Undergraduate Research Conference 2008

The National University of Singapore (NUS) hosted the fourth U21 Undergraduate Research Conference (URC) from 30 June to 4 July 2008. This varied from the usual September/October dates and meant that participants were able to experience on-campus living while NUS’s students were on vacation.

This year, for the first time, the URC had a thematic approach and poster sessions. We felt that a carefully-chosen theme would help to provide a focal point for all the presentations whilst at the same time having a topic that was broad enough to encourage representation across all faculties. It was essential to preserve the key strength of this Conference, which is the diversity of disciplines present.

After much consideration, we selected Sustainability as the theme, as it is also in tandem with the many projects of U21. Each member university was invited to nominate up to four students and a faculty member to participate in the conference. The conference was attended by a total of six staff and 51 students from fourteen universities, with 40 students giving oral presentations and eleven presenting posters.

The programme started with NUS U21 Manager and International Relations Office Director, Associate Professor Anne Pakir’s NUS overview and welcome, followed by lunch, hosted by Professor Lily Kong, Vice President (University Global Relations) at our University Hall. The participants spent the rest of the day getting to know each other and enjoying a city tour which showcased the multi-cultural facets of Singapore, finishing off with a dinner at Glutton Square to savour our local fare.

The following three days were filled with presentations, covering different aspects of sustainability. There was a lot of interest in the various topics and questions were plentiful. For the poster session, presenters gave participants an overview of their project and had time to field questions. Following this, students were placed in their groups to work on ways to enhance the respective projects, with various perspectives drawn from different disciplines. The participants were placed in groups of varied majors and different backgrounds to inspire the students to actively discuss and see each project through a different lens.

The programme was also peppered with plenty of social activities to enable the participants to interact with each other and have fun. Touching on cultural sustainability, they visited the NUS Museum, while the Night Safari and NEWater visitor centre showed participants the importance of environmental sustainability.

On the final day of conference, there was a thought-provoking guest lecture from Associate Professor Victor Savage on our theme and Ms Lily Wong, from the Campus Sustainability Committee, who spoke about NUS’s efforts to create greener environment.

The results of participants’ votes for the “Best Poster”, “Most Eloquent Speaker” and “Best Overall Presentation” were also announced. Ms Rachel Grace and Ms Christine Fyfe, both from University of Queensland, wowed their audience and won the eloquence and overall presentation, respectively. Ms Sharon Chang, from NUS, with her miniature model, impressed her peers and was voted “Best Poster”.

After our winners were presented with their prizes and garlands of plastic flowers (so that they could be reused), there was a certificate presentation to thank all for attending and lunch hosted by Professor Tan Thiam Soon, Vice Provost (Education). Students were told beforehand to bring a t-shirt from their home university. They were excitedly exchanging these tokens, contacts and taking pictures during lunch. It was a bittersweet moment for many participants as it marked the end of their 5-day conference. Lasting friendships were formed as a result of the close interaction that participants had with one another.

We would like to thank everyone for their active contribution to the conference and look forward to participating in the next URC that will be hosted by University of Glasgow, from 15 to 21 October 2009.