In a “first" for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (FMHS), 16 undergraduate students presented their work at the International Conference for Undergraduate Research (ICUR) which ran from 29-30 September.
The presentations covered a wide array of subjects, which ranged from the status and quality of pre-hospital clinical guidance in Sub-Saharan Africa, to melanoma awareness in final-year medical students in South Africa, to snack foods displayed at retail checkout counters in Cape Town, and the use of web-based programmes in the teaching of anatomy.
Final-year medical student, Elizabeth Earl, did a presentation on the common mental health disorders in elderly people in a retirement home in Cape Town. Hanri Janse van Rensburg and co-presenters from the Division of Occupational Therapy spoke about their their study, which was aimed at determining the outcomes of student-led workplace-based OT rehabilitation among garment workers with work-related upper limb disorders. And, finally, Bianca Manley, a fifth-year medical student, presented a study on identifying factors associated with impairment and medical management in patients with chronic gout.
Stellenbosch University (SU) was invited to participate in the two-day conference, which takes place annually, and which showcases the top undergraduate research from around the world. Institutions from at least eight other countries, including the United States, Australia, Slovenia, the UK and Singapore, took part in the conference, which is organised by the Monash- Warwick Alliance between two top universities – Monash University in Australia and the University of Warwick in the UK.
The aim of the conference is to “challenge undergraduate students to rethink their work from an international and interdisciplinary perspective," reads the ICUR website.
“Students examine global, regional, and local trends in their research field, while identifying connections between disciplines. ICUR provides undergraduate researchers with a unique opportunity to present their research in real-time, video-linked sessions. Since it was established in 2013, more than 2000 students from eleven institutions have presented at ICUR, without having to leave their university."
Both audience and presenters joined the conference virtually through the new ICUR App, which enabled them to watch, participate, interact and ask questions without leaving home.
Sarah Jane van der Westhuizen, Manager of the Global Education Centre at SU, helped with the management of the conference along with Dr Debbie Marais, head of Undergraduate Research, in the Research Development and Support Division. Van der Westhuizen said the conference was “a great opportunity for the students to showcase the wonderful work they are doing.
“Debbie and I were very confident in terms of the academic quality of our students' presentations but, because it was our first time doing it online, it was quite nerve-wracking. However, everything went very well.
“Our students compared well with the presentations from the various institutions. They were so engaging and they were such good ambassadors for our university.
“Quite a few of our presentations were done in groups, which added different perspectives on specific topics. I was particularly impressed that our students did this at a time when they were busy with practicals and rotational work, so I really take my hat off to them."
Van der Westhuizen said the conference provided an excellent opportunity for students to engage with the university's international partners. “The institutions which took part are all highly ranked institutions. It provided good exposure for the students who do their research and, in many cases, do not necessarily think of the global impact of what they are doing. In presenting to an international conference, and seeing other students presenting on similar topics, they were able to see the global impact their research could have.
“They did a good job, and we are very proud of them."