CURIE 2020 achieves success amidst the pandemic

The Centre for Undergraduate Research Initiatives and Excellence (CURIE) prepares and provides undergraduates with awareness on how to solve research questions and problems that require interdisciplinary solutions through research collaborations and communications. It renders opportunities for students to receive funding for their research and to publish their work, whilst collaborating internationally.

Due to the pandemic, CURIE 2020 took on a whole new ballgame. The Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration (IRC), previously known as the Global Leadership and Advanced Research Program (GLARP), kicked off in June for a duration of three weeks. The program was conducted entirely online and focused on bridging the gap between students of different disciplines and areas at Monash University. Students worked collectively in interdisciplinary research teams to produce project proposals that would benefit individuals, communities or society at large.

Four students from the Jeffrey Cheah School of Medicine and Health Sciences, School of Science, School of Engineering and School of Information Technology participated in this year's IRC. They were separated into two groups and tasked to come up with beneficial research proposals. Both teams developed research proposals titled "App-Based Mindfulness and Environmental Intervention to Reduce Anxiety in Undergraduates" and "Converting Plastic to Electricity Using Microbial Plastic Degradation and Microbial Fuel Cells in Malaysia". The program provided these students with a platform to learn the various components of research proposals and how to present them to a multidisciplinary crowd.

The IRC masterclasses, on the other hand, exposes students to real-life experiences from pioneers of different fields. Professor Shelley Mallett hosted this year's masterclass. She shared her academic career and personal life experiences with the students. They, in turn, were allowed to ask her questions and clear their doubts about career advancements and personal life management during a Q&A session.

The second phase of CURIE 2020 was the International Conference of Undergraduate Research 2020 (ICUR 2020). The conference provided a platform for the undergraduates at Monash University in Australia and Malaysia to present their research at an international platform.

ICUR is jointly organised and supported by the Monash Warwick Alliance, connecting Monash students to prestigious universities from Singapore, the United States, Canada, Belgium, Spain, Slovenia, Sweden, France and the United Kingdom. This year, ICUR was conducted in a virtual conference centre via an ICUR mobile application, with all the participants engaging through a live chat function.

In preparing students for the conference, CURIE offered training and support for undergraduate researchers which included:

  1. Flex Your Abstract (an abstract writing session) – conducted in May 2020
  2. Compass (undergraduate research peer mentoring) - Semester 1 and 2 intakes
  3. CURIE Workshop (writing and presenting your research) - Semester 2
  4. Pre-conference practice sessions – conducted in August 2020

ICUR2020 was the most significant event in its eight-year history, attracting 544 presenters across 103 panels and over 2500 attendees. A total of 29 presenters from Monash University Malaysia participated in the conference, the largest number to ever participate in ICUR. For the first time, two Monash Malaysia students, Janith Jayasekare and Ghanaanjani Jugurnauth, were voted by the audience as top presenters.

"As CURIE's coordinator for 2020, I am proud to see how far the program has come and our achievements throughout the year speak for itself. There is an increased interest in research among our undergraduates. After coordinating CURIE 2020, I would like to provide the same opportunities to undergraduates from other universities which will foster networking and interdisciplinary research opportunities," stated Dr Sathiya Maran from the School of Pharmacy.