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Preview: The URSS Blog

The URSS Blog

To support students engaged in the Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme


Activity : You and Your URSS project by Christine Smith
Hello Everyone The participants were split into groups of 5/6 and the following questions were asked ·        What am I looking forward to about participating in URSS ·        What am I hoping to achieve through my URSS project ·        Why did my URSS project interest me ·        What new skills am I hoping to develop through my project ·        What contribution to knowledge could my URSS project make The collated results are below - please note I strongly encourage you to spend a couple of minutes thinking about your answers to the above questions as you only had chance to think about 1 question on the day! Apologies if I've mixed up the answers as not all the flipcharts were labelled - my fault I should have said! What am I looking forward to about participating in URSS ·        Insight on research ·        Active in real research ·        Creating a network in the academic field ·        Gaining experience ·        Knowledge of area of research ·        Staying at University ·        Working with colleagues and experts ·        Cool Toys ·        Getting paid ·        Enhanced CV ·        Kudos ·        Not a ‘McJob’ ·        Investigating my career ·        Seeing places I’ve not been to before ·        Doing something different ·        Adding to prior knowledge ·        Publication ·        Opportunities not available for Undergrads ·        Working with dangerous chemical What am I hoping to achieve through my URSS project? ·        Improve my skills and knowledge base ·        Specialise in something interesting ·        More informed career choices ·        CV (enhancement) ·        Networking ·        Something to talk about at job interviews ·        Travelling ·        Realistic research environment ·        Work with different cultures ·        Familiarise myself with my department ·        Gain research experience ·        Study a subject I haven’t encountered before ·        Produce a piece of work worthy of publication ·        Warwick Skill Certificate ·        Teamwork skills What new skills am I hoping to develop through my URSS project? ·        Time Management ·        Planning / Organisation skills ·        Researching skills (archives and interviews) ·    &[...]

My First Entry by

I just came back from the 2nd URSS Briefing. It was extremely useful and I am now set in direction as to what I intend to report on and draw up for my upcoming poster.

I will be involved in the 2nd Islamic Conference to develop an Islamic law curicullum on the 3rd and 4th of July.

On the 5th I shall start my first session with Warwick Skills – ‘Research Skills’

Photos from first briefing by

Hi everyone!

Nice to meet you all at the briefing meeting last week. I’ve put the photos up from the event – they’re in the gallery called ‘URSS Briefing meeting 11th March 2008’ accessible in the links on the left hand side of the page.

Feel free to post any updates on what you’re doing in your projects if you’ve started, and add any photos etc that you’re taking.

See you soon,


Welcome to URSS 2008! by

Hello everyone!

Welcome to the URSS scheme for 2008. You can use this blog to post your thoughts, reflections, news, or general updates about your research projects. Feel free to post photos, extracts of data, or general ramblings here – whatever you want!

I look forward to keeping updated with how you’re all getting on!


PEBBLE is Alive! by

In other news, we may have spent a while filling a whiteboard with text, but the project now works! We can generate one million double beta decay events, complete with energies and angular distributions, in a little over a minute (on a 1.86GHz processor).

Today we’re going to tidy the code up a bit and complete all the documentation, then we can turn it into a library and interface with other peoples code, such as the CERN GEANT4 package, which will allow us to track the motion of the particles our program generates, as they pass through various detector materials.

Procrastination in the Morning: Repressed Memories by
Last week the project was not going so well. We (Sam Smith and I) spent a long time waiting for the computers to do things (compiling, running, debugging) and we had to think about how we could fix the problems we were having. In the time this took, we achieved the masterpiece of "stream of consciousness" art which you see below. WARNING: NONSENSE FOLLOWS Transcript: We should try and cover the board in text - Samuel Smith, August 16th, 2007 (A Thursday, would you believe it?) Is this a dagger I see before me? No, it's a list of compiler errors as long as your arm, with your other arm cut off and attached to the end of it, and your legs cut off and attached in a similar manner. Then, of course, once the compiler errors are all distant, fond memories, you have the fun of dealing with linker errors, commonly held to be far superior in terms of the excitement and satisfaction which can be felt when one terminates such an error. And even then you're not home free. The runtime errors ride in force tonight, the ringwraiths iron clad. To code, or not to code. That is the question. Although it isn't written like one. One what? See that was written as a question. Do you have any idea as to the philosophical implications of the word "that"? That was a question as well. What's worse is asking yourself questions on a whiteboard. Fathom this one: how can a bodyless actor, in a conversation written by an external scribe have an idea about both the philosophical implications of the word "that", and the world as a "whiteboard", or, furthermore, their situation during this conversation about knowing what a bodyless actor can know about both the philosophical implications... I'm going to stop you there, you were getting recursive and that could lead to some serious stack issues. Of course, when one considers the futility of discussing such matters with a whiteboard, it should now be obvious to all but the most clueless observer that we are totally, completely and inescapably stuck, and should probably be thinking seriously about the ways in which we can dissolve the ... ... metaphorical glue which binds us into this state of helplessness and repeated writing on a whiteboard with no consciousness. That said, writing on a whiteboard which did possess the basic characteristics of sentient life would be a rather disturbing activity indeed. Imagine, if you will, a whiteboard that exclaimed "that tickles" every time you wrote on it. Well the whiteboard equivalent of " shock" would be drawing a set of axes, in an arbitrary coordinate system. Is it raining? Is it snowing? Is there any way of knowing? etc. etc. Something about the danger growing and the rowers rowing... and the whiteboard by now would have collapsed into a laughing fit, considering how much we have tickled it in the past moments. Imagine, for a brief moment, a probability distribution function. A Gaussian will do, for now, but something like (T1 + 1)2 (T0 - T1 + 1)2 would also be a good example. Now, try to climb it. That's right, like a mountain, or a particularly probabilistic boulder! That should give you a basic idea of how my dreams have been for the past three nights. If you think that is disturbing, try experiencing it first-hand! Consider, instead, a quantum mechanical whiteboard. Markings could exist only in discrete levels, much like the lines of text on this board. Furthermore, and without doubt a less obvious phenomenon, the interaction between a pure whiteboard state |WB>, and a pure marker state |M> would almost inevitably result in some kind of mixed state, probably with loss of quantum information (although perhaps such a result would be after application of the Eraser operator, such that, given a state , application of the Eraser operator in the form = . An intriguing prospect). Even more disturbin[...]

Nearing the End by

Max’s saturation of the URSS blog has made me feel slightly inadequate, which has prompted me to write a follow up as to where we are in our research. We have finished the first stage (analysing the conceptions of higher education in Britain and Germany), read the biennial Bologna documents and are trying to see to what extent the first has influenced the second. We have written reports and an annotated bibliography for the first stage, so at least we have something to show for our research, and seem to be on track. However, I believe the next stage will be difficult insofar as it will be impossible to conclusively say from where, for instance, the focus on quality assurance comes from.

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve also managed to go to the British library, which was probably more fruitful for Max, record a podcast in the RAW studio and get a decent overview of our project so far with meetings with our supervisor and discussions about our relative findings.

However, we do not have long left so hopefully we can find a conclusion of some sort that is worthy of being put on a poster.

Dan Davies

A wasted day by

Personal Problems were a great hindereance to my output today. Luckily I was able to finish some rough sketch for the Podcast tomorrow and to finish my URSS student profile, but that was about it. I really need to find some track to get into make this last part of the research a success. Hopefully recording the Podcast tomorrow will be a beginning, because it may help to reflect on the work we have done already in a new and creative way.
In my URSS student profile I ended up writing far more than I originally expected, probably this only makes the point that we have already done a fair bit of work over the past weeks. The question to what I consider to do now after the URSS project first seemed a little odd, because I have two more years to study for. Nevertheless, I followed the input and booked an appointment with the careers service for tomorrow, to discuss how I can prepare myself for the search that is inevitably coming up. In many senses URSS was an eye opener in this regards, because beforehand I failed to appreciate how difficult research actually is and what kind of self-discipline it requires. On the other hand, it seems like I have two more years to catch up on both: Academic excellence and self discipline.

2nd day by

I don’t know if it was related to the horrible weather today, but nobody in the lab was in the mood to work! Imonge went home at half 3 because she couldn’t be bothered to work any more, citing the reason that her ‘incubation would take too long’ and she’d miss the bus if she started it. Oh well!

Anyway, it seems the wet labs at Warwick come in useful! They were very handy today while I was making my media for my plants. I had to make agar plates with gentamycin for my transgenic plants to grow on. I also had to sterilise all those seeds I prepared yesterday and finished off this morning. I haven’t quite finished off the sterilisation, as there were a lot of seeds and the technique takes about 15minutes for each seed line, and I have about 40! So do the maths :p

So tomorrow I expect to finish off the sterilisation and start culturing some nice fungus in petri dishes!

Starting the final lap by

The trip to London was definatly a right decision. Even though the British Library was less helpful than we originally expected, mainly because Dan did not get a reading pass; so for everyone who intends to go: Do not forget your ID and prove of residency and a separate confirmed card with your signature. Nevertheless, it was still a very nice day out in London, which we used to visit the British Museum and the National Portrait gallery (Dan saw it on his own).
Working in the British Library was great, despite the fact that it is even harsher than our library in Warwick, was great. In comparision I would even argue that Warwick University Library is a liberal paradise; in the BL you are for example only allowed to use pencils, not speaking about any form of drinks. The social science reading room, in which I worked, is an experience in itself, but I also found some interesting information for our research. Most importantly, that the Bologna-Process has its origins in the early 1990s, when the Commission published a paper that aimed at the economic importance of higher education in Europe. I became aware of this through a very interesting article by Tomusk, who has written quite extensively on the Bologna process, but to whose work I had no access before I went to the British Library. He also had some things to say about Warwick, which I am not going to quote, because we are thinking of using his quotes in our poster presentation.
After this day out, we did some proper work today, discussung our work done in phase 1 and 2, with our supervisor Ben. I think he was quite happy with what we have done so far, however, now the difficult part arises, finding some coherent themes between Dan’s and my work.
Additionally, we are planning to publish a potcast or a vidcast on our research for which we practice in the RAW rooms today. Thursday will be the date when we will hopefully record it. First, we will have to write something like a script, though; I am very much looking forward to it.