For the last three years, the BSU has organised a PhD Symposium, a special, complimentary event, organised solely by a small group of PhD students at the Unit, with a full programme of speakers and attended by Cambridge collaborators, as well as staff and students from the Unit.
This year, the symposium took place on Wednesday 17th October at the Clifford Allbutt Lecture Theatre. The overall theme was on casual inference, with Professor Philip Dawid from the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, giving the keynote address. The scientific programme covered the diverse interests of the Unit, with internal and external speakers addressing causal inference questions from several different perspectives. The morning session focused on formal statistical frameworks for causal inference, regression discontinuity designs, methods for time-dependent confounding and Mendelian randomisation, with speakers from the MRC BSU, London School of Economics and Political Science and Imperial College London. The afternoon session explored machine learning perspectives on causality, colocalization, causal networks and causality in observational time-series data, covered by speakers from Microsoft Research Cambridge and MRC BSU. As well as interesting talks and discussion, the symposium successfully facilitated the development of new project ideas and collaborations.
The full day event was a fantastic success, with over 70 attendees from across the University and within the Unit. The success is a direct result of the brilliant planning and hard work from three 3rd year PhD students, Maria Skoularidou, Chiara Chiavenna and Martina McMenamin, who organised every element of the symposium from start to finish. Having never organised an event of this scale before, the three students created a diverse and interesting programme, and pieced together every logistical element, from promotion to catering, all with strict attention to detail. Sylvia Richardson, Director of the Unit, congratulated Maria, Chiara and Martina, saying: “The variety and quality of the talks, the stimulating discussions during the sessions and outside, and the reach of the symposium participants to other groups in the University, demonstrate how excellent the planning and organisation was.”
Maria, Chiara and Martina found the experience of co-ordinating the symposium challenging but rewarding and enjoyable, saying: “Organising the symposium has been an invaluable experience for us. The planning process was much more involved than we would have initially anticipated with challenges arising from developing a varied but coherent programme, understanding logistical issues and budgeting considerations. Our collective enthusiasm was a key driver in the successful organisation, as well as effective communication, delegation and team work, which are skills we can now carry forward into our future careers.”