Undergraduate Research Conference 2012
The Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) 2012, held at the beginning of July 2012 at Waseda University, brought together 58 students and eight supervising faculty and staff from 19 universities representing 12 countries and regions. Participants, staff, and other related individuals who gathered at this event represented a total of 20 nationalities, creating a rich international environment.
Registration was completed on 1 July at the hotel where students stayed, followed by an excursion and welcome reception on 2 July. Interchange among the participants, who had met one another for the first time at registrations, was facilitated through sightseeing in Metropolitan Tokyo by chartered buses to visit locations including historical landmarks and a museum, and through opportunities to dine together.
At the conference, which began on 3 July, students from a wide range of fields in the humanities and sciences presented their research in oral presentation sessions that took place at the Ono Auditorium, or participated in a poster session held at the Waseda Gallery. The order of oral presentations and the placement of posters were organized by grouping them into research fields such as the humanities, social sciences, science and engineering, medicine, and so on. This assured that there would be a certain amount of relevance and continuity in the discussions. The presentations promoted understanding among participants of specialized research fields other than their own and facilitated active interdisciplinary exchanges of opinions. Enthusiastic discussions and exchanges of ideas took place throughout all programmes over the three days of the conference.
In wrap-up sessions following the students’ research presentations, the supervising faculty provided comments and feedback. These daily wrap-up sessions provided students with guidance and advice, heightening the educational effects of the conference.
Prior to the opening of this conference, which was designed to be student-led from the start, a group composed of ten volunteer students from Waseda University was put together. This group devised the conference theme “Connecting to the Future” and designed its poster, and engaged in activities from taking attendance of participants to running the conference by acting as master of ceremonies at the conference and receptions. In addition, while the student volunteer group played a central role in running the conference, eight Waseda University students who participated as research presenters also took an active part in assisting with the operations of the conference.
Although it has often been held during the summer vacation, a significant feature of this year’s URC was that, in consideration of differences in academic calendars, Waseda University hosted the conference during a semester. We believe this provided a good opportunity for participants from overseas to observe our campus as it usually appears, with the presence of students both inside and outside the conference. Because it was held during a semester, we observed that our non-participating students and faculty members dropped by the conference venue and engaged in discussions with the participants.
This year’s URC was selected as a grant provision programme by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, and each participant from overseas was given 80,000 yen (about US$1,000) after completing all the conference programmes, which was a substantial bonus. The participants were required to submit a report in order to receive this grant, which greatly benefitted us as the host university, as we received detailed feedback regarding the conference. We are highly honored to have received a great quantity of positive feedback.
At the farewell reception on the last day, the best presenters were announced and each participant received a certificate of attendance. Generous and enthusiastic cheers and applause greeted each of the participants and student staff members as they mounted the platform. This international conference “of the students, by the students, for the students” concluded with great success thanks to the combined efforts of the conference administrators and participants.
Although the conference was for a short time, a sense of solidarity has emerged from the intense interchange among participants. It continues even now, through, for example, the U21 URC 2012 Facebook group that was established by a Waseda student participant. We believe that the greatest outcome of this conference, as a proof of its success, was the establishment of “kizuna” (a Japanese word for a common bond) connecting the present to the future, which supported the theme of this conference: “Connecting to the Future.”
Finally, we would like to extend our utmost appreciation to the participating students, faculty and staff, the U21 Secretariat, individuals related to our partner universities, and everyone else who contributed to this conference for their enthusiastic corporation and support.
Below, a participant at the 2012 URC from the University of Birmingham shares his experience.