The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Scheme (UROS) is the University’s flagship student engagement initiative. It is designed to give students funding to undertake collaborative research during the summer with University academics. UROS projects often investigate real world issues and are used by students as opportunities to research beyond the curriculum.
2017 heralded the largest UROS portfolio in the University’s history with 36 individual projects funded over the summer.
The projects were showcased at the LALT launch in September and the following four projects were selected for awards. Click on the links below to read project reports written by the students:
The LALT Blog will publish all of the UROS Projects over the coming months.
by Ryan Senior
During my UROS project this summer, I have successfully designed, developed and validated a new method of microcrystalline identification for 5 Structural APB isomers, otherwise known as ‘benzo fury’, a popular legal high during the recent wave of designer drugs and novel psychoactive substances that stormed European drug markets. Building on the work I had previously done during my 3rd year research project, I was able to gain invaluable laboratory experience and work closely with new equipment that I had only briefly used before during my degree. I also learned much more about scientific research and the process of method validation and scientific paper writing.
Over the course of the summer I was tasked with a range of different jobs which were needed to complete the project. For example, I had to work with a number of different drug solutions. Not only did I get to work with the drugs of interest to develop my method, but also other common drugs of abuse to determine that the crystals I was creating were specific to the compounds I was testing. From this I produced a comprehensive list which proved my observations were unique to the drugs I was testing and therefore suitable for this method of analysis. From this I also got to learn about how drugs are properly handled in research settings and was able to see the street drug samples that the university currently have access to, which is useful knowledge to carry me into potential research/drug analysis careers. I also had to determine the limits of detection for each APB isomer and investigate the effect of common cutting agents, such as caffeine and glucose, which yielded a number of interesting results.
I was also able to use a polarising light microscope and a Raman spectrometer to further characterise my results. I have had little experience with this equipment so far from my university studies, and having personal experience of using them was both enjoyable and has broadened my knowledge and skill set.
Another valuable experience I have gained from this project is that of writing a scientific paper. I am currently writing my results into a paper for submission to the journal Drug Testing and Analysis. The process has helped me refine my writing skills, improving my skill to use concise language and communicate ideas and results effectively. I have been able to gain hands-on experience with new software such as adobe acrobat and Photoshop. It has also allowed me to deepen my scientific understanding and knowledge, and I believe that this experience will be of great use to me whatever career path I may choose.
*To view Ryan’s project poster, please click here
by Abbie Marono
As an individual who wishes to continue onto a career as an academic researcher, the UROS project provided me with the experience of time management self-presentation and organisation that I will need for future work. My experience of UROS has allowed me to explore my creative ability and project management skills. I could demonstrate independence in my work, as I designed, developed and carried out a research idea of my own creation. However, the guidance and support of my supervisor enabled me to stay on track and keep my work to a high quality. Thus, the structure of the project works well for academics beginning their career paths and wanting to gain practical skills, without being overwhelming.
When designing the research idea, I had a target goal of 300 participants to collect data from, I believed that this was a realistic goal for a one-month period. Shortly after beginning my project I realised that the goal of 300 might have been too optimistic and as I carried out my project it was clear that the target goal will not be reached in such a short time period. Instead, a sample of 63 participants was collected, this would have been an appropriate and more realistic goal for a one-month period, however I was unaware of this before starting the UROS scheme. Therefore, participating in the UROS scheme has allowed me to gain a more realistic and educated expectation for future research projects.
The funding received as part of the UROS scheme allowed me to explore ideas and opportunities which would not have otherwise been possible. This gave me freedom to be creative and experiment with my research ideas.
Moreover, having to present my work in such a way that it is informative and astatically pleasing has taught me a great deal about my presentation skills. I learned that I must stay brief and to the point, yet ensure that all necessary information is displayed and easily understood. During the poster event, I was approached by multiple individuals both professional and lay persons, and asked questions regarding my project. This was a situation unfamiliar to me. However, I did not feel nervous or ‘out of my depth’ due to the support and reassurance of my supervisor. Furthermore, the conference and poster presentation event allowed me to gain experience in such a novel and professional situation. This is important for me because as a researcher, I will be expected to participate in events as such in the future. Therefore, the UROS project gave me first hand, and practical experience.
I am grateful for the opportunity I have had and the support I have received during my time with UROS. I would recommend the UROS scheme to aspiring researchers and individuals beginning a career in academia, as the experience gained will help in preparation for future career prospects.
*To view Abbie’s project poster, please click here
by Madeleine Pownall
In theory, my UROS research project was straightforward. I started with a clear idea of the time scale and demands for each stage, and had a structured day-by-day schedule to work to. I imagined that I would be able to employ the same calculated method to my research project as I do when writing essays and assignments for university, using mainly skills of organisation, planning and time-keeping. As the weeks progressed it soon became clear that it wasn’t going to be as simple as I thought. From the get-go, delayed ethics approval required flexibility and prompted me to re-think my timeline. Throughout my project I developed skills of creativity, problem-solving, and (perhaps most crucially) learnt to trust my own ideas.
My project was half qualitative and half quantitative. Thematically coding 84 children’s books was challenging, but stepping back and seeing my SPSS filled to the brim with lines of data was a proud moment. Participant’s responses to my survey soon began to trickle in to Qualtrics and slowly but surely my project started to take shape.
In the first week of the project, following my initial literature search, I sent my supervisor (Dr Nathan Heflick) a panicked email, horrified by the vast amount of relevant research I had found. There seemed to be an infinite number of questions, aims and hypotheses that I could have focused on. I didn’t know where to begin. There was far too much to cover in one summer project, but a healthy amount for an academic career beyond undergraduate studies. On the strength of this, I have since set up meetings with potential PhD supervisors for the next academic year. Over the course of the UROS project my notebooks began to slowly fill up, the list of academic papers I wanted to read doubled in length, and my ‘dissertation ideas’ folder became too full to close.
My UROS project is the product of a head bubbling with questions, and is my first step into the world of research. Indeed, I am fortunate that throughout my degree conducting research and producing reports is integrated within the course structure. However, UROS has given me ammunition to start attempting to answer the questions that are personal to me – questions that I have always wanted to explore within psychology. I found the project refreshingly challenging. It only takes one laptop crash, one ethics delay, and one controversial paper to change the entire plan and aims of a study (I learnt this the hard way). I now understand that research is not plain sailing, despite how well you plan.
I enjoyed being able to make decisions relating to the flow and timescale of the project and I am grateful for my supervisor for allowing me to take charge of the project’s direction. I am entering third year with a completed study that I am proud of, and I feel I am well set for my final year. I now know that the road of academia is rarely linear, but I’m excited to see where it takes me.
*To view Madeleine’s project poster, please click here
by Tiffany McNally and Olivia Smith
Dubois and Fraser (2013) say that approaching animals with the intention of feeding endangers human safety yet people fail to see it as a serious threat for animal welfare or a risk to their own lives.
The grounds for our study are therefore evident. We decided to explore the relationship between risk taking behaviour, measured using a Balloon Analogue Task, and how close people would be willing to approach animals with the intent of feeding them. We used approachability scores for the Koala and Lion as both animals scored highly in likability, but differ in their dangerousness.
This UROS project was a highly valuable experience, from which we have gained and developed a number of skills and experience that will be beneficial for our studies but also for our future careers. We have been involved in every steps of the projects. Our supervisors were present and supportive through the project. We met with Laetitia frequently to discuss the proposed design for the study. During these meetings, the UROS process was explained to us clearly so we both felt confident in what we were doing and what was expected of us.
The design of the study was very collaborative, we split the tasks between us two, one of us worked on the questionnaire and the other developed the experimental tasks. We then advised each other on how to improve each other’s work. This was very beneficial for us as we complemented each other, and also learnt from each other.
Once we had fully developed and piloted the study, we launched it at the University of Lincoln open days in July, where we tested the parents of potential students. Laetitia was present to help collecting data on the first participants, and she gave us many tips and advice to improve and facilitate our data collection. The data collection during the open days was a very good and challenging experience. We were pleased to have overwhelmingly positive feedback from the participants from this stage and onwards. Throughout the rest of the summer, we recruited participants by distributing flyers around the city and through social media. Our goal was to reach between 50-100 participants, and we were pleased to have collected data on a total of 93 participants. From this data collection, we have gained in organisation and communication skills, which will be very useful for the future.
In addition we had the opportunity to analyse our data with the help of our supervisors, and run some advanced statistical analyses. We have got some very interesting results on the factors that predict the distance people would approach lions and koalas to feed them. We are delighted to present our results with our poster at the UROS conference, and hope that these findings will open an interesting discussion on how people behave in relation to wild animals.
*To view Tiffany and Olivia’s project poster, please click here