Undergraduate Research Conference 2013

The 9th Undergraduate Research Conference was held from 8 - 12 July 2013 and was hosted by the University of Amsterdam (UvA). We were delighted to receive 54 students and 14 staff members from 21 partner universities.

The multidisciplinary theme of the conference this year was Urban Challenges: building healthy, smart & creative cities for the future. The venue was the City centre campus of UvA that included a number of meeting rooms in historical buildings at the heart of the university.

2013 has been a special year for Amsterdam, marked by several extraordinary celebrations, including the re-opening of the renovated Rijksmuseum and the 400th anniversary of the Canals. Both were included in the social activities during the conference.

The majority of participants arrived on Monday 8 July. We had arranged bicycles for everybody for the whole week and this was a great success. Amsterdam is a cycling city and they had accompanied bicycle rides to every location. The weather was great throughout the week which was fabulous for the social programme, that offered plenty of opportunities for doing some exploring in Amsterdam.

On Monday afternoon an Official Welcome with the Rector Magnificus, Professor Dymph van den Boom, was held at the historic Amsterdam Academic Club, followed by a keynote address by Zef Hemel, Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Amsterdam and a member of the board of the City of Amsterdam’s Urban Planning Department, on the subject of how Amsterdam developed into the dynamic city it is now. This was followed by a dinner buffet and drinks before cycling back to the hotel.

Tuesday started off with Speed dating & Networking, allowing the delegates to get to know one another even better before starting the academic component of the conference. Following this they went on a boat sight-seeing trip along the city’s canals and on a walking tour that ended with a picture opportunity at the Iamsterdam logo, which the participants found very enjoyable. In the afternoon the delegates visited the Rijksmuseum and were amazed by the collection, which boasted Dutch masters such as Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer and Jan Steen. The evening ended with a barbecue at the university’s Science Park and was much enjoyed.

The academic part of the conference took place from Wednesday to Friday. We hoped that the students by now had the feeling they were among friends, after the social activities on the previous days, and that they would be less nervous about presenting their research. This indeed was the case, as they had learned a lot about each other and about their research topics during the first two days, so they were more relaxed in their presentations and dared to ask questions. They shared their knowledge and experiences on the theme.

Menno van Dijk, co–founder and managing director of THNK, the Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership and Jan Nijman, Professor of Urban Studies and director of the Centre for Urban Studies, both gave keynote addresses during these days, which were very inspiring. At the end of each day the students formed groups chaired by the staff members and they provided each other with feedback and comments.

On Wednesday evening the participants went to the restaurant Vijff Vlieghen, a real culinary museum in the historic centre of Amsterdam, where they had dinner under original Rembrandt etchings and admired rare 17th century glassware and antique Delft blue tiles. On Thursday evening the participants had dinner at the university restaurant Agora and enjoyed a movie night together. This gave the organising committee the opportunity to arrange a meeting with all staff members and this proved very fruitful, especially for Shanghai Jiao Tong University who will be hosting the next URC in 2014.

The week was wrapped up on Friday afternoon with an awards ceremony. Two-three awards were presented for each day of the academic part of the conference, but it was very difficult to choose the winners because of the extremely high quality in both oral and poster presentations. The winners were as follows:

  • Elizabeth Brower, University of Nottingham
  • Robyn Giffen, University of British Columbia
  • Bridget Holtom, University of Edinburgh 
  • Penny Milton, University of Queensland
  • Paulina Piesik, University of British Columbia
  • David Taylor, University of Auckland
  • Baey Yan Ling, National University of Singapore

A formal closing dinner on Friday evening was held at Krasnapolsky, the oldest restaurant in Amsterdam in baroque style and open since 1885, where the Rector Magnificus thanked all participants and she hoped that their stay in Amsterdam yielded a wealth of insights and inspiration.

We received positive feedback from students and staff members and enjoyed the experience of hosting such a great and lively group. The participants have also created a Facebook group after the conference to keep in touch.

Helena van der Steege

Project Manager, Student Services

University of Amsterdam

You can also download a report below from Margaret Lamb, Director, Office of Undergraduate Research at the University of Connecticut, who participated in the URC 2013 faculty and staff programme, which included providing feedback and support to the student presenters.