I attended the British Conference for Undergraduate Research (BCUR) last week at Nottingham University. To be honest I can’t say I was looking forward to it – two days of listening to talks on topics I’m not professionally interested in would be bad enough… but two days of those talks being delivered by nervous students who don’t know what they’re talking about? Sounds like my idea of hell. Still, some of my students were presenting so I decided to grin and bear it.
I was so, so wrong. I saw talks on making deer vellum, prejudice and emotion, wave power, student anxiety, mortality modelling, and many others, alongside poster presentations on just about every topic going which wouldn’t have looked out of place at a professional conference. Yes, there were nerves aplenty, but when it came time to talk every student delivered an assured performance and really showed not just their knowledge of the topic, but the sheer effort that had gone into their research.
It was this effort that impressed me the most – anyone who questions contemporary students and their willingness to work hard should go to one of these conferences and see how far above and beyond merely doing enough to get a grade these students go. The effort, preparation, everything is there – not just from certain subjects, certain institutions… this was all about students showing their abilities.
The BCUR conference will be in Winchester next year and I’d urge any department in any subject to encourage their students to attend and/or present there. It will give them something aside from grades to aim for and, for those interested in research, may whet their appetite for what the future may hold.
So, one sceptic converted…