The UA Blog

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Submit to the Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration!

Klaudia Wegschaider from the University of British Columbia was Highly Commended in 2015 for two papers:

The Wave Metaphor in Scholarly Democratization Discourse: An Argument for a More Diverse Set of Metaphors” in Language & Linguistics 

The Political Economy of Asylum: Conditions Affecting Labour Market Access for Asylum Seekers in Europe between 1990 and 2014″ in Politics & International Relations.

Now she’s Co-Editor-in-Chief at the Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration (OxMo) and wants to encourage anyone with an interest in migration to submit! 

“Since attending the UA Global Summit in Dublin in 2015, I completed the MSc in Migration Studies at the University of Oxford with distinction. In my master’s dissertation, I had the chance to delve into two topics very dear to me — migration and democracy. I explored how migration pulls at many of the assumptions at the heart of democracy and developed a framework for analysing the connection between immigrant and emigrant voting rights.

Klaudia (middle) at the UA Global Summit 2015.

However much I enjoyed my academic studies — and I easily drift off when talking about my research interest — I felt that in the field of migration, this was not the time to be sitting in libraries. So I decided to move to Germany and started working at the largest private non-profit foundation in the country. At first, I contributed to projects supporting local governments in designing welcoming and integration plans in light of the refugee migration. Some months later, I switched to working towards more policy coherence at the national and international level. I seek to contribute to a paradigm shift from seeing migration as a problem to realising its untapped potential.

Parallel to my full-time job, I volunteer as Co-Editor-in-Chief at the Oxford Monitor of Forced Migration (OxMo), a bi-annual, independent, academic journal that engages with issues of forced migration. I really enjoy working for OxMo, because it seeks to go beyond the world of academia by engaging in a global intellectual dialogue with students, practitioners in the field, NGOs, government representatives, general interest readers and individuals with experiences of forced migration.

If you have ideas and insights around forced migration, then I welcome you to submit your work to OxMo. The current call for submissions for our seventh volume is out until 2 April 2017. We accept academic articles as well as shorter and more informal pieces. If you have any questions, feel free to write to me at

And at last: I want to send heartfelt greetings to all participants of the UA summits, especially to those of the 2015 generation!”

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Cisse Nakeyar

Cisse Nakeyar from Western University in Canada was Highly Commended in the Psychology category in 2015 for his paper “Effects of Caffeine on Memory in Rats” and in 2016 for “Evidence Based Care for Iraqi, Kurdish, and Syrian Asylum Seekers and Refugees of the Syrian Civil War: A Systematic Review”
Let’s see how he’s been doing!

I am currently in my last year at Western University in London, Ontario, Canada and I am conducting my final thesis project.

Cisse and other attendees at Dublin Castle for the UA Global Summit 2015.

The project focuses on helping refugees with mental health problems and aims to ease their transition to Canada.  In recent years it has become apparent that adverse childhood experiences make an individual more susceptible to developing future psychopathologies, as such the focus of this research will be on children who have experienced childhood maltreatment. The goal is to look at childhood maltreatment and its accuracy in predicting the onset of posttraumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric disorders. To understand how childhood maltreatment can lead to future psychopathology onset we will be observing changes, if any, in development. This will be accomplished by evaluating children’s cognition and emotion regulation using neuropsychological tests.

Since being involved with the UA in 2015 I published a paper in Canadian Psychology, Canada’s premier psychology journal. The paper established psychological assessments and treatments that displayed cross-cultural validity so that psychologists and psychiatrists can select appropriate assessments and treatments when treating refugee populations.

As well, I had the opportunity to travel Europe, I started in Paris, then worked my way down to southern France and into Italy. From Italy I travelled to Germany and the gorgeous Bavarian alps. And, finally I finished my trip in the hot springs and lava lands of Iceland. Lastly, I started Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and kickboxing again, which are fantastic sports and martials arts (I consider them real arts too) that are a fun and exciting way to exercise – plus who doesn’t enjoy getting kicked in the face and choked out at the gym.

Jokes aside, I wanted to finish by saying the UA Global Summit was an experience of a life time. I have met brilliant students from across the globe, which I still keep in contact with to discuss school matters or just to catch up. The summit really helped inspire me to keep researching and working hard to achieve my goals, not to mention the opportunities that opened for being recognized in such a prestigious global competition. I was fortunate enough to be highly commended twice, its hard to say which year was best because the UA team does a great job of providing a unique experience each time. I hope the program keeps growing and that students keep submitting their amazing work!

Best wishes to all UA alumni and future alumni!”

Reflections on Architecture & Design – Barry Sheehan, DIT

We are delighted to introduce Architecture & Design as a brand new category to The Undergraduate Awards 2017!
To provide some context for this discipline, Barry Sheehan from DIT gives us an insight into the history of the subject in Ireland and the work of architects today.

Architecture is by nature cyclical. Thankfully in Ireland at present we are in an upcycle with increasing levels of activity in the construction industry. It is very disheartening to educate students who graduate with no possibility of employment in the country in which they studied. This is not the case now and architects are beginning to return to opportunities in Ireland.

Irish architects are recognised as being amongst the best in the world. Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects recently won the Royal Institute of British Architects International Prize for their Engineering University building in Lima, Peru and previously won World Building of the Year for the Bocconi University in Milan. Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey of O’Donnell + Tuomey won the Royal Institute of British Architects Annual Gold Medal in 2015 for their body of work. Both practices work extensively in the education sector and I am delighted that both practices are working on new projects on the campus in Grangegorman, where DIT are based.

Bocconi University

In the Irish architecture practices that are renowned worldwide, women play significant roles. In the case of the practices mentioned above, three of the four principals are women, as is the Dublin City architect, Ali Grehan. We have some way to go before there is gender balance throughout the profession but at least in the design led practices gender equality appears evident.

Sinéad McLoghlin at the UA Global Summit 2014


Architecture thrives on competitions, it is how most architects establish themselves in the profession. Winning is habit-forming and entering competitions as early as possible is essential. Most architecture students in Ireland enter the annual travelling scholarship competition which has been in existence since I was first in college. The number of competitions and awards has increased and I believe The Undergraduate Awards have become an essential competitive first step for students of all disciplines. Sinead McLoughlin won the design category in 2014. Sinead entered the Department of Education Graduate Training and Skills programme, which is another excellent way of starting a career. I am in no doubt that her success in The Undergraduate Awards would have helped in her application.

I was fortunate to read Sinead’s dissertation and was much struck by it. Her subject was complex but the writing was easily understandable. All professions have unique words that they use when talking amongst themselves as a kind of shorthand. What many architects fail to do is to stop using these coded words when talking to someone who is not immersed in the nuances of their profession. I sometimes wonder if they do this because they are unconfident in their arguments and hide behind obtuse language. The best architects are confident and can robustly discuss and debate their ideas. They do it naturally using simple language and the debate is all the better for it.

Barry Sheehan
Head of Design, Dublin School of Creative Arts, DIT


Where Are They Now Wednesday: Alex Loktionov on Egyptology & Donald Trump!

Alex Loktionov from the University of Cambridge was Highly Commended in 2014 in the Classical Studies category for his paper A cippus of “Horus on the crocodiles.”

Horus on the crocodiles

Since then he’s been working towards a PhD on Ancient Egyptian justice systems and has recently been appointed to a fellowship at the Library of Congress (LoC) to continue this work.

“In particular I’m looking at how court structure in Ancient Egypt evolved across the 2nd millennium BCE, primarily through the study of hieroglyphic tomb inscriptions and administrative documents.

Part of my remit as a fellow at the LoC is to promote the fellowship scheme, which is based at the LoC Kluge Center and aims to promote intellectual exchange in an international setting. You also get a generous salary (depends exactly on the fellowship type, but generally substantially better than PhD or Postdoc funding), unlimited use and borrowing rights at the world’s largest library, and obviously an opportunity to work, live, and socialise on and around Capitol Hill.

Here is the web link to the Kluge Center:

Alex has recently written an article for The Guardian entitled Ramesses II, victor of Kadesh: a kindred spirit of Trump? which has sparked some lively debate!

He writes that:

“The narrative designed for internal consumption was fiction moulded around a kernel of fact: the pharaoh was indeed cut off from his army, he did face a chariot onslaught while outnumbered, and he did inflict casualties. He lost, but so what? As politics continues to show, even dubious achievements can become triumphs after sufficient amplification and trumpeting.”

 He is also working on an LoC podcast about his Egyptology work so watch this space!

King Abdulaziz University honour the Lord Mayor of Dublin

King Abdulaziz University became a Partner Institution of The Undergraduate Awards in 2015 and since then they have had an active and enthusiastic involvement with the Programme.

The University, located in the city of Jeddah in west Saudi Arabia, was established in 1967 and has since grown dramatically with a faculty of over 2000 and more than 40,000 undergraduate students. KAU is known for its dedication to scientific and theoretical fields of study. It has evolved to become especially distinguished in the research fields of disciplines such as Seas Sciences, Geology, Nuclear Engineering, Medical Engineering, Meteorology and Aviation and Mineralization.

Dr. Hanni Choudhry and the Lord Mayor of Dublin Brendan Carr

The Makkah Royal Clock Tower

This year Dr. Hani Choudhry, an Assistant Professor of Medical and Cancer Genomics at the University, attended the UA Global Summit for the second year in a row. Dr. Choudhry brought a gift from Prof. Abdulrahman Obaid AI-Youbi, the President of the University, which was presented to the Lord Mayor of Dublin Brendan Carr at the Awards Ceremony in Dublin City Hall.

The sculpture is a model of the Makkah Royal Clock Tower, which has the world’s largest clock face and is the third tallest building in the world. It is located in Makkah next to the world’s largest mosque and Islam’s holiest place, the Masjid al-Haram. It was presented to Lord Mayor Brendan Carr as a symbol of thanks, respect and honour and as a gesture of appreciation for his honouring of the UA Highly Commended Entrants and Winners.

Two students from King Abdulaziz University were Africa and the Middle East Regional Winners in The Undergraduate Awards Programme 2016, Shaza Alsibaai in the Mathematics & Physics category and Shahad Al-Juhani in the Medical Sciences category. Miss. Al-Juhani also attended the UA Global Summit 2016 and said of her experience that:

“No words describe the feeling of being there. Every day I learnt new things from interacting with others. It is the best international meeting I have been to. I enjoyed every single day of it”

We hope that this partnership will continue to grow and  flourish.

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Jenny Murphy’s PhD Research!

Got 5 minutes to spare? Help Jenny with her research!

Jenny Murphy from City, University of London was Highly Commended in 2014 in the Psychology category! Help her with her PhD by completing the short survey below!

“I finished my undergraduate degree I am now in my second year of a 1+3 studentship at King’s College, London funded by the ESRC. My PhD focuses on how well we can perceive the internal states of our body and how this bodily awareness contributes to social cognition.

My current focus is on developing reliable tools to measure bodily awareness that can be used to understand the relationship between impaired interoceptive awareness and disorders of social cognition.

We are currently developing a questionnaire measure of bodily awareness. If you would like to help us by taking part in this 5 minute online survey please visit:

New Partnership: The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

The Undergraduate Awards is delighted to announce a new partnership with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. UT is the now the eighth UA Partner institution, joining the University of California, Berkeley; Western University (Ontario); the University of St. Andrews; King Abdulaziz University; Dublin Institute of Technology; Uversity; and Dublin City University.

Founded in 1794, UT is the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee System and the state’s land-grant institution. More than 28,000 students from around the world call Rocky Top home. The university’s 11 academic colleges provide more than 300 degree programs representing a wide range of teaching and learning opportunities.

Programs in business, engineering, law, and the arts rank UT in the top 10 nationally among all public universities. UT’s unique partnership with the US Department of Energy and nearby Oak Ridge National Laboratory addresses critical issues in energy, transportation, climate, and the environment.

Nestled along the Tennessee River in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, the university’s 600-acre campus is adjacent to downtown Knoxville.

Previously an Affiliate of The Undergraduate Awards, UT has increased its commitment to help us recognize and celebrate the top undergraduate researchers worldwide. The Undergraduate Awards is excited to have this opportunity to communicate the UT mission and energy with our network.

In past years, UT students have enjoyed success in the Programme. In 2016, Duncan Cordry was Highly Commended in the Philosophy category for his paper “A Defense of the Timing Objection to Substance Causation.”

In 2015, Christopher Reese was Highly Commended in the Classical Studies & Archaeology category for his paper “Brave (Old) New World: Propaganda and Information Flow in Pre-Hispanic Andean States.” Caroline Darlington was also Highly Commended in the Nursing & Midwifery category for her work “HIV-related Stigma Among Women in Southern Appalachia: A Literature Review.”

To enhance the partnership between UT and The Undergraduate Awards, UT’s Vice Chancellor for Research and Engagement Taylor Eighmy will sit on the UA Academic Advisory Board. Eighmy, a National Academy of Inventors Fellow, is a champion of undergraduate research and attended the UA Global Summit in 2016 to share this passion with 150 attendees, who represented a diverse range of backgrounds and disciplines.

We hope the relationship between The Undergraduate Awards and UT will continue to develop and flourish through this new collaboration.

(Duncan Cordry received his certificate at the UA Global Summit 2016 in Dublin)

(Taylor Eighmy, UTK speaking to attendees at UCollaborate at the UA Global Summit 2016) 

Where Are The Now Wednesday: Elena Butti

Elena Butti from Utrecht University was the Global Winner of the Law category in 2014 for her paper Children’s Rites: Examining the Role of Local Justice in the Ugandan Transitional Justice Process through a Child Rights Approach.

She’s been involved in some inspiring work since then!

Elena Butti receives her medal at the UA Global Summit 2014.

Elena is currently undertaking a PhD at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies of the University of Oxford. Her research, supported by the Economic and Social Research Council, investigates the experiences of conflict-affected children and adolescents in the transitional justice and peacebuilding process in Colombia.

Her multidisciplinary research combines legal analysis with ethnographic methods, including participatory techniques for research with children. A product of her long-term fieldwork in conflict-affected settings in urban and rural Colombia is the participatory documentary ‘Somos’ where a group of youths share their life stories and views about peace. You can find the trailer below.

In Colombia, Elena has also collaborated with the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with a view to making her research directly relevant to policy in the crucial transitional moment the country is undergoing. She has also occasionally acted as a visiting lecturer on transitional justice at the Law Faculties of the National University and the Rosario University in Bogotá.

At Oxford, Elena is co-founder of the Oxford Children’s Rights Network, member of the Oxford Transitional Justice Research group and of the Oxford Network of Peace Studies, and editor for the Journal of the Oxford Centre for Socio-Legal Studies.

Prior to coming to Oxford, Elena graduated as Class Valedictorian from University College Utrecht (the Netherlands), where she completed summa cum laude a combined Hons BA in Law and Anthropology, with a minor in Research Methods and Statistics. She was also a visiting student at SciencesPo Paris (France), specialising in international law and conflict studies.

During her undergraduate studies, Elena also worked as a research intern at the Utrecht University School of Human Rights Research and at the Barcelona University Peace Studies Centre. She has also volunteered in several countries in Africa, the Middle East and Europe in the areas of sustainable development, peacebuilding and child education.

The Chemical & Pharmaceutical Sciences Category

This category was established in 2014 to celebrate the excellent undergraduate research being carried out in these fields.

In the three since then years more than 350 research papers and peer reviews have been submitted to this category.

Spanning from quantum chemistry to drug development this category covers all aspect of physical, organic, and inorganic chemistry as well pharmaceutical sciences.

In 2016 the Global Winner in this category was David Evans from University of Southampton with his paper entitled Exploring organoboron catalysis in the N-formylation of amines and development of a one-pot pathway to access isonitriles”.

David is now undertaking a PhD in chemistry.

Previous winning papers have included research exploring carbine – carbene synergistic systems as carried out by Ying Kai Loh of Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, and the development of a Probe for Hydrogen Sulfide Sensing by Helen Farrants of University of Edinburgh.

David Evans, Global Winner 2016

Owen Priest facilitating a breakout session at the UA Global Summit 2016

We are looking forward to seeing the incoming submissions to the Chemical & Pharmaceutical Sciences category and seeing the cutting edge research that is done at the undergraduate level.

We are delighted to have Prof Owen Priest from Northwestern University as the Judging Chairperson of this category.

If you would like to find out how to submit click here.

Where Are They Now Wednesday: Sam Ross

Sam Ross from the University of Leeds was Highly Commended in 2015 in the Life Sciences for his paper: Shifting Paradigms in Ecological Network Theory: Understanding Network Stability and Complexity

He was also Highly Commended in 2016 for another paper entitled The Ecological Consequences of Incorporating Intraspecific Trait Variation into indices of Functional Diversity.

Here’s his update!

“Hey all,

I’m Sam Ross and I was Highly Commended in the Life Sciences category at The Undergraduate Awards in 2015 for my paper on the future of ecological network science, and again in 2016 for my paper on the importance of individual variation when measuring biodiversity.

Sadly, I wasn’t able to attend either year due to being away for fieldwork, but I’m still pleased to be a part of the UA Network. Since my nominations, I have finished my Master’s degree in Ecology at the University of Leeds, UK, and have moved to Okinawa, Japan, to work as a visiting research intern at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology.

My work now involves bioacoustic monitoring of biodiversity (mainly birds) across Okinawa using sound recorders at 24 field sites along an urban-rural gradient. I’m mainly interested in the factors that influence the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem health, particularly in the light of anthropogenic pressures such as urbanisation and climate change. To this end, I’m looking forward to hopefully starting my PhD this coming October at Trinity College Dublin.

In my spare time, I’ve been making the most of Okinawa’s location by exploring Asia a little. So far, I’ve been to several cities on the Japanese mainland, and to South Korea and Taiwan. I’m heading back to the UK in April, and will use my spare six months to tie up any outstanding research projects, maybe try to hone my (very) amateur DJ ‘skills,’ and just generally take it a bit slower before the madness that will no doubt be my PhD.

I’m always looking for collaborators from around the world, so if anyone is working on anything that fits my interests please give me a shout. Chances are I’d love to get involved!

All the best, and hopefully I’ll see some of you around Dublin soon.


Where Are They Now Wednesday: Donna-Marie Mc Namara

Donna-Marie McNamara from DCU was Highly Commended in 2013 in the Law category for her paper ‘The Buck Stops Here’ – The Call for Legislation Concerning Assisted Human Reproduction in 21st Century Ireland”  She’s been extremely busy since then!

“Hi everyone,

I am very grateful and privileged to have been Highly Commended in the Undergraduate Awards. While writing my paper on Assisted Human Reproduction, I came to realise that a career in research would be the perfect fit for me. I received a scholarship to study an LLM in Health and Care Law in University College Cork, where I became interested in international law and the rights of people with disabilities. It was during this year that I knew pursuing a PhD was the right career decision for me, as I wanted to continue researching and learning about human rights law.

I was very lucky to receive a scholarship to carry out a PhD in Dublin City University in 2014, under the supervision of Dr Aisling de Paor and Dr Yvonne Daly. My research explores the rights of people with disabilities who come into contact with the criminal justice system as suspects of crime. I am particularly interested in how the police respond to suspects with disabilities, and the supports available for suspects in the pre-trial process. As part of my work, I spent some time at the Burton Blatt Institute in Syracuse, New York in 2016, working with Dr Peter Blanck, who is an internationally renowned leader in the field of disability human rights law. During this trip, I got to visit a sheriff’s office and speak to the officers about the differences between criminal justice in Ireland and the States. Without a doubt, my time at the Burton Blatt Institute and working with everyone there has been the highlight of my research career to date!

Once I finish my PhD, I hope to continue research and teaching. I chose to study at DCU because of the teaching opportunities and over the last three years I have tutored criminal law and have lectured legal research methods and administrative law. This has been a fantastic experience for me to develop my own skills as an educator. I also work with the Student Learning and Development Office in the university for a few hours every week. This is a great way of getting to know the students and helping them with their problems. DCU is like my second home at this stage!”

DCU Hosts New Event to Celebrate Undergraduate Research

On the 2nd of February 2017, students and recent graduates from all over the Island of Ireland gathered in The Helix in DCU for the inaugural UPresent: Island of Ireland.

At this event, all Highly Commended Entrants and Winners in the 2016 Programme from the Island of Ireland, were invited to present their papers and to officially receive their certificates.

Susanne Wawra presents her project “Memento” – A Series of Mixed Media Paintings

Each of these attendees placed in the top 10% of their field globally in 2016 and The Undergraduate Awards wanted to provide an opportunity for them to share their research and celebrate this achievement with their friends and family.

Over the course of the day, the audience were treated to presentations on a diverse array of subjects and fields. Mahmoud Abukhadir from National University of Ireland Galway put forth a passionate case for the establishment of a international patent law, while Sayed Saeed from Dublin Institute of Technology walked us through his ingenious plan for reconstructing the Walkinstown Roundabout.

Shane Fagan from Crawford College of Art & Design presented his work The New 
, in which antlers, a symbol for masculinity, were shown to be changing and taking new forms. Another artist, Susanne Wawra from the National College of Art & Design, explained how her work was influenced by the desire to hold on to memories from her childhood in East Berlin. Cathal McDaid from Ulster University capped off the presentations with his fascinating discussion on Percy Shelley’s poetic attack on the hypocrisy and authoritarianism of the time.

Rachel Hanley from DCU, Highly Commended in Medical Sciences

Two Highly Commended Entrants from the host institution, DCU, also presented their work. Rachel Hanley, from the category of Medical Sciences, explained her thesis project on Cancer cell staining, which helps to detect cancer cells from healthy cells in the body.

Columb Doherty, whose paper was ranked the highest from the Island of Ireland in the Mathematics & Physics category, gave an accessible explanation of his complex work on the Kinetic Energy Ion Distribution of a Laser Generated Plasma. Columb even managed to teach us that the Statue of Liberty was not always green! Denah Fitzharris from DCU, who was Highly Commended in the History category, also attended the ceremony to receive her certificate

Panel on UA Adjudication

Following the presentations, four UA judges Dr. David Irwin (Institute of Technology, Tallaght), Prof. Mary Mc Colgan (Ulster University), Dr. Mary Kelly (DCU) & Dr. Kenneth McDonagh (DCU)  participated in a panel discussion to give the attendees an insight into the adjudication process through which they were selected.

Dr. Ken McDonagh Department of Law & Government, DCU

Each of the judges mentioned the high-quality of the submissions they received.

Dr. McDonagh remarked that “I was very impressed by the standard of submissions the first year that I participated, and so I was eager to do it again the next year.”

Dr. Irwin told the audience that “One thing that struck me about the essays was the breath of knowledge and the discipline of structure…I don’t like to use the word brilliant, but they truly were brilliant. Once we were down to the last ten we were wondering how we could separate perfection from perfection”

The final speech of the day was given over to Prof. Ellen Hazelkorn, an Advisor to the Higher Education Authority (HEA) and a Director of the Higher Education Policy Research Unit (HEPRU). Prof. Hazelkorn spoke on the topic of The Role of Higher Education in the Age of Populism. Prof. Hazelkorn discussed the challenges facing Global Higher Education in the current political climate. She explained that “Colleges that have prided themselves on working across borders and between cultures now find themselves dealing with governments which have campaigned to keep out foreigners.” She concluded her speech, and the day as a whole, with the argument that “There is a responsibility on Higher Education to use all its resources, human and capital, to re-articulate its commitment to the public good and reach beyond its campus.”

DCU has been a Partner Institution of The Undergraduate Awards since February 2016, and has had a long and active relationship with the programme. The UPresent day during the UA Global Summit 2015 was held in The Helix, and we were delighted to be able to return to the venue for this event. During his opening remarks, Trevor Holmes, Vice President for External and Strategic Affairs DCU, remarked that he was delighted to welcome top undergraduates to the university, which has had a busy few years, having grown to now encompass three educational campuses, making it Ireland’s fastest growing university.

If you are interested in submitting to The Undergraduate Awards the 2017 Programme is now open. 

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