The AI & Music (AIM) Centre for Doctoral Training recently held its annual Summer Retreat in the picturesque village of Madingley, just outside of Cambridge, from 3rd to 5th June 2024. This serene location provided the perfect backdrop for a retreat designed to foster group cohesion among the diverse cohorts of PhD students specialising in a variety of research sub-fields.

Outdoors group photo of AIM members in front of the venue

A Retreat with a Purpose

An initiative led and organized by Jonathan Winfield and Dr Ekaterina Ivanova, the primary aim of the retreat was to build stronger connections within the AIM research group, integrating new PhD students with their more experienced peers. The event featured a series of structured activities that combined academic enrichment with social interaction, ensuring a well-rounded experience for all attendees.

Engaging Activities

Networking Opportunities

The retreat was kicked off by a session hosted by the Centre for Music and Science (CMS) at Cambridge University. The presentation was led by Dr Peter Harrsion, director of the Centre for Music and Science, and Prof. Simon Dixon, director of AIM CDT. In the spirit of interdisciplinary research and cooperation, such initiatives are crucial for current and future collaborative research among the research groups.

Later in the day, to facilitate networking among different cohorts, the retreat included a dynamic meet-and-greet session. Designed to promote interaction between new and senior PhD students, this session enabled participants to share experiences, insights, and advice in a relaxed, informal setting.

Poster Presentation Session

One of the highlights of the retreat was the poster presentation session. This platform allowed participants to showcase their research, receive constructive feedback, and engage in lively discussions with their peers. It was a valuable opportunity for students to refine their work and gain new perspectives.

Skill-Sharing Lightning Talks

Another significant feature of the retreat was the series of skill-sharing lightning talks. These short, focused presentations covered a wide range of topics, from practical coding practices and framework integration to essential non-technical skills like budgeting during a PhD and techniques for maintaining focus and productivity. The diversity of topics ensured that there was something of interest for everyone, enhancing the overall learning experience.

Inspirational Presentations

Inspiring talks were delivered by outgoing PhD students Saurjya Sarkar and Pedro Sarmento. They shared their journeys, addressing the challenges and expectations of pursuing a PhD, and offered invaluable advice on transitioning to a successful post-PhD career. “A PhD is not a sum of your citations, but a testament to your academic rigour”, says Pedro during his talk; a thought that resonated with everyone in the room. Their insights were both motivating and enlightening, providing current students with a roadmap for their own academic and professional paths.

Musical Interludes

Given the group’s shared passion for music, the retreat naturally included several music-related activities. Attendees enjoyed lively jam sessions and electronic music sets, creating a vibrant and creative atmosphere. Additionally, music-themed trivia quizzes added an element of fun and friendly competition, further strengthening the bonds among participants.

The AI & Music Summer Retreat was a resounding success, blending academic rigour with enjoyable social activities. It not only facilitated knowledge exchange and skill development but also fostered a sense of community and camaraderie among the PhD students. As the AIM research group continues to grow and evolve, events like this retreat will remain essential in nurturing a collaborative and supportive academic environment.