Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme (URSS) 2021 – Research for a More Sustainable Future

By Jasmin Hundle (Senior Administrative Assistant) and Richard Harris (Administrative Officer)

What is the URSS? Well, the University of Derby’s Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme (URSS) gives all second-year students the chance to take part in a funded and supported research project. It is their opportunity to develop new knowledge and skills and to focus in-depth on an area of personal research interest. They also work more directly with academic staff and have the opportunity to become more familiar with established research projects. To date over 300 students have benefited from the Scheme, producing over 200 projects.

For the first time in the history of the Scheme, the 2021 URSS introduced a theme that projects had to align to; it was agreed that this would be ‘Sustainability’. There is a need for our students to not only develop knowledge and skills in research but to be encouraged to reflect on their own values surrounding sustainability. The SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) were a fantastic place to start in order to demonstrate the wide-ranging topics that could be covered when designing a research project. Luckily, we were able to gain extra funding from the University’s GCRF (Global Challenges Research Fund) which meant students could explore further through an international lens. The tagline for the scheme was ‘Imagination and Innovation: Research for a More Sustainable Future’ and the logo below was designed by one of our student Digital Media Producers:

A stlylised logo reading 'URSS Imagination and Innovation: Research for a More Sustainable Future'

Colleagues from the different College disciplines and Dr Chris Ribchester (Scheme Lead) did an amazing job at collating information on current and potential research activity related to sustainability and the SDGs. The aim was to inspire our students and provide supportive material on writing an application that would hopefully be approved for funding. To ensure all applications had thoroughly considered the theme within the context of their own research ideas, the application form required students to list the specific SDGs that would be covered in their project. We received some great proposals, including ‘Music as an enhancer of sustainability-related memory and behaviour’, ‘Tanzania’s policies and gender equity in education’ and ‘Climate change adaptation in West Africa’. It was evident that all our students had sincerely embraced the important topics surrounding sustainability and you can see this yourself in the brilliant posters they created on our URSS Padlet.

We opted for a hybrid conference at the end of the Scheme which allowed staff and students to join us in-person at Kedleston Road (OL1 Lecture Theatre) and remotely via Microsoft Teams. The conference coincided with the global COP26 summit in Glasgow. Utilising the technologies available to us in the lecture theatre and by carrying out several tests in advance, we successfully livestreamed the event with a mixture of in person and remote presentations. Online attendees could fully participate with the event ensuring an inclusive delegate experience for those who could not attend in person.

For the 2022 URSS Scheme, submissions will be aligned to the University’s six academic themes, including the theme of ‘Zero Carbon’. The experience of running a smaller but impactful scheme during the pandemic has fed into the planning for the URSS 2022 to ensure its continuation as a fundamental element of the academic and student experience at the University of Derby.

 Visit www.derby.ac.uk/urss to find out more.