In my field (computer science), many conferences have a section dedicated to PhD forums. For example, this one


has the following schedule

  • Lightning-talks session followed by poster
  • "Speed dating" with senior researchers
  • Invited talk
  • "Experience sharing" talks by senior PhD students/recent graduates

I have no experience of Phd forums, so I am wondering if it is worthwhile to participate at one of them. At a first glance, they seem something like an opportunity to build a bit of network, and to talk with potential postdoc advisors.

Has anyone some positive/negative experience about PhD forums? Do you suggest to participate?


I have no experience of Phd forums, so I am wondering if it is worthwhile to participate at one of them.

As usual, this depends on many factors:

  • Are you attending this conference anyway (e.g., because you have a paper in the main research track)? If yes, the opportunity cost of participating seems very low, so why not?
  • Where are you in your PhD? In my experience, the "best" time for such events is around Y2. By then you already have some initial experience doing research, but there is still time to do a major pivot if you get good feedback that you want to incorporate.
  • Not all PhD symposia / forums are the same. Is this the best conference to participate in such a forum for you? Most importantly, is it likely that other PhD students that attend will work on somewhat similar theses? Will the senior people there come from a similar field?
  • If your primary goal is to meet postdoc advisors, the PhD forum does not seem like the best way to go about this. By definition, there are more young people there than senior PIs. However, I am not familiar with the "speed dating with senior researchers" agenda item - maybe that's useful for career planning?

In my lab, most students participate in exactly one of these events during their PhD. Most (but not all) say that they profited from the event, but attending more than once is typically not seen as a good use of travel budget.

  • What does "Y2" mean? // A helpful answer. Mar 27 '17 at 19:03
  • 1
    @aparente001 In this context, "Y2" refers to a student in their second year.
    – Marchi
    Mar 28 '17 at 13:01

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