About Professor Simon Haslett

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Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom
Professor of Physical Geography and Pro Vice-Chancellor at the University of Wales and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Monday, 19 March 2012

British Conference of Undergraduate Research 2012: Day 1

I've just spent an enjoyable and interesting Day 1 at the 2nd British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR) at Warwick University.The event has grown considerably since the inaugural conference (BCUR11) last year at the University of Central Lancashire.

The conference was convened by Dr Paul Taylor of the Institute of Advanced Teaching and Learning at Warwick University who introduced the opening keynote given by Gillian Hundt, Professor of Social Science in Health at Warwick. Gillian's talk 'Reflections on learning during my research career: what no one tells you' drew upon her experiences of undertaking anthropological research amongst canal folk of the French-German border, the Bedouin of sub-Saharan Africa, and in Gaza. She considered formal and experiential learning, and touched upon ethical issues and how the researcher may influence her research subjects. Gillian concluded with some advice for the 250 or so delegates, who were mainly undergraduates, in that they need (1) the ability to deal with failure, (2) separation of personal and professional ego, (3) networking and collaboration, (4) dealing with authorship issues, (5) willingness to draft papers and accept peer-review, (6) need to understand the letters you might receive, and (7) mentorship in transitioning and career planning in the real world.

Professor Nigel Thrift, a fellow geographer and now Vice-Chancellor of Warwick University, then formally welcomed the delegates. He stated that Warwick is a research-intensive university, but has a twin strategy of both research and teaching excellence. He emphasised several times the importance of undertaking original research, whether at the professorial or undergraduate level.

The afternoon saw the first of the undergraduate research sessions. There were five five parallel sessions and I attended the 'Energy and Innovation' theme as that was closest to my research area of geography and sustainable development. I attended the following excellent presentations:
  • Annabelle Wilson (University of Chester) Risk reduction strategies in a disaster-prone developing country: disaster management at a community level in Jamaica.
  • Lucy Vierbergen (Bournemouth University) Recycling in the hotel industry.
  • Grace Lowe (University of Nottingham) Next generation renewable power sources: developing high performance dye sensitised solar cells.
  • Stavros Stavrikkos and Tam Minh Trinh (London School of Economics) Determinants of successful implementation of environmental policies across London universities: the role of information, education and incentives.
  • Thanh Giang Tran (University of Warwick) Creating digital content for portable planetariums.
  • Sarah Lewington, Catherine Lamb, and Clare Smith (Nottingham Trent University) The Quantified Self.
  • Nirupa Rao (University of Warwick) The new face of the news: Indian television journalism in English and the normalisation of neo-liberalism.
  • Selina Ali (University of Wales: Trinity Saint David) Applications of 3D digital methods in nautical archaeology: the Barland's Farm Romano-Celtic boat, a case study.
As a member of the Steering Group, I attended the business meeting to decide on the venue for BCUR 2013 which, following a presentation, was awarded to the University of Plymouth. The conference dinner followed and both Paul Taylor and Professor Stuart Hampton-Reeves (Chair of the Steering Group) gave deserved thanks to the organisers, presenters and delegates. Now looking forward to Day 2 tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. Simon....You tweet at your peril...I end up at your blog

    Mmmm, this all sounds great, perhaps too great.

    I probably need to get involved a bit before passing a more informed comment, but:

    I am very enthusiastic about research as a pedagogical approach, but I cannot help think (maybe foolishly) that these events focus on product rather than a very worthwhile process. For instance, I suspect many of these papers are dissertations/research papers written in the process of a course. How many third class pieces of work were exhibited? (in a grading sense!)

    I suppose I need to be convinced that this is not another opportunity for driving an elitist wedge between great looking research (of which there is lots at UG level, and do not use the term ‘great looking’ in a pejorative sense here) and students who CAN achieve tremendous amounts THROUGH research (but that may not be seen as 'worthy' of such an event). My worry is that by doing so, we crystallise a 'those that do stonking research are good and worthy, those that do not , are not'

    Research as a pedagogy is inclusive, in my opinion (despite colleagues who contend students cannot do research....rolls eyes....). However, these events seem to showcase research that should be showcased at other conferences, which usually have student prizes. The thing feels a bit exclusive to me.

    I probably need to turn up to next year’s event and be convinced otherwise, but the papers sound fascinating. In a sense, I suppose they are only as ‘exclusive’ as those that put themselves up for peer review make it....sorry, I’m waffling...I want to believe!!!