Part of the British Conference of Undergraduate Research. Hosted by University College London.
On Tuesday 14th March Queen Mary’s University took two students, of which I had the privilege of being one, to an event held at the Houses of Parliament called “Posters in Parliament” where undergraduate students from across the country get the chance to present and discuss their research with fellow undergraduates, lecturers, academics, and a few interested MPs, as well as getting the opportunity to look around the House of Commons and sit in on some of the sessions being held.
It was a wonderful day of intellectual stimulation, in an environment palpably buzzing with enthusiasm and excitement. It gave me a unique opportunity to find out what my fellow undergraduates are interested in, as well as allowing me to learn more about areas that I might otherwise have never got the opportunity to engage with, such as studies around nanotechnology, macroeconomics, 17th Century female medical practitioners, as well as many other interesting and obscure areas of research.
We began the day in Parliament Square, meeting by the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, before going through security and entering the beautiful building that is The House of Commons. Surrounded by fellow students, school parties, tourists, a few recognizable BBC reporters, and a UKIP MP, we wandered around the building taking in the history and grandeur, as well as sitting in on a few parliamentary hearings.
The one in which myself, and my fellow Queen Mary student Sam, sat in on was concerning the state of buses in England and whether there should be a reduction, or increase in funding towards the expansion of the bus networks across England. We were then generously treated to lunch in the Café, before going up to the Jubilee room for the first poster and presentation section of the afternoon, in which Sam presented his research on how gravitational dynamical processes, including the effect of the moon Prometheus, as well as, impacts from nearby objects, can determine the structure and behaviour of the F ring of Saturn. An interesting presentation, with a poster including beautiful imagery of Saturn’s rings.
This section lasted about an hour before there was a change over to the second presentation session, in which I was presenting my research into the denigration of “others” in comparison to the image of the English male and “Englishness” in Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy, exploring concepts of the Self and the Other and relating the world of Henry VI to the world in which we currently live. Following this section there was a short break, in which we chatted amongst ourselves, before the prizes were awarded and the event concluded around 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
Unfortunately, Queen Mary’s did not come away with any prizes, however the experience of being able to present my work was invaluable and great practice for the British Undergraduate Conference both myself and Sam, as well as about 38 other students will be attending in April.
The event is held in the Houses of Parliament because it gives the opportunity for legislators and policy makers to see first-hand some of the innovative research taking place around the country by students from, and studying in their constituency. It give students a platform to present their work to those who could potentially be making decision around the research in the future, certainly when the research is based around medicine, or science.
I had never presented in this format before, standing beside a poster outlining my work, and did not get much guidance as to how best to present the work, however it seemed the best thing to do was to create a poster which drew people towards you, outline the key points of your arguments, and then once they had looked over the poster to speak to them about your work and outline the key arguments and facts in more depth verbally, as opposed to through a text-heavy poster. Personally I prefer verbal presentations to an audience as then everyone gets a chance to hear everyone else’s ideas (in the poster format I was unable to hear about everyone’s projects). However it was undoubtedly an interesting experience I am grateful to have had as it gave me a more relaxed (in contrast to a formal presentation) format to discuss my work within.
Attending this event was beneficial in three key ways: firstly, it was great practice presenting and discussing my research with fellow scholars who could identify and question gaps in my research, and suggest theorists and texts I could explore to broaden and deepen my research; secondly, it was a great opportunity to hear about other sections of research which I would otherwise not have had the opportunity to hear about; and thirdly, it is extremely enjoyable to meet with fellow academics and hear about other university courses, and experiences as I go on to consider the possibility of Masters degrees and further academic study in the future. All in the beautiful and historical Parliament buildings.
Interesting to note, in terms of my research, is the fact that unusually Henry VI and Edward IV were buried at Windsor Castle, as opposed to Westminster Abbey, despite Henry V and Edward V both being at Westminster. Henry VI held twenty-three parliaments, all but one of these at Westminster Palace during his reign, so it was undoubtedly a significant building in the history of his reign. This fact made me feel both as if this was the ideal venue for my exploration of both Henry VI and modern political ideas, as well as a sense of joy that I could bring Henry V back to Westminster.
It was an honour to represent Queen Mary’s English Department at this event, which has an open application policy. I would strongly encourage all students to look into and apply to this event next year as you meet some wonderful people, learn new things, as well as developing the skill of communicating your research to an array of different people, from varying backgrounds, and experiencing the joy of sharing your research with others – as well as the free food.