"From PhDs to event organizers": EAWE PhD Seminar 2022 recap

Updated: Nov 16

It all started with a spark of an idea: “Let’s organize a second WindWeek for the PhairywinD team, but make it bigger, better and maybe even international this time!”

After the first WindWeek way back in 2020, where we submerged our 9 PhDs (together with a select group of other Belgian wind energy PhDs) in all offshore wind energy related aspects, it was time to broaden our horizon for this second edition. The focus on growing the academic network and reaching out beyond our Belgian borders was clear from the idea phase, but how to go about that, as a single academic Belgian offshore wind energy project?

And that’s when the European Academy of Wind Energy (EAWE) and their yearly PhD Seminar came into play. Before we knew it, from that initial spark onwards, we suddenly found ourselves winning the bid in Porto, Portugal in 2021 to organize the 18th EAWE PhD Seminar in Bruges this year!

After the first elation, it dawned that we now also were going to have to deliver and that one year, even though that sounded like a fair amount of time, was not that long to organize an entire 3-day seminar. Also, none of the PhairywinD PhDs had any experience organizing an event of this magnitude, but the EAWE was very clear on the purpose: the seminar is organized by PhDs, for PhDs!

So, they got to work…And from the start of 2022 the 9 PhairywinD PhDs, under the supervision of their coordination team, started outlining the seminar, forming thematical subcommittees and designing a timeline. From then on, it was all hands on deck and the seminar became THE PhairywinD subject, whilst combining this work with their own ongoing individual research topics.

Next to an official agile training workshop, the group took it onto themselves to divide the work and make team members responsible for certain subtasks. They also devised their own decision making system and set-up an online internal communication and collaboration space. Most went well out of their comfort zone by engaging in thematical subcommittees that didn’t feel natural to them at first (like communication or engaging with industry), but in doing so they displayed magnificent growth in new skills, which will give them a great competitive edge for their future careers.

The task list seemed endless, at the start: finding a perfect venue, deal with catering quotes, balance the budget, find sponsors (and thus more budget), set-up an abstract submission platform, read loads and loads of abstracts, organize an ice-breaker event, conference dinner and site visits, deal with company representatives for our ‘meet the industry’ day, design promotional images and communicate on social media, compose correct participant lists, and so on. And all the while, keeping the overview!

But then it was time: from 2 until 4 November we brought over 160 participants to Bruges for the 18th edition of the EAWE PhD Seminar, including 124 PhD presentations, professors and representatives from the Belgian industry. We are confident to say the Seminar was not only a major success, it also gave our PhairywinD team the opportunity for international networking and chairing experience for presentation sessions, showcased Belgium as one of the forerunners of offshore wind energy worldwide and acted as a knowledge sharing platform between academics and with the industry. And for us, just as important, over the months of working closely together on this common goal, our team become a tight group of friends!

We pass the torch now to the Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany to organize the 19th edition of the seminar and sincerely hope they will feel the same sense of growth and accomplishment in their team at the end of 2023.

For an overview of the 3-day EAWE PhD Seminar 2022 in images, view the albums below:

Or have a look at our special ‘behind the scenes’ album or watch the aftermovie (in the making - coming soon!).

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