UCL Energy Institute


PhD student Najood Almula presents at Shipping Sustainability Solutions Conference

20 March 2023

UCL Energy Institute PhD student Najood Almula shares her experience attending and presenting at an international conference on Shipping Sustainability Solutions.

Shipping boat against sunset

This week, I presented at the International Academic Conference on Shipping, Sustainability & Solutions in Hamburg, Germany. I have been working in the field of research for the past eight years, but I have never really gathered the courage to submit an abstract and here is why: it is so easy for us researchers to fall into the perfectionist trap and convince ourselves that the project we are working on has not been completed yet. So we ignore the fact that in reality, research is a never-ending chain made up of individual contributions along the way and that there will always be opportunities to improve the work, extend it or even shift it to another trajectory, but it will never really finish. 

When my friend and fellow colleague, who also presented at the conference suggested that we submit an abstract, I froze a little, but then I thought, there is nothing wrong with submitting an abstract, that’s not scary and what are the odds of getting accepted? Two months later, we received the conference agenda with a confirmation request and both of our names were included. It came as a shock initially and I thought of backing down but the support of my supervisor encouraged me to go ahead and present.

I work in the area of shipping decarbonisation and my research focuses on the integration of alternative fuels, so while it was extremely intimidating to stand up in front of around 50 or more experts in the field and talk about my choice of modelling techniques, why I think the system should be seen from the sociotechnical perspective rather than more customary techno-economic perspective, what my results look like so far and why I am personally optimistic about the developments in shipping decarbonisation; it was in reality much less frightening than I thought and even more so, productive to my actual research. 

The Q&A session lasted for around 20 minutes but in the process, I received an abundance of valuable feedback and new viewpoints that I would never have had access to outside my given domain.

Najood Almula presenting at Shipping Sustainability Solutions Conference

Reflecting on the experience

The experience turned out to be immensely valuable to my research and allowed me to connect with a wide range of experts who can also help in providing data I would otherwise have not had access to or insights that I would have probably not considered. On a side note, I also followed UCL’s recommendation and opted for the 12 hour train journey rather than the 1.5 hour flight from London to Hamburg and I have never experienced a more pleasant mode of commute in my travels. The comfort and the serene setting of the train journey allowed me to read, work, rest and arrive with enough energy to prepare for the following day. Additionally, the company of my colleague made the trip a truly memorable one. 

I would advise any PhD student who has progressed enough - and by enough, I mean have collected some results and dabbled with the analysis - with their research to share it and have the courage to push their abstracts through to any conference in their designated field.

UCL Energy Institute MPhil/PhD

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