Posters in Parliament 2017: Part of the British Conference of Undergraduate Research.
Hosted by University College London.
Angelica Hill, 3rd Year English and Drama Student
On Tuesday 14th March Queen Mary’s University took two students to the fifth annual “Posters in Parliament” event at the Houses of Parliament. Sam represented undergraduate work in Physics, and I was there for the School of English and Drama. Fifty-two undergraduate students from twenty-seven Universities across the country presented and discussed their research with fellow undergraduates, lecturers, academics, and a few MPs, including Hilary Benn, Ben Bradshaw and Caroline Lucas. Students had a rare opportunity to look around the House of Commons and sit in on some of the sessions being held; whilst MPs, legislators and policy makers got to see first-hand some of the innovative research taking place around the country. It give us a platform to present our work to those who could potentially be making decision around the research in the future.
It was a wonderful day of intellectual stimulation, in an environment palpably buzzing with enthusiasm and excitement. It was great to find out what my fellow undergraduates in this country are working on, as well as allowing me to learn more about areas that I might otherwise have never got the opportunity to engage with, such as nanotechnology, macroeconomics, 17th Century female medical practitioners, and other interesting and obscure areas of research.
We began the day in Parliament Square, meeting by the statue of Mahatma Gandhi (2015), before going through security and entering the beautiful House of Commons. Surrounded by fellow students, school parties, tourists, a few recognizable BBC reporters, and a UKIP MP, we wandered around the building taking in the history and grandeur. My presentation was partly on King Henry VI, who held 23 parliaments in this building six hundred years ago, which gave a sense of moment to the occasion for me. Sam and I got to sit in on a parliamentary hearing about the state of buses in England and whether there should be a reduction, or increase in funding towards the expansion of the bus networks across England before lunch
Sam presented his research on how gravitational dynamical processes, including the effect of the moon Prometheus, as well as, impacts from nearby objects, can determine the structure and behaviour of the F ring of Saturn, in the first presentation session. The poster included beautiful imagery of Saturn’s rings.
This section lasted about an hour before there was a change over to the second presentation session, in which I was presenting my research. I had never presented in this format before, standing beside a poster outlining my work, and did not get much guidance as to how best to present the work, however it seemed the best thing to do was to create a poster which drew people towards you, outline the key points of your arguments, and then once they had looked over the poster to speak to them about your work and outline the key arguments and facts in more depth verbally, as opposed to through a text-heavy poster.
My research is drawn from my third year dissertation work on the denigration of “others” in comparison to the image of the English male and “Englishness” in Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy, exploring concepts of the Self and the Other and relating the world of Henry VI to the world in which we currently live. It was nice to bring Henry VI back to Westminster today. This poster presentation format gave me quite a nice relaxed format in which to discuss my work. Although, I think I prefer verbal, paper presentations to an audience as then everyone gets a chance to hear everyone else’s ideas.
Following this section there was a short break, in which we chatted amongst ourselves, whilst the judging panel conferred. This was comprised of Naomi Saint, the Univesrities Programme Manager at Parliament, Diana Beech from the Higher Education Policy Institute, and Professors Dilly Fung and Stuart Hampton-Reeves from UCL and UCLan. Prizes went to research into: the ‘informal economy and migrant communities’ (Nottingham Trent University), ‘the role of art in mental health recovery’ (Hull College Group),’aortic stiffness due to increased pulsatility in cerebral arteries’ (University of Exeter) and ‘the stakeholder experiences of pharmacists in GP clinics’ (University of Reading). Unfortunately, Queen Mary’s did not come away with any prizes, however the experience of being able to present my work was invaluable and great practice for the British Undergraduate Conference both myself and Sam, as well as about 38 other QM students who will be there in Brighton for this event at the end of April.
Attending Posters in Parliament was beneficial in three key ways: firstly, it was great practice presenting and discussing my research with fellow scholars who could identify and question gaps in my research, and suggest theorists and texts I could explore to broaden and deepen my research; secondly, it was a great opportunity to meet with fellow scholars and hear about other sections of research which I would otherwise not have had the opportunity to hear about; and thirdly, it is was a great opportunity to meet policy-makers and see the every-day running of the Houses of Parliament, and get some sense that our undergraduate work is noticed by and matters to people who are running the country.
It was an honour to represent Queen Mary’s School of English and Drama at this event, which has an open application policy. My thanks to Julian Ingle in the Learning Development Team, Jerry Brotton in English and Pen Woods in Drama for their help with this work. I would strongly encourage all students to look into and apply to this event next year as you meet some wonderful people, learn new things, as well as developing the skill of communicating your research to an array of different people, from varying backgrounds, and experiencing the joy of sharing your research with others – as well as the free food.