Undergraduate Research Conference 2006

The University of Queensland hosted the second U21 Undergraduate Research Conference from 25-29 September 2006. The conference provided the opportunity for three outstanding undergraduate or honours students from U21 member universities to showcase their research to an international audience of fellow students and staff.

The conference was held at the university’s St Lucia Campus and reconvened at UQ’s Moreton Bay Research Station on North Stradbroke Island for the final two days. A majority of member institutions attended, providing a wonderful opportunity for students and staff to network.

A total of 10 staff and 33 students attended. As well as the undergraduate presentations, the conference provided an opportunity for UQ staff to engage with their U21 colleagues on topical undergraduate learning, teaching and research issues, as well as establish new professional networks.

The UQ established a U21 Undergraduate Research Conference Planning Group - chaired by Professor Susan Hamilton, Deputy President, UQ Academic Board. The group consisted of senior academic staff from all seven faculties at UQ, the Dean of Students and a member of the university’s Senior Executive, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Ipswich). This Committee had responsibility for deciding on the structure of the conference, final selection of UQ’s student representatives and approving the other activities for staff and students. Having senior academic representatives from every faculty ensured that there was strong support throughout UQ and assisted in the success of the conference.

All delegates arrived at least the day prior to the conference and a welcome lunch was held. A tour of the campus was provided so that delegates had some idea of the campus layout prior to the formal conference activities on Tuesday. A formal conference dinner was held on the first night this provided delegates with the opportunity to get to know each other, which created an atmosphere of camaraderie.

The Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Hay welcomed the delegates and a significant number of UQ senior staff also attended which gave them the opportunity to appreciate the significance of the event and to mix with the delegates. Student presentations covered a diverse array of research topics demonstrating the importance U21 universities place on providing undergraduate students with opportunities to carry out significant research.

Much thought was put into the scheduling of the presentations and it was decided to mix the disciplines. This proved to be effective as it provided for stimulating discussion. Many students commented particularly on how useful they found comments made by students who came from a different academic discipline area than their own. Also it meant that the Chairs of each session did not require any specific disciplinary knowledge and this assisted with scheduling. Presentations were scheduled for 10 mins and in general this was 7 minutes for the presentation and 3 minutes for questions. Another benefit of mixing the disciplines was that all delegates were engaged and attended all sessions which helped to boost the student’s confidence and improved the group dynamics.

Where possible, students participated in other activities to stimulate discussion, improve networking and give delegates a break from the seminars. There was a variety of organised tours of scientific and cultural institutions and on Stradbroke Island the seminars were interspersed with talks and tours on the indigenous cultural and wildlife. There was also a workshop for staff, giving them a chance to discuss a topical issue considered relevant to all higher education systems: Investigating teaching and learning practice in purpose built teaching and learning spaces. This session was conducted by staff from UQ’s Teaching and Educational Development Unit.

On the final day, on which no seminars were scheduled many delegates returned to UQ for a final farewell lunch. This was an opportunity for UQ to formally hand over the hosting of the next U21 Undergraduate Research Conference to Ms Robyn Wiltshire, McGill University, Montreal Canada.