In October this year, NDARC awarded travel scholarships to early career researchers (ECRs) and higher degree research students (HDRs) in the alcohol and other drugs (AOD) sector. The scholarship recipients attended key events, including the 2023 NDARC Annual Research Symposium and the NDARC Early Career Networking Event. Nathan Harrison, a PhD candidate at Flinders University, and Cheneal Puljevic, an ARC DECRA Fellow at the Centre of Research Excellence on Achieving the Tobacco Endgame (University of Queensland), have shared their experiences. Here's what they had to say.
What motivated you to apply for the scholarship?
Cheneal: NDARC is widely known as Australia's leading AOD research institution, so it was a uniquely valuable opportunity to be able to travel to NDARC, meet its researchers, and attend the two events. I knew that the ECR networking event and the research symposium would provide valuable networking opportunities, but I never imagined walking away with three new potential projects.
Nathan: For years, I've been reading about the great work being done at NDARC, and more recently, I've really enjoyed starting to meet NDARC researchers through common areas of work and our professional organizations. The travel scholarship seemed like a terrific opportunity to build on these networks and hear more about the diversity of alcohol, other drug, and smoking-related research led by the Centre.
Cheneal, second from right at the NDARC Early Career Networking Event.
What were your highlights from your time at NDARC?
Cheneal: It was lovely just to see the building to see where the magic happens (sorry for the cliché), the ECR networking event was amazing (Carla Treloar's advice was the highlight for me!), and I got the opportunity to talk to people who I've wanted to talk to for years, like Ryan Courtney and Raimondo Bruno.
Nathan: I really enjoyed getting to meet with the vibrant community of postgraduate and early-career researchers, as well as senior researchers from and beyond NDARC. I learned a lot about research (and research-adjacent) careers from the rapid rounds of senior mentor networking, and the sorts of methods that can be used to tackle some of the big questions in our field.
How has the scholarship helped you move forward in your career?
Cheneal: I left the conference with three new potential projects, which is a new record! I also had the opportunity to chat with several senior people whom I didn't know very well, so I feel like I've solidified several professional relationships too.
Nathan: I've left feeling super inspired to learn new skills, to collaborate with others, and to keep in mind the value of doing rigorous work in partnership with our communities.'
Nathan speaking during the networking event.
Any advice to others working in the Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) sector?
Cheneal: I'm full of clichés today apparently because my advice is "keep on keeping on." We face so many hurdles in our sector (limited funding, huge workloads, policymakers who ignore the evidence, etc., etc.) but I've learned that most things are achievable through perseverance and tenacity.
Nathan: As was said beautifully during the symposium's breakout session #1, AOD research has the power to create a better future for the next generation. Plus, keep in mind that people in this field are just lovely and that we can do great things when we come together.
Nathan attending the NDARC Early Career Networking event.