The inaugural Durham Science Faculty “Rising Stars” symposium was held on the afternoon of June 21. The event was intended to showcase the best undergraduate research projects across our Departments – although for our first attempt, we also included some postgraduate presentations.
Durham prides itself in not just its research but also its research-led teaching. Our students learn how to question, how to think and how to solve problems. Many of our undergraduate courses in the science faculty end with a capstone research dissertation, working with one or more supervisors on real problems, collecting and analysing data. Many of these research projects lead to publications and many of the young researchers go on to research careers. Some of the projects have practical applications – indeed many are designed in association with industrial partners. Others may not seem to have an obvious practical application, they are curiosity-driven science, but they contribute to the fundamental platform of knowledge and discovery that underpins all of our scientific endeavours. Regardless of the type of science, the size of the project or the nature of discovery, it is important to communicate our findings widely and effectively.
Fourteen presentations were delivered over the afternoon and were a credit to their respective Departments, reassuring us that the future of scientific thinking and discovery is in good hands for the next generation. At a reception following the event all speakers were recognised for their achievement with a small award presented by Vice Chancellor Professor Chris Higgins. The overall “best presentation” was judged to be that of Ian Smears from the Department of Mathematical Sciences. Ian was presented with two signed science books authored by our Chancellor Bill Bryson.
Following feedback from the symposium we plan to hold the event annually, include poster presentations, and focus on the communication of the research by awarding the “Bill Bryson Science Communication Prize”.