Organising the Inaugural AAPS CDT Summer Conference

Four AAPS CDT students were responsible for the planning and execution of this conference, including myself, and this blog post is about our experience.

September 02 2022

Author: Rob Gray

Organising the Inaugural AAPS CDT Summer Conference

On the 12th and 13th July 2022, the Inaugural AAPS CDT Conference took place. Over these two days, 31 speakers took to the stage in the Wolfson lecture theatre to deliver presentations covering five different themes relating to the automotive sector (Transport, Behaviour and Society, Chemical Energy Converters, Digitalisation, Low Carbon Fuels and Propulsion Electrification).

Four AAPS CDT students were responsible for the planning and execution of this event: James Angus, Alex Trenam, Edgar Romero Rahul, and myself, and this blog post is about our experience planning this event.

Part 1: The Plan

Planning began in October 2021. At that time I had no experience with planning a conference, and I don’t think any of my fellow committee members did either. Luckily, we had Jess from the management team helping out, who is a veteran when it comes to event planning. In the initial stages of planning, we had fortnightly meetings, and were primarily working as a group to make decisions. Some good progress was made with this setup, and early in 2022 we had a loose framework for our conference, including the themes for each set of talks, the number of speakers, and timings.

As our planning moved into the next stage, we began to work more independently, with each of us taking responsibility for organising one theme, I was responsible for Low Carbon Fuels. The most difficult part of organising a theme was in finding a guest speaker, as it was quite intimidating to contact external academics and industry people that you had never met before. Another challenge was organising all of the student talks, since there were 26 AAPS CDT Students eligible to give talks sorting them into themes and accounting for their preferences in terms of what type of talk they wanted to do was logistically quite difficult. Something that was important to our successful planning was having someone in a leadership role who could delegate tasks and set deadlines. James thankfully stepped up into this role and was a firm but fair leader, ensuring that our conference preparation didn’t fall by the wayside as we were progressing with our PhD projects!

A couple of months before the conference, we had our speakers and themes finalised. The full schedule of talks, with their abstracts, can be found on the conference webpage.

Keynote speaker:

Dr Alistair Barnes, Innovate UK

Innovate UK’s outlook on transport decarbonisation



Guest Speaker

Talk title

Transportation and Society 

Prof Tim Schwanen, University of Oxford

Just Transitions in Electric Mobility: Challenges, Needs and Possibilities

Chemical Energy Converters 

Nick Molden, Emissions Analytics

Tyre Degradation Particle Measurement and Compound Analysis


Dr Josef Zehetner, AVL

Virtual Vehicle Validation - The Holy Grail

Low Carbon Fuels 

Prof Sara Walker, Newcastle University

Accelerating the Net Zero Transition – the role for hydrogen

Propulsion Electrification 

Dr Xiaoze Pei, University of Bath

Zero emission for sustainable transport through superconductivity


Little did we know, the preparation was far from over, who knew there was so much to organise!

One of the most stressful parts of organising the conference ended up being dealing with the late registrations, chasing the speakers for their slides and getting everyone to submit their conference dinner pre-orders. The worst feeling of the organising was thinking that you had everything sorted and prepared with plenty of time, and then suddenly just a few days to go before the conference having to hope that the restaurant could accommodate the ten extra last minute attendees, whilst also cornering your colleagues in the office to get their slides off of them!

Fortunately, all of the preparation turned out ok, and we were still ready for the conference on time, we even had all of the name badges made and time to create extra posters with QR codes for the programme and voting for the prizes on.

Part 2: The Execution

We all arrived two hours early on the first day of the conference so that we had plenty of time to set up before our attendees started arriving. I remember feeling very nervous as I was putting out the AAPS-branded mugs that were the crown jewel of our conference pack. 


Once everyone had arrived, James gave some excellent opening remarks and the conference officially began.

The Transportation and Society and Chemical Energy Converters themes were on the first day, and both sessions went really well, with talks on topics ranging from opposed-piston free-piston engines to psychopathological predictors of pro-environmental attitudes. The last session of the day was a lightning talk and poster session, which I was responsible for chairing. Being a charismatic and engaging chair was much harder than I thought it would be, especially since James and Edgar had made chairing look easy in the sessions before me! After the poster session, Day 1 of the conference was closed out with a dinner at The Stable in Bath city centre.


Day 2 of the conference ran equally as smoothly, with the themes of Digitalisation, Low Carbon Fuels, and Propulsion Electrification being represented.

Throughout the conference we had voting open for the best talk and best poster, and, at the end of Day 2, Alex presented prizes to the students with the most votes as part of his closing remarks. Cohort 1 student, Ciaran Llewelyn won the prize for Best Poster, and Cohort 2 student, Ryan Hughes, won the prize for Best Talk. 

Part 3: The Aftermath

As well as underestimating how much effort goes into planning the conference, I also underestimated how much effort goes into clearing up afterwards. Packing up all of the equipment, posters, refreshments and taking back all of the tables took a while, but fortunately we had some help from fellow students who had attended the conference. I remember sleeping really well that night, and even took the following morning off in order to complete my recovery.

The feedback from the conference has been really positive, and I think the whole committee was happy with how it went, especially since this was the inaugural edition.

As an organiser, I learned so much about what goes into planning academic events like this, and will feel much more confident if I ever have to do it again. As an attendee, it was great to see all of my fellow AAPS CDT students, other PhD students, and many academics, all in one room together, especially since so many events have been online or hybrid in recent memory. I think this was the biggest AAPS CDT gathering of all time, and I wish the best of luck to the organisers of next year’s conference, who should be able to break this record with the addition of Cohort 4!

© Copyright 2021 AAPS CDT, Centre for Doctoral Training in Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems at the University of Bath