By Professor Michael Ferenczi, Assistant Dean for Years 1 & 2 and Lead for Scholarly Project
The Foyer outside the Clinical Sciences Building Auditorium was abuzz with life and energy as LKCMedicine’s Year 4 students presented their Scholarly Project to the wider LKCMedicine community on 14 December. Presenting their work to their peers, faculty and staff, the students passionately spoke about their Scholarly Projects.
Last night’s event celebrated the first round of Scholarly Projects, a module which ended on 9 September. All students have successfully completed their 2,000-word scientific report. The average mark for the 53 students was an outstanding 88 per cent, which is well above the pass mark of 60 per cent, and comprises assessment for their performance during the project and for the quality of the write-up.
Students had been immersed, full-time, in their six-week projects which were categorised into four groups: ‘Laboratory and Translational Research’, ‘Medical Education’, ‘Medical Practice’ and ‘Medicine and Society’. It was with much satisfaction that I followed student progress and read the feedback which was collected at various stages. Supervisor feedback was also collected after the end of the project.
It is clear that students gained much from the experience and that immersion in a scholarly activity opened many students’ eyes to the world of research. Even the few students who expressed reservations about their projects found that the experience was useful in developing skills that may stand them in good stead, such as becoming adept at reading primary literature and acquiring the skills needed to write in the style of scientific papers.
Overall, 85 per cent of students reported that they enjoyed their project. Comments received include:
‘Clearer idea of what laboratory research entails’
‘Gives confidence to handle projects and do scientific write-ups. Good experience and exposure to the research process - planning, literature work, methods, presentations’
‘I have become more amenable to the idea of doing research in the future’
With regards to supervision, 96 per cent of students agreed (and none disagreed) with the statement: ’Has your research interaction with your supervisor helped you to learn how to do research, or become a better researcher?’
In addition, 93 per cent were satisfied with the way supervision was organised, with 95 per cent of students agreeing that their supervisors gave adequate and timely advice, and that help was available when needed. Comments about supervisors included:
‘Prof X's supervision in this project was invaluable in orienting me to the lab environment and allowed me to appreciate the nature of her team's research. She made herself available for regular meetings to check on progress and clarify any uncertainties or difficulties I encountered. Tremendously grateful for her guidance and support!!’
‘Prof Y was extremely helpful in the mentoring capacity, and was always willing to hold open discussions with me regarding the direction of my project. I also appreciated his readiness in discussing the finer details of the science behind our research.’
Supervisors also seem to have gained much from the experience. For many, it was the first time they came face-to-face with LKCMedicine undergraduate students. They have been very impressed by their ability, their capacity for hard work, their enthusiasm and their achievement for a project of such short duration.
Examples of their comments include:
‘My student was excellent and a gem to work with. She clearly outshines many of her peers in many ways. Great initiative, personality, and highly intelligent and very fast learner. She also writes very well and has the makings of a great researcher.’
‘It was really an enjoyable experience, especially when my student was enthusiastic, proactive and intellectually stimulating’
‘It was an enjoyable experience, particularly also because I had a delightful and hard-working student.’
‘Entirely enjoyable. Thank you for the opportunity to mentor them.’
‘Commitment from students far exceeded my expectations. Although I found the six-week time perhaps too short, I was amazed with how much was achieved. I believe my graduate student also learnt a lot from communicating with the Year 4 student. It was a breath of fresh air to have these two students in my lab. I will be inviting them both for an end-of-year lab lunch because they are part of our lab family.’
The Academic Affairs team did a tremendous job in getting all the processes in place – Ruth Choe, Tricia Tan and Chang Yang Yi in particular. I am also delighted that so many of our teachers and researchers stepped forward and offered projects. We are now receiving projects for the next cycle, which promises to be fantastic research opportunities.
While last night’s event marks the official end to the Scholarly Project for most students, some have decided to bring their work to a wider audience and will be presenting their data at international conferences. Some may even see the results of their work published in the scientific literature. For some, the Scholarly Project experience may have been their first step towards a life-long interest in research and scholarship. I certainly hope so.