who focus on recovery. There’s such a range of backgrounds and topics. We’ve got everything from smoking to alcohol to different types of illegal drugs. It’s really exciting even though it’s hard sometimes to put a session together when everything is so varied.

I think it’s great. I didn’t go to the symposium when I was a PhD student myself. I usually went to PhD events that were focused on alcohol and tobacco only, so it’s great to see all the different types of research going on. It’s very informative and educational.”

How is the online version of the symposium going to work this year?

“We will do it on an online platform like Zoom. The structure of the symposium will be pretty similar to the one we have used in previous years. So, there will be delegate presentations in two parallel rooms and then we will have a workshop at the end, which will be a careers panel. We have invited different people who have completed their PhD and who are now working in the field of addiction in academic or non-academic rolls. They will give delegates advice on PhD challenges and how to prepare yourself for the next steps in your career.”

Who do you have speaking on that panel?

“We have a range of speakers from different career backgrounds: Dr Kyla Thomas from the University of Bristol, Dr Sarah Fox from Manchester Metropolitan University, Dr Tom Freeman from the University of Bath, and Dr Rachel Orritt from Cancer Research UK”

Are there going to be poster presentations?

“We don’t do poster presentations at the PhD Symposium. We hope that PhD students will submit their posters to the main SSA conference where they will be eligible for the poster prize and will get feedback from a wider audience. The PhD Symposium is really more about communicating and socialising. We’re trying to make sure that socialising fits into our online programme, but we are still trying to work out the best way to do this. It’s hard to talk all at once when there are 90 people.”

How does someone apply to attend the PhD symposium?

“So, they can go to the website (https://www.addiction-ssa.org/annual-conference/phd-symposium-2020/) The deadline is 14 September, so there is a bit of time to register yet. When you register you are asked whether or not you want to present, and you are just as welcome to come along as an audience member or to present your research. Everyone is welcome to attend no matter what stage of your PhD you are in.

The symposium itself is on 4 November from 11am to 6pm. We usually build the programme around the abstracts we get, so we won’t be building the programme until we know exactly how many people have signed up. We usually try to accommodate everyone, but that might be a bit challenging this year as we will have so many more delegates.”

What information do people need to provide to apply?

“We need your contact details, the working title of your thesis, your institution, your supervisors and funding details. It’s all pretty self-explanatory, no-one needs to justify why they want to come along or anything. It’s a pretty standard registration.

If anyone has any accessibility needs it would be great if they could tell us. There’s a question about this on the registration form as well. But because this is so new for us, it would be great to know in advance if someone for example needs subtitles or anything else to help them follow what’s happening.”



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