This issue features papers from the First Australasian Conference of Undergraduate Research (ACUR) which was held at Macquarie University on 20th September 2012. The Conference was established to highlight the range of research work undertaken by undergraduates across Australia; to provide a forum for undergraduate researchers to present their work; to create a community of undergraduate researchers and to establish Macquarie University as a leader in encouraging undergraduate research. This issue presents just a few of the 130 presentations at the conference. It illustrates the variety of topics featured at that event and demonstrates the high quality of research being undertaken by undergraduates in Australia and New Zealand.
The articles in this issue have been through a very rigorous process of review. Firstly, submitted abstracts were blind reviewed by a subject expert and a generalist. Careful checks were then made to ensure students’ eligibility to present, for example, to ensure that they were indeed undergraduate students. Authors of abstracts accepted for presentation at the conference, either as a spoken presentation or a poster depending on the quality of the abstract, were then given the option of writing a full paper. Papers submitted were then blind reviewed by our panel of experts who indicated whether the paper was competitive enough to be considered for the prize and/or for publication in this journal. Finally, the Conference Steering Group ranked the papers that were considered competitive. That was still not the end of the process. The Steering group attended the presentations of the highest ranked papers to ensure they resulted in high quality presentations. Following the conference, further reviews and discussions took place to establish the best papers and these are presented here.
First prize of $1000 went to Emilie Wisniewski from the University of Melbourne for her paper “Sedimentation tank design for rural communities in the hilly regions of Nepal”. Her research addresses a pressing social problem: how to design a container for remote villages that collects dirty water and gets rid of impurities to make clear drinking water. The runner up, was Gurion Ang from the University of Queensland. His paper “Ménage à trois: The problem with three-way interactions involving predatory wasps” explained technical issues so clearly that when presented, generated many questions from the audience which he answered knowledgeably and with a dose of humour. Cabbage-white caterpillars are responsible for loss of crop yield in relation to cabbage-like plants. The wasps Gurion studied lay their eggs in such caterpillars, eventually killing them, so this research is important in understanding pest control. Also in this issue we see Kate Maguire-Rosier’s fascinating “Mediating Weeping Woman: A live/digital performance study” which moved members of the audience when presented at the conference. Maria Chan’s paper “All in a day's work: An exploratory study of workers' experiences of therapeutic intervention with suicidal clients and clients who went on to commit suicide.” Takes us into some difficult territory. Several, very diverse, papers explore important social and environmental issues. Phuong Dung Trieu, evaluates two different ways of detecting breast cancer in his paper “ The value of the cranial-caudal mammographic view in breast cancer detection: a preliminary study”. Peri Tobias’ paper explores how to overcome Myrtle Rust which is attacking native Australian trees , while first year student Dominic Smith, explores Australia’s Border Protection and Quarantine and Rayan Calimlim looks at homosexuality and Catholicism. We also have papers on the Vagina Monologues, on the Dead Sea Scrolls and on how root nodules take in nitrogen. All in all a fascinating issue.
The paper by Cory Bill from Macquarie University came third at the conference. This paper was published in the previous issue of Macquarie Matrix. He had a difficult job in his presentation to explain some fundamentals of English grammar to an audience of English speakers! Nevertheless, his presentation “’Her is going to bed now’: Investigating input-based explanations of why children produce non-nominative subjects” was engaging and informative.
While papers for this issue were chosen on the basis of the quality of the work, it is gratifying to see that a range of disciplines is represented also that the papers come from no less than eight Australian universities. This indicates the growing spread of undergraduate research across the system.
Commenting on the presentations at the conference, delegates indicated that they were astonished at the high quality of the research and the professional way students from universities across Australia and New Zealand presented it. Indeed, the conference is already being hailed as one of the highlights of the Australasian academic calendar. It is clear that the event 'touched a nerve' and is having an impact on the lives and careers of the students who took part. This issue of Macquarie Matrix furthers dissemination of the research presented at the conference in the wider academic community. Plans for a second Australasian Conference of Undergraduate Research in 2013 are now underway.
Learning and Teaching Centre, Macquarie University