Within Science 4 Clean Energy, specific attention has been given to the training and empowering of Early Career Researchers (ECRs) involved in R&D activities for the sub-surface geo-energy sector.

In line with the objectives of preparing the scientific workforce of tomorrow, S4CE put the ECRs in charge of organising a consortium meeting, in which the main goal was to empower our junior colleagues for entertaining successful careers in science.

How to promote yourself and your work!

In this regard, on the 30th of January 2020, 14 ECRs from across Europe gathered in London at the Wellcome Collection to learn “How to promote themselves and their work!” as a first session to start the day. The coach, facilitator and trainer Tracy Bussoli delivered a 2-hour presentation where the participants discovered the concept of Career Management and what it involves. They understood that their personal values and soft skills apply at work, both in academia and the industry, as well as during interviews. They also appreciated the importance, in the modern world, of social platforms such as LinkedIn. They have been encouraged to raise their visibility on the platform, via bespoke suggestions. One of the participants said on the after-workshop survey: “Best careers presentation I have attended – Would like to see the presenter again if she has more to give!”

An introduction to research proposals in sustainable energy

During the second session of the workshop, the participants were asked to think about new proposal ideas related to geo-energy operations”. They were coached by four successful professionals, experts in their respective fields: project management, scientific coordination, proposal writing, and career coaching.

The experts were all University College London professionals:

Figure 2 Nick Hazel talking to the group on “New technologies for the energy sector”

Figure 2 Nick Hazel talking to the group on “New technologies for the energy sector”

Edyta Kostanek, Teaching Fellow in Project Management, School of Management, Faculty of Engineering,

Dr. Nick Hazel, RAE Visiting Professor, Department of Chemical Engineering,

Dr. Laura Fenner, Senior School Research Facilitator for the BEAMS School,

Dr. Juliet Ellis, Proposal Manager, European Research & Innovation Office.

Figure 3 Laura Fenner considering the ECRs’ proposal idea on "The life-energy-geology nexus: what opportunities lie ahead?"

Figure 3 Laura Fenner considering the ECRs’ proposal idea on “The life-energy-geology nexus: what opportunities lie ahead?”

 

A talented multi-disciplinary and diverse group of 13 ECRs (8 females and 5 males) took on the challenge and collaborated forming four groups to brainstorm and propose new research ideas. They were asked to go through all the main stages of proposal preparation, had the chance to discuss with the four experts, and prepared a ‘sales pitch’. The event was really intense:  each group had 20 min discussions with each expert, followed by 1-hour to prepare their presentations, and finally pitching their proposals to a panel of experts in 15 minutes.

 

: the ECRs were provided with a Power Point template to fill in with their ideas.

The ECRs were provided with a PowerPoint template to fill in with their ideas.

What proposals ideas did the ECRs pitched?

  1. Proposal 1 -Securing societal progress while reducing environmental impact.

This group proposed a project called “Science for Clean Air”. Carbon mineralisation is a novel technology for the permanent storage of CO2. This group aimed to identify the most suitable CO2 injection locations (with the highest impact) for the initial deployment of the technology. This project idea is actually the continuity of S4CE

  1. Proposal 2 – Public acceptance of geologic operations

This group developed an educational/dissemination project titled “Geo Education Objectives” (GEO). The ambition was to create a protocol to educate the general public regarding the perception of risks related to operations concerning the exploitation of geo-energy resources.

  1. Proposal 3 – New technologies for the energy sector

This group proposed a project to develop a novel state-of-the-art machine learning algorithm to optimize site operations and minimize risks, leading to an increase in the technologic and economic feasibility of subsurface operations.

Figure 4 Team on “New technologies for the energy sector” pitching their idea to the panel

  1. Proposal 4 – The life-energy-geology nexus: what opportunities lie ahead?

The final proposal pitched tackled the clean extraction of rare earth elements from geothermal waste water by making the most of the already-existing processes in geothermal exploitation.

Panel deliberation and award!

After listening to and providing feedback on each proposal’s ideas, members of the panel deliberated on the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal.

Among the members of the panel, we had the chance to count, apart from the 4 experts already involved in the morning session, on:

– Prof. Alberto Striolo (UCL)

– an expert in Carbon Capture, Dr. Enzo Mangano (University of Edinburgh),

– Dr. Yang Lan, Lecturer in Nature-Inspired Chemical Engineering, Dept of Chemical Engineering at UCL,

– a programme manager from the US National Science Foundation, Dr. Christina Payne, who was connected remotely.

A special thanks for their availability and active participation!

This busy day culminated as Prof. Alberto Striolo presented the panel feedback to the participants and announced the winning team: the proposal on “New technologies for the energy sector” gave an excellent presentation describing an ambitious, innovative and detailed project plan. The group of four ECRs was awarded the early bird registration to the Goldschmidt Conference 2020. This conference is part of S4CE’s dissemination activities, and as it is taking place in Hawaii (USA), the winning team gets a travel grant!

S4CE will participate in the Goldschmidt Conference by organising a session in collaboration with another H2020 funded project, CarbFix. The title of the session is “Mitigating Environmental Impacts: Carbon Capture, Utilization, and Storage (CCUS) and Novel Approaches in the Geo-Energy Sector”. Note that the session has been put together by S4CE ECRs Catalina Sanchez Roa, a research associate from UCL and Martin Voigt, a postdoctoral researcher from CarbFix.

S4CE will be well represented in Hawaii as all the ECRs who participated in the workshop were offered the Goldschmidt registration fee by S4CE, as they all produced a large amount of excellent work during this intense workshop.

The day after the workshop, the ECRs led the S4CE project meeting presenting to the S4CE coordinators and work packages leaders recent results within the S4CE activities.

The ECRs will meet again for a workshop at the occasion of the S4CE 3rd Annual Consortium meeting that will take place in Lyon (France) on the 2nd of June 2020. The workshop will build on the ECRs feedback after this workshop: a strong interest in training on pitching and presentation skills as well as further career development training came up from the post-event survey.