The Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme – Inspiring, Innovating, Impactful
What an experience…no words can do justice to how beneficial the Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme (URSS) was for me. It definitely was impactful, innovating, inspiring to say the least. But first, let me just explain what exactly the URSS is…
The URSS is a Scholarship awarded to second year University students to work on their academic research proposal over the summer period. It consists of devising an academic project proposal worthy of researching, testing it out and developing it with the support of your chosen academic supervisor. It is entirely up to you how you decide to manage the process, conduct the research and what sources to use. Once you have thought through the aims, methodology and impact of your research, you then have to showcase your findings on an A1 research poster, which will be displayed at the annual URSS conference. This is your opportunity to use the poster to illustrate your findings in any way that you chose to whether it’s images, photographs, pictures, bullet points, table, graphs, charts – the list is endless!
On the day of the conference, you stand next to your poster and fellow researchers, students, lecturers and academics will come round to see your poster and ask you about your research. Therefore, the poster is meant to visually summarise your research, enabling you to verbally guide attendees through your findings.
Now what really adds to the experience is the opportunity to present your project to the audience via a PowerPoint presentation in a lecture theatre. This really enables you to develop your confidence presenting to a large audience as well as showcasing your research to a diverse range of people. I particularly enjoyed educating the audience about Sikhi, Panjabi history and the impact that the British Raj has had on Sikhi, especially the translation of Sikh spiritual texts. Upon completing the project, you receive £2,000, as well as £200 to spend on any resources such as textbooks and equipment.
Now that you’re familiar with what exactly the URSS is, let me delve into my amazing experience of undertaking the Scholarship. As a student studying an Integrated Masters Degree in English, I am very interested in literary theory, world literature and the art of translation. As a British born and bred Sikh with ancestors from the Panjab region of India, which was affected significantly during the British Raj and partition of India, I am extremely passionate about my cultural roots and Panjabi/Sikh Literature. The unexplored space between these two seemingly different areas is what led me to ponder upon the potential overlap between the East and West. Therefore, I decided to research the impact of translation from the Panjabi language to English, focusing on the main Sikh spiritual text, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji. As I delved deeper and brainstormed many ideas, my application was extremely long and feedback from lecturers, tutors and the URSS team was that it was like a PhD proposal. Although this was great for my future academic career, it meant that at this stage I had to condense my project. Consequently, I had to undergo the challenging of splitting my proposal into sections to explore at different stages; the URSS, Undergraduate Dissertation, Masters Thesis and PhD.
Instead of getting overloaded with the bigger picture, I decided to condense my research into one particular area in order to enable me to really see if this project has potential (to my relief, it surely did). I focused on the opening hymn, the Mool Mantar, and found 19 different English translations. What surprised me was that none of them were exactly the same and there were great deviances between them all. I also questioned this difference in light of history, particularly the British Empire, as the first ever English translation took place during the British Raj.
After conducting my research over summer, creating my poster and making my PowerPoint presentation, the day of conference had dawned upon us. I was very excited to share my findings and educate people about my topic. I thoroughly enjoyed standing on the stage with a microphone telling the audience about my project and the feedback I received was extremely motivating, encouraging and inspiring. It was also interesting to see my peers’ research and their approach to tackling the URSS.
My URSS covered a range of areas from literature, to history, to religion, to psychoanalysis, to Critical Theory…all of which were intertwined with each other to create the bigger picture. Having spent the £200 solely on textbooks, you can probably imagine the huge pile that I had to work my way through. Surprisingly there was not much written on my area, which meant that I had to use a range of different sources to build my findings upon, but reflected the uniqueness of my research. As an English student, essays are the usual way of showing research, so the concept of a poster was a new method which I had to adopt, but really enabled me to think about how to visually showcase my research.
So, overall the URSS was an invaluable opportunity that I will forever be grateful for as it has enabled me to explore my academic passion further and test out my research proposal, meaning that essentially I am steps ahead for my Undergraduate Dissertation. I cannot thank the University of Derby and the Vice Chancellor enough for awarding me the URSS and it has most definitely been one of the many highlights of my time here at the University of Derby. To add to the highlights of the URSS, I absolutely loved the University of Derby Success Award badge that I was given after the conference. You can watch the URSS 2018 highlights video on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z13hKl8e0bA
By Anisha Kaur Johal
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