Undergraduate Research Conference 2007

Ciara Mackenzie, a medical student from the University of Edinburgh, reports on the 2007 U21 Undergraduate Research Conference at McGill University.

Attending the above conference was a fantastic experience and one which I would thoroughly recommend to other students. It was a great opportunity to present my research at an international level, to gain experience in delivering a presentation and to meet people from all over the world. The whole conference was very well organised - the first three days mostly consisted of social activities and then there were two quite intense days of academic presentations. In terms of the research presented the content was incredibly varied ranging from baroque music to physics to engineering and ancient history. As each student’s research was into a very narrow and focused area at first I found it hard to see what relevance we would draw from each other’s presentations. For example, I was the only medical student and was presenting public health research conducted in Scotland and was wondering of what possible interest that would be to an economist from China.

However, what became clear was that a good presenter can make even the most obscure area of research accessible and interesting. In the end I thought that the varied nature of the presentations was actually a real strength of the conference and very stimulating. I ended up learning URC 2007 participant giving a presentation about topics I had never previously encountered and about areas of research I never knew existed. Other conferences I have been to have been the complete opposite and really quite specialised (e.g. Society for Acute Medicine, Society for Social Medicine) and these obviously have their strength in the fact that everyone has a communal focused interest and is totally clued up about the current research in that particular field.

I think that medics in general have a tendency to feel a bit removed from other university students, become quite blinkered and fail to see the bigger picture of life outside the hospital setting. For these reasons I think it’s very important that medics attend conferences such as this. I personally felt it was a great opportunity to broaden my horizons and educate myself about research being conducted in the world outside of medicine.

The only criticism I would have is that I don’t think that ten minutes was long enough to present what was for most people was a year's worth of research and I know that many students struggled to stick to the time limit.

On the social side of things I had a really good time getting to know people from all over the world. It was a good idea to give people a few days to get to know each other before the presentations began because it made the whole atmosphere a lot more relaxed and less intimidating. Even just to know a little bit about someone and where they’re coming from made the presentations seem a bit more accessible and made for some lively question and answer sessions too.

McGill were brilliant hosts and went out of their way to make the conference a success and ensure all the students had a great time. The conference schedule was pretty busy but this included a few day trips and so I felt I got to see quite a bit of Montreal and the surrounding area in the time I was there.

Montreal is a buzzing, cosmopolitan and arty city with a real European feel and I would definitely return given the chance. I will remember it as one of the highlights of my time at university and it has given me the inspiration to carry on conducting research in whichever field of medicine I decide to pursue a career.