The University of Sydney shines light on Australia’s undergraduate research

On the 28-30 September 2022, nearly 100 undergraduate research students from across the country came together at the Abercrombie Business School to present their research, network, and meet like-minded students.

The energy and engagement of students with each other’s research were astonishing across the two days of conference!

Students shaping the conversation

This recent article declares that the University wants to recognise and respect the student experience as widely as our research quality. Well, by hosting the 10th Australasian Conference of Undergraduate Research (ACUR) with this year’s theme “Shaping the Conversation” the University did both simultaneously. The University’s DVC-Education portfolio provided a unique learning experience for students and celebrated their research, not only research by the University of Sydney students but also by students across Australia.

As original undergraduate research is the focus of this conference, I really felt like I was a part of the conversation!

(ACUR Conference presenter)

The ACUR Conference team received 110 submissions for spoken and poster presentations across a wide range of disciplines in Sciences and Humanities. The top 3 universities represented were: The University of Sydney (37 submissions), Macquarie University (23), and The Australian National University (10).

Jam-packed conference program

98 students eventually presented their research across two days, and close to 60 guests attended the conference including HDR students, guest panel and keynote speakers, workshop facilitators, review panel members, session chairs, and prize judges. 

Delegates and guests experienced a conference jam-packed with engaging presentations, research skill workshops, breakfast with HDRs, and exciting keynotes by University of Sydney academic Dr Kate Bicknell and Dr Karl. The latter was a highlight for many attendees and many walked away with a proud selfie with the popular science communicator. Dr Karl was generous with his time and stayed back for morning tea, quickly surrounded by young researchers, eager to talk about science and research.

Sponsorship and Prizes

Major conference sponsorship was provided by UTS and UNSW, Macquarie University sponsored a stunning conference dinner at the Women’s College in the Sibyl Centre, Business Co-Design supported through photography, and the Art Gallery and HERDSA provided more prizes including tour vouchers, books, and an annual membership.

The following students, including three of our very own University of Sydney students, received prizes that were presented by the Director of Graduate Research, Professor Louise Sharpe, and Emeritus Professor Angela Brew, the Chair of ACUR council:

  • Best overall abstract and oral presentation: Sponsored by UTS – $1,000 – Emma Gardiner, Macquarie University. Presentation title: “Body size perception contrast effects: A result of memory bias or perceptual encoding?”
  • Best oral presentation (Honours): Sponsored by UNSW Sydney – $1,000 – Layla Meharg, The University of Sydney. Presentation title: “Investigating means of avoiding the “8-cell block” during in vitro development of bovine embryos”
  • Best oral presentation (non-Honours): Sponsored by UNSW Sydney – $1,000 – Amelie Read, The University of Sydney. Presentation title: “Unravelling the History of the Milky Way with Gaia”. 
  • Best poster presentation (Honours): Sponsored by UNSW Sydney – $500 – Akshaya Ramanathan, The University of Sydney, Presentation title: “T cell Receptor Therapy” -A promising alternative and personalised treatment for cancer”
  • Best poster presentation (non-Honours): Sponsored by UNSW Sydney – $500 – Jamilla Smith, Western Sydney University. Presentation title: “Listen N Talk: language revitalisation and documentation in a phrase-based app”
  • Prize for the Best Paper in Education Research: Sponsored by HERDSA – $500 & one-year HERDSA student membership – Olivia Williams, ACU. Presentation title: “International Students, Neglected in a Time of Crisis. Gaps in Assistance for Overseas Students in Pandemic Time”
  • Engagement award (Social Media): Art Gallery NSW – Oliver Medd, ANU.

The value of coming together again

Needless to say but worth highlighting, undergraduate students have once again shown to be capable and successful at conducting critical research and communicating it as well. Many have expressed how much they enjoyed this experience, feeling energised and inspired to pursue further research, feeling included and acknowledged for the work they have done, all while gaining more friends and connecting with like-minded people. A few delegates even got involved in ACUR’s student committee wishing to promote undergraduate research opportunities across Australia and New Zealand.

Catch up on the conversation

If you wish to catch up on the ACUR2022 proceedings, read the presentation abstracts, and gain some further impressions of the two days, please check the website and #ACUR2022 on Twitter. The November issue of the ACUR Council newsletter will feature the prize-winning articles in more detail. Get in touch with me if you wish to receive a copy or check this website in December 2022:

What’s next?

The ACUR Council is running a colloquium for staff interested to know more about undergraduate research in Australia and beyond on the 1st February 2023. More details here:

Thanks to my team who worked hard with me to make this conference such a successful event: Dr Daniel Johnstone, Olivia Urbaniak, Emma van der Schyff, and Nicky Gluch.

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