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Crossing disciplines: Bristol undergraduates present results of research internships

The winners of the poster competition, Maximilian Kloucek and Zinnia Siddiqi, with Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) Bhagesh Sachania

29 September 2016

The winners of this year’s University Research Committee (URC) interdisciplinary research internships for undergraduates presented the results of their work this week to an audience that included Vice-Chancellor Professor Hugh Brady and the faculty Deans.

Twenty-three undergraduates from across all faculties were awarded internships, and made presentations at the special event at Clifton Hill House, which was hosted by Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research).

The scheme, which was launched in 2014, offers undergraduate students the opportunity to undertake an interdisciplinary research project for eight weeks during the summer. The project must bring together two different disciplines, with two academic supervisors (one from either discipline).

Crossing disciplines

‘The first year was a great success, and the feedback from academic staff and students was “we want more of this,”’ said Professor Canagarajah, Chair of the URC. ‘This year we had 84 applications, and again the calibre was very high. We were able to expand the funding and we awarded 23 studentships. 

‘We have staff who are passionate about research and we have fantastic students with great energy and ideas, and this scheme is about bringing them together and giving our students an opportunity to engage in real research projects with our staff. The majority of our undergraduate degrees include a final-year project, but with this we’re offering something different: an opportunity for them to engage with another discipline.’

Each student’s presentation was limited to two minutes and two slides, with only one question from the audience. Each also produced a poster on their project, with a prize for the two posters judged the best. The winners were Zinnia Siddiqi (‘Phase change material used in window blinds for energy storage’) and Maximilian Kloucek (‘Detecting metabolic activity of living bacteria using evanescent waves’).

Outside the box

‘Being able to do this research has been an amazing experience,’ said Zinnia, an Engineering student; ‘it gave me the time and the support to look at how we can use simple thermodynamic materials to improve our lives.’

‘Zinnia is an excellent student and she worked very hard on the project,’ said Dr Hind Saidani-Scott, her co-supervisor from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. ‘The internship is a great opportunity for students to see if an idea is feasible and to investigate it.’

Law student Katie Barnes-Monaghan (‘Regulation of hydraulic fracturing in the context of Brexit’) commented: ‘This is the first time I was able to do something so independently for such a long period. I want to thank my supervisors – I really enjoyed the experience and I’d thoroughly recommend students to apply for it.’

Katie’s co-supervisor, Dr James Verdon in the School of Earth Sciences, added: ‘I think the interdisciplinary nature of it encourages students to think outside the box, and you can see that in the quality of the projects. For staff, co-supervising is a great way to make connections with people in different disciplines that you might not have come into contact with otherwise. It helps you to build new links in the future, and opens up possibilities for more collaborations on grants or PhD studentships.’

Further information

A full list of the winners and their projects and co-supervisors is available online.

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