Showcasing Excellence in Students’ Research at Reading By Dr Anne Crook and Professor Julian Park

The T&L away day in September 2011 focused on the theme ‘Building an Undergraduate Research Community’. Arising from these discussions a group of staff met to investigate ways in which undergraduate research at Reading might be more effectively showcased across the institution (and beyond). The group has expanded since its conception in 2011 and now meets once a term, consisting variously of staff from across the Faculties, support services and RUSU and is co-chaired by Dr Anne Crook (CDoTL) and Professor Julian Park (Associate Dean T&L, Life Sciences). The remit of the group has also expanded to encompass both undergraduate and postgraduate research activities and aligns with one of the key strategic priorities in the new Learning and Teaching Strategy (2013-18), namely ‘to engage students in research and enquiry in the curriculum’.

The aim of this blog post is to update colleagues on the activities of the group and to seek your feedback on other ways in which we may showcase excellence in students’ research at Reading.

Members of the group are currently engaged in the following activities:

1.  Developing a framework for disseminating students’ research news, e.g. on a webpage of the University’s website

The outputs of student research (undergraduate and postgraduate) are sometimes published in academic journals and other publications. However at present there is no central ‘forum’ for communicating the high quality contribution that is made by some students through their research activities (within and extra curricula). The group felt that a more effective forum of communicating these contributions, and the experiences which the students gain by being involved in research, is required. The group are therefore currently working with the Communications Office to investigate ways in which high quality students’ research may be showcased, both internally and externally, taking into account the different audience that such a website may cater for (current/prospective students/alumni/research community etc.)

2.  Further investigation of the possibilities of publishing high quality Master Theses on CentAUR

The issue of Masters theses remaining largely ‘on the shelves’ after submission was considered and it was agreed that the highest quality dissertations could be an excellent research resource for other students (and staff). The possibility of theses being accessible once relevant permissions/copyright had been sought, e.g., in PDF format via CentAUR, is being pursued. It is worth noting that it is already possible to search for papers with an UG or PGT  author and this currently returns 40 papers.

3.  Support for and dissemination of students’ attendance at the 2013 British Conference on Undergraduate Research

The conference will take place in April at Plymouth University and a number of Reading students will be attending and presenting (at least 5), some of whom have been funded by members of the group. The group will be working with the Communications Office to ensure these students are showcased on the University website following their attendance at the conference.

4.  Financing a UROP in 2013 to focus on the impacts to students’ confidence in undertaking research placements.

This is being funded by the Science Faculties and is currently being advertised. The project will be supervised by Dr Gillian Rose in Agriculture.

5.  Liaising with the University Committee on Museums, Archives and Collections (CMAC) to establish the ways in which University resources held within its museums and collections are currently being used to support T&L.

6.  The Associate Deans for T&L within the group, Julian Park and Orla Kennedy, are taking forward discussions to establish the nature and extent to which students at Part 1 and Part 2 are undertaking research activities. 

7.  Liaising with RUSU regarding the possible involvement of the Students’ Union in supporting a University-level student-led conference to showcase excellence in student research activities, which could build on the existing annual UROP showcase event in the Autumn Term.

8.  Exploring opportunities with the Communications Office whereby the annual UROP showcase event could ‘dovetail’ with other events taking place on campus at that time to maximise the potential impact of the UROP event.

9.  Drafting an article for the Engage in T&L blog to solicit staff ideas for other ways in which we may showcase students’ research.

The group would welcome your feedback and suggestions on its work, in particular, additional ideas for ways in which we could be showcasing the excellent research activities that many of our UG and PG students undertake at Reading. Please send your suggestions to Anne Crook ( and Julian Park ( Thank you!

Rebuilding the ancient world, digitally by Dr Matthew Nicholls

I was glad to find out recently that I’m a Digital Hero. Though disappointed that the title does not appear to confer any super-powers, I’m glad that the University recognises the innovative work that many of us are doing in our different fields – Reading feels like a place that values digital innovation and encourages its staff to take the lead. Having had a lot of support from CDoTL’s Teaching and Learning Fellowship scheme and the Annual Fund I was very glad to come along to the recent Digitally Ready Day and explain to colleagues what I’ve been working on.

The Campus Martius, the area of flat land in the loop of the River Tiber. Prominent monuments here include the Theatre of Pompey and the Pantheon.

During my time in Reading I’ve been developing a huge digital architectural reconstruction model of ancient Rome. I use this a lot in research, in teaching, and in outreach talks. I’ve also licensed it to commercial broadcasters and am working with Typography and Systems Engineering to turn it into a smartphone app for tourists.

Theatre of Pompey - Julius Caesar's colleague and rival Pompey the Great built this spectacular theatre from the spoils of his campaigns in the east. Julius Caesar eventually met his fate in the meeting hall at the end of the portico.

Students react very well to digital visualisations – they help give a vivid, instant impression of life in the ancient city – and have played a part in its creation through UROP placements. Seeing students enthusiastically contribute digital content of their own encouraged me to build this into the formal curriculum, so I’ve offered optional digital modelling assignments in existing courses, with uniformly high standards in the work submitted so far. From next academic year I’ll be running a new module, ‘Digital Silchester’, in which students will collaborate on a reconstruction of our local Roman town.

The software needed to get started in this sort of work is reasonably easy to pick up (I taught myself to do it) and some of it is available free. Among other things I use a modelling package called SketchUp which you can download for nothing to try out: I am sure this sort of work could be used in all sorts of academic disciplines and student projects, and hope that others will be encouraged to give it a go.