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International conference experience for Otago undergrads

Matt Step Tiho
(from left) Matt Keelty, Steph Baddock and Tiho Mijatov, who attended an undergraduate conference in Sydney in September.

Four Otago undergraduates were recently able to profile their research at the Second Australasian Conference on Undergraduate Research. The students were part of the second cohort of the Matariki Undergraduate Research Network (MURN), which involves three of the universities in the Matariki Network.

Led by the University of Western Australia, the extra-curricular initiative aims to give undergraduates an authentic research experience and to develop international links.

In 2013 the network’s partners were the University of Western Australia, the University of Otago and Queen’s University, Canada. The students were first taught the basics of research methods in Higher Education via a global classroom that included web conferencing (using the Otago Connect software) and online modules. Local sessions supplemented their learning and the Otago students were supervised by academics. Like the 2012 cohort, the students chose a topic related to ‘internationalisation’ since this was of interest to all the institutions. The projects pursued by Otago students were:

  • Why and how to internationalise Tort Law curriculum content (Tiho Mijatov, Law);
  • Why international students choose to study at the University of Otago (Steph Baddock, Anatomy, and Madhvi Laxman, Information Science)
  • Investment in internationalisation of resources at the tertiary level (Matt Keelty, Chemistry).

With the support of funding from the Committee for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning and Higher Education Development Centre, three of the students were able to attend the Second Australasian Conference on Undergraduate Research in Sydney in September. As well as gaining a taste for academic conferences and getting feedback on their research, a highlight for these students was finally meeting face to face with their counterparts from the University of Western Australia. Dissemination of the student research is continuing with submissions to either disciplinary education journals or to eMURJ – the e Matariki Undergraduate Research Journal, under development at Otago.