Outstanding students earn summer research scholarships

Mel 2

Research scholarship recipient Mel Pudig presents her findings to a packed lecture hall at the Summer Student Research Presentation Day.

A group of talented and driven students recently ditched the sun, sand and waves of the typical summer holiday for the research offices and labs of the University of Western Sydney.

Annually, over the summer break, the university offers a select number of students the opportunity to complete a research project in an area of interest to them under the close supervision of a UWS academic. The Summer Research Placement Program is designed to give students an insight into university level research and engage them beyond the classroom. In 2013 30 placements were made through a range of Schools and Institutes including:

* School of Medicine* School of Social Sciences and Psychology* School of Education* School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics* Institute for Infrastructure Engineering* School of Business* School of Science and Health* School of Nursing and Midwifery* School of Law

The placement was for eight weeks with students needing to carry out an individual supervised project, a comprehensive research report, and a seminar presentation outlining their results at the Summer Student Research Presentation Day.

The Presentation Day, held on Wednesday 14th February, showcased a diverse range of research projects and highlighted the additional benefits that completing university research can bring to a student's academic life.

"From watching the students present today, it is clear that they have gained a better understanding and appreciation about university research," says Julia Sharwood, Research Program Coordinator, Office of the Pro Vice Chancellor Research. "They now understand the effort, preparation and design involved with executing academic research. I am proud of the students and thankful to the supervisors who have created such a wonderful experience."

"I am very excited to hear that a large proportion of these students are now considering or have applied for further studies such as honours at the University."

Third year Bachelor of Health Science/Master of Occupational Therapy student Jack Menzies completed his project 'Medical research ethics and popular culture' under the supervision of Dr Roslyn Weaver in the School of Nursing and Midwifery.

"I used qualitative research methods to analyse how medical research is portrayed in popular culture," says Jack. "Examples such as the television show 'Dark Angel' represent how popular culture can demonise medical research and how science fiction can often give medical research and genetic engineering a sinister reputation."

"From working on this project I have come to understand more about the influence of popular culture in shaping perceptions of medical research and also the value these shows can have as educational tools."

Fourth year Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws student Mel Pudig also found value in completing her project.

"Working on this project has been a great experience. It has improved my research and reporting skills and knowledge through collaboration with my supervisors, and it has been great preparation for honours," says Mel.

Mel completed her project 'Restricting tobacco use: what works and what doesn't' under the supervision of Ms Nikki Bromberger and Dr Sarah Wilks through the School of Law.

"For this project I reviewed the laws and discussion currently surrounding tobacco control in Australia and New South Wales," says Mel. "My aim was then to consider whether those laws could apply to the control of junk food, products that are high in sugar and have no nutritional value, to help reduce health concerns associated with the consumption of junk food products."

On the day, the Best Presentation prize was awarded to Karen Mathews for her project 'Perfusion-dependent modulation of contractility in human skeletal muscle', and Kathryn Newton for her project 'Boarding House review in City of Parramatta'. The People's Choice Award was given to Nimna De Silva for their project 'A systematic review of acupuncture to treat cancer fatigue', and Nathan Lentern for his project 'Animal welfare and animal consciousness: the law and the science'.

The judging panel was selected from both the University and community including; Mr Gar Jones, UWS Office of Research Services, Ms Kelly Whitney, UWS Careers and Cooperative Education Division, Ms Corinne Turner, UWS Innovation and Mr Richard Leemen from the Rotary Club of Narellan.

The Summer Student Research Placement Program is advertised at the end of spring session and applications are open to all undergraduate students. Each placement is valued at $3,000 and is fully funded by the UWS Research Infrastructure Fund, the supervising researcher or the school.

The program is coordinated in partnership by the Office of the Pro Vice Chancellor Research, Office of Research Services and the Jobs on Campus team.


26 February 2013

Words: Hannah Guilfoyle

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