The Research Toolkit

CURIE's open research platform

Category: Compass

A personal experience of Compass 2018

26/10/2018 – Post by CURIE Research Fellow Magdalini Maligali 

Interdisciplinary teams

Compass brings together interdisciplinary students to work collaboratively on their individual research projects along with a supportive mentor.  The program encourages us to openly discuss our research interests and ideas on future or current tasks. It was a safe place where feedback was welcomed in order to enhance everyone’s research skills and is an ideal place for everyone who thinks they might have a passion for research but don’t know where to begin!

The interdisciplinary nature of the team allows the spread of different viewpoints and beliefs. For example, my group consists of members from Biomedical, Psychological, IT and Science background. Being exposed to their interests helped me think about important multidisciplinary issues I never thought I would be interested in. Even though we came from a diverse background of knowledge, it was great to see that we had common interests. Our mentor also encouraged us to give feedback to each other to develop our individual research projects. Through our weekly meetings, we worked as a team to deepen our understanding of research, develop our own research projects and brainstorm ideas for current assignments. In the process, we developed social, presentation, writing, and communication skills, as well as a long-lasting friendships.

Personal gains

For me, compass was an opportunity to take the first step into research. Compass has equipped me with information about the importance of research, how it is conducted and how the results are reported in a scientific way. Coming into the program, my understanding of research was limited and only on a theoretical level. Compass not only helped me to build these skills but also helped me design my own project with the help of my mentor, as well as my group members. Within the group, I identified my weaknesses and set new goals to address them. It was also enlightening to listen to other people’s experiences and explore other potential undergraduate pathways for research through networking.  It was a really incredible experience and opportunity to learn from my mentor and everyone else around me. I can’t wait to be involved again next year!

 

ICUR & Employability

4/10/2018 – Post by Monash ICUR Student Director Ruby Ballantyne 

ICUR is over for another year… A big congratulations to everyone who took part, you were part of a really special conference and made it a wonderful, exciting experience for everyone! Even though we all had a lot of fun and got to practice our presentation skills, you probably also got a lot of other skills you might not even be aware of.

Cultivating your employability with ICUR

ICUR offers you many benefits beyond a purely academic perspective. Alongside being a highly valuable opportunity for anyone interested in becoming an academic, it provides students with the unique opportunity to develop transferable skills.

Transferable skills are abilities that you develop in one situation which can then be applied to other scenarios. Why should you care about them? Well, having transferable skills increases your versatility to work in different industries. This adaptability is attractive to employers and helps you ‘future-proof’ yourself!

ICUR’s transferable skills

The development of these skills does not come from only rocking up to ICUR on the day. In the lead up to the conference, many of you got involved in CURIE’s research toolkit series. This program consisted of a variety of workshops targeting different skills associated with ICUR, so that they can participate more confidently in the conference itself.

The top three transferable skills that you have probably gained by being involved with ICUR are:

1. Communication

Verbal and written communication is an essential skill for all industries – ICUR helps you gain both! When submitting the abstract, preparing the research and developing your presentation slides or poster, you are refining your written communication abilities. You are also practicing verbal communication through public speaking by presenting your research and interacting with the audience at the conference.

ICUR’s international and interdisciplinary nature further enables you to improve your communication skills. Participants are presenting to students from many faculties and to an international audience. This diversity means that the presenter has to make sure their research is understandable and engaging for someone who may have no background knowledge about the presentation’s content or who may not speak English as their first language.

2. Analytical skills

Employers look for individuals with the ability to examine and assess an issue then provide an appropriate solution. ICUR requires students to investigate and formulate an argument on a specific topic. Whilst it may not be instantly apparent that undertaking research is a skill that can be transferred beyond academia, the research process itself helps develop your critical thinking through identifying patterns, interpreting data and theorising.

3. Technical abilities

All industries have some engagement with technology. ICUR is unique and through using video conferencing technology, you had the opportunity to gain experience using a commonly used industry technology. Speaking to a global audience at a video conference may sound simple but it takes practice to perfect using a microphone, cameras and screen to ensure that the digital experience is engaging to an audience hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away.

Articulating these skills

However, gaining these skills is only half the battle. Employers want you to explain to them why you are the ideal candidate for a job. This means how you describe your skills is very important. Below we will show two examples of how you could articulate the employability you’ve gained from ICUR in a resume. The example sentences are brief because it is better to have less detail in a resume so that you can expand on your experiences more in an interview.

If you want to highlight one particular skill you’ve gained from ICUR you might include a sentence like this:

“International Conference of Undergraduate Research (ICUR) – speaking to an international and interdisciplinary audience at ICUR has developed my communication skills; particularly my ability to articulate complex concepts using concise, clear language.”

Alternatively, if you want to emphasise multiple skills you could say this:

“International Conference of Undergraduate Research (ICUR) – ICUR is a two-day academic conference where undergraduate students present their research to an international, interdisciplinary audience. Key skills gained: improved critical thinking, adeptness with video-conferencing technology and succinct communication with a global and local audience.”

We wish you all the best in your endevours and congratulations on everyone who participated ICUR and good luck with the future job searching!

What makes a good poster presentation?

17/09/2018 – Post by CURIE Policy and Project Officer, Hannah Skipworth

Last Wednesday, Ros Haliday (Matheson Library Learning Skills Advisor) put this question to a room of undergraduate researchers at the Poster Preparation and Presentation workshop. With a little bit of head scratching, some answers emerged. A good poster doesn’t have too much text, uses contrasting colours and represents data using graphs.

When asked ‘what are the challenges when starting a poster?’ The conversation was much more animated. I leaned over to my partner, whose immediate (and relatable!) fear was getting the font size incorrect. What is a good font size anyway? We’ll get to that.

Ros took us through a collection of example posters, each time asking us to point out what was good and what could be done better. For example, oftentimes the title could be snappier, the information could be presented in a more logical order, or dot points could be used to break up dense text.

Taking all this on board, the students received an A3 piece of paper each and some markers, and were set to the task of mapping out a poster. Every student organised their poster differently, depending on their methodologies, graphs, images, and conclusions. It was great to see many different approaches.  

And with the library’s walls covered in undergraduate research posters, it was time to practice ad-lib presenting with a partner. This was great fun and it was tough to wrap it up once the workshop ended! We left the session with these key pieces of advice:

On creating the poster:

  • Create a snappy title and use sentence case (do not Capitalise Each Word)
  • Use academic language that doesn’t alienate the audience
  • Have a main point
  • Clearly define your research questions
  • Make it accessible to audience members from all disciplines
  • Make the best use of the page
  • Use an attractive colour scheme (blue writing on a green background is not going to work!)
  • Have photos that invite the audience in
  • Use graphs that represent the data
  • Consider using dot points
  • Don’t forget your references

On presenting the poster:

  • The poster should be able to stand-alone
  • The presenter shouldn’t need to explain the vital information, it should be on the poster
  • It should be presented like a PowerPoint presentation; you can’t be looking back at it!

Still wondering what the right font size might be? Well, anything that can be read from 1 meter away will work!

Good luck with your posters and look forward to seeing you at ICUR next week!