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Publication - Professor Zafar Bashir

    Engaging the public with final year undergraduate projects

    Citation

    Cox, E, Evans, P, Davies, D, Bashir, Z & Fitzjohn, S, 2017, ‘Engaging the public with final year undergraduate projects’.

    Abstract

    Public engagement with science (PES) activities are now an integral part of university activities and can provide opportunities for developing student skills that will be applicable for a variety of future careers. In the current academic year, we have trialled a new format of final year projects to Neuroscience and Physiological Science BSc students at the University of Bristol. The projects were offered by pairs of research-active and teaching-focussed academics, and one such project on the topic of memory engrams was chosen and undertaken by two neuroscience students.

    Early on in their projects, students produced a literature review that focussed primarily on the science of memory engrams and introduced the idea of public engagement. The second part of the project was a student-led hypothesis-driven research project to develop, deliver and evaluate a PES activity. The students developed an animation (viewable at http://goo.gl/VGHj4y) that was presented to participants after a brief introduction on what the project was about. These were adults accompanying UCAS offer-holders attending a BSc Neuroscience visit day. Participants also completed a questionnaire assessing understanding and opinions of the research before and after watching the animation. The project was then written up as a final dissertation including a more detailed review of the PES literature and analysis and discussion of the collected data.

    The animation was well received by the participants and understanding of the research topic was increased following viewing the animation. They were positive about the research that was discussed in the animation and found the resource helpful and interesting.

    This type of project provides new opportunities for students to develop both scientific and transferable knowledge and skills, and for both staff and students to engage the public with science. This type of project also satisfies the QAA Subject Benchmark for Biomedical Science degrees to include development hypothesis-driven research skills and offers a novel way of addressing pressure on staff to provide laboratory projects. We are currently evaluating this project format with the aim of expanding its use in future years.

    Full details in the University publications repository