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Travel scholarship recipients share highlights from their week at NDARC

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In September 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 ASCEND Symposium, the 2022 NDARC Annual Research Symposium and the NDARC Early Career Networking Event.

Gabrielle Caluzzi, a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Alcohol Policy Research, La Trobe University, and Carmen Lim, a PhD candidate at The National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research (NCYSUR) Epidemiology Group, have shared their experiences.

Here's what they had to say.

What motivated you to apply for the scholarship? 

Gabriel: I wanted to interact with new researchers in the AOD space, meet up with a few researchers I've worked with but had never met face-to-face and better understand how NDARC operates.

Carmen: Commencing a PhD during the COVID-19 pandemic was an interesting but isolating experience. While I managed to get a lot of my work done, my entire experience has been pretty isolating. I wanted to build research collaborations and networking opportunities which I have been unable to do since starting my PhD. Attending the NDARC symposium has always been on my bucket list.


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From left to right, Cassandra Wright, Gabrielle Caluzzi, Tianze Sun, Annalea Stearne and Carmen Lin

What were your highlights from the week at NDARC? 

Gabriel: Between the Symposium, meeting some new and old faces, and just exploring UNSW, it was an action-packed few days. I enjoyed the NDARC spotlight presentations and hearing about the shifts in illicit drug markets. Still, the highlight was spending time with the other travel scholarship recipients and ECRs at NDARC.

Carmen: To be honest, there were so many highlights that I don’t know where to begin. One of them was getting to know NDARC researchers and the range of projects they are working on. I also enjoyed the ASCEND Symposium which featured presentations by renowned global experts on hepatitis C and drug dependence. The ASCEND Symposium had such fantastic speakers, and the program was impressive. I was particularly inspired by Professor Martins, who spoke about his work in Tijuana, Mexico. The program for the NDARC Symposium was also well-planned, covering a range of substances and policies etc. 

Oh, and I loved NDARC's coffee machine :) 

image - Travel scholarship recipients share highlights from their week at NDARC

From left to right, Chrianna Bharat and Carmen Lin.

How has the scholarship helped you move forward in your career?

Gabriel: During the week, I had several valuable chats with senior researchers about my career. I was also able to meet researchers working on projects aligned with my own work who I hope to stay in touch with. And, of course, I met a bunch of talented and enthusiastic ECRs who will undoubtedly be world-leading AOD researchers one day.

Carmen: This trip has enabled me to spend more time with other PhD students, getting to know them and figuring out how to collaborate in the future. I am keeping my fingers crossed, and I hope to be able to work on the Drug Trends project in the future.
Can you share a bit about your own research and career aspirations?

Gabriel: My previous research has predominately focused on the decline in drinking among young people. I hope to continue working with young people in the AOD space, but potentially working with marginalised populations and looking beyond only alcohol.

Carmen: My current research focuses on the application of text mining on social media data to investigate the latest trend and correlates of cannabis vaping. I want to secure a post-doc position (hopefully) to further my research on using big data to examine the portrayal and the impact of media exposure on cannabis and extend to other areas of emerging drugs, like synthetic cannabinoids.

Any advice to others working in the Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) sector?

Gabriel: The AOD sector is filled with intelligent, passionate, and interesting people - their thoughts and ideas have kept me motivated. You should absolutely throw yourself into every opportunity to meet more of them!

Carmen: Keep talking to each other, and be open to any research opportunities that come your way!