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My experience at the 7th BME Early Career Researcher Conference 2023

Esther Putzgruber was awarded a 2022 PhD scholarship by Mental Health Research UK and has recently completed her first year of study at King’s College London. Her very topical project title is: Racial inequalities in mental health help-seeking among young people in the covid-19 context. She has recently been successful in winning a grant from the Transdisciplinary Research for the Improvement of Youth Mental Public Health Network (TRIUMPH).

In this post Esther talks about the inspiration that she got from attending the BME Early Career Researcher Conference.

According to the Women’s Higher Education Network (2023), of 22,000 professors in the United Kingdom, only 41 are Black women. Whilst this statistic can be quite shocking, I can’t say I am at all surprised. There is an urgent need to achieve better equity of opportunity for Black early career researchers and encourage visible role models holding senior positions in academia.

On July 13th 2023, I attended the 7th BME Early Career Researcher Hybrid Conference taking place in Leeds, where the theme was ‘Building Communities of Influence’. As I was unable to attend in person, I joined online but this didn’t detract from the fantastic talks and sessions I was able to be a part of. Filled with inspiring keynote speakers, workshops and Q&A sessions, I left feeling empowered to pursue my goals in academia.

A particular highlight for me was a talk I attended by Professor Jason Arday, the youngest Black person ever appointed to a professorship at Cambridge and the youngest Black professor in the UK. Professor Jason spoke about his experience and journey through academia and his experience overcoming challenges. He spoke of creating spaces for Black and ethnic minority early career researchers to thrive, equally encouraging finding balance and managing ambitions in pursuing goals in academia. Below are a few quotes from his talk that resonated with me and particularly motivated me.

“Wherever you are, you’re there because you’re one of the best. You’re not there by accident”.

“You’ve just got to hang in there and be really unapologetic about what you do. Say to yourself this is where you’re supposed to be”.

“If there’s one thing I do know, Black people and people of colour are truly exceptional. There is no mountain they cannot overcome”.

Finally, I attended two workshops entitled ‘Leading in places that aren’t designed with you in mind’ and ‘Identifying and leveraging opportunities’. These workshops gave practical advice in navigating the academic environment as an early career researcher from a Black background. I am looking forward to attending in person next year and forming connections with others with similar experiences as my own. If you’re thinking of attending next year, I cannot recommend this conference enough- you will truly be inspired.

PhD Intro Video- Esther Putzgruber

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