The UA Blog

Tips for 2016 UA Submissions

We’ve already given you the tips from our alumni about how to finalise your UA submissions. Now we’re going to give you a few pointers from the UA team!

  1. Remember you can submit up to three papers – Many people will have one paper that they think is the best work they’ve produced, particularly if they have just finished a final year project. That’s wonderful and we always encourage you to submit the work you’re proud of but why not take advantage of being able to submit three papers? All it can do is increase your chances.
  2. Recommend UA to a friend – If you’re not submitting to the same category, you won’t be in competition with each other. Plus you could end up attending our annual summit in Dublin with a friend if you’re both successful.
  3. Don’t necessarily wait until the deadline – This can be a busy time of year for people so we recommend for people to get their submissions in as soon as possible. If you’re submitting final projects or getting results of papers at the moment, why not submit them to UA at the same time? Then it’s one less thing to have on your mind.
  4. Look at our past journals and art exhibition if you’re stuck on deciding what to submit – Your submission doesn’t always have to be your highest graded project, it can be the one you’re most proud of or one that you feel has that little something different. Get some inspiration from our past journals or last year’s Aligned art exhibition.
  5. Try not to stress too much about choosing a category – From what we’ve seen, you know your papers the best so your instincts are most likely the right choice. Consider who you’ll be competing against, who will be judging the category and what department is awarding your degree. After that, commit to the most suitable of our 25 categories and trust your selection.
  6. Make sure you’re anonymous – Take a quick look at our anonymity requirements and consider our tips for ensuring your submission doesn’t give you away. You don’t want something like forgetting to remove your name to be the thing that prevents you from winning.
  7. Graduates can also submit – Remember you can submit if you graduated in 2015 along with penultimate and final year students. Don’t rule yourself out automatically just because you’re a graduate.
  8. Make sure you’re within the word count – Yes, footnotes do count but abstract, bibliography and appendices do not. Do check what the word count for your category is because it is taken into consideration by the UA team.
  9. Check the type of document that you’re submitting – Submit in PDF (.pdf) or Word Document (.docx) format – we need to be able to check your document for anonymity, word count, etc. Please don’t scan up a copy of your paper.
  10. It’s easy to submit – Don’t build it up or get too stressed about it, just upload your paper and we’ll take care of the rest!

Alumni Questionnaire: Beating Procrastination

It’s week two of our alumni questionnaire results and this week we’re tackling procrastination. At this time of year, procrastination is the last thing students need and the alumni came back to us with their tips for getting through it to finish those assignments.

  1. Breaks are necessary – Trying to power through and get everything done might work for a small number of people but for most of us, it’ll lead to being burnt out. That just means more procrastination down the line as you try to get the energy to study. Make sure to take regular breaks away from your workspace, stay hydrated and go back to it when you’re refreshed.
  2. Reward yourself – Commit to getting your work done with the knowledge you can do something you enjoy guilt-free at the end of it.
  3. To-do lists – Ticking something off a list as finished can be incredibly rewarding, and it gives you a plan of how to get all of your assignments done. Even better if you can set rough times or dates as guidelines for yourself.
  4. Location, location, location – Study at a place which allows you to concentrate as much as possible. For some people that could be the library but it could also be the local coffee shop, your bedroom or even outdoors if the weather is good enough.
  5. Do anything – Sometimes it’s all about getting started. One respondent recommended telling yourself that you’re only going to work for 25 minutes and then reevaluating. A lot of the time you’ll find you’re already settled into the zone of being productive.
  6. Turn your phone off – This applies to phone distractions but also to social media. There are apps out there to block certain websites for a set amount of time. If you find yourself endlessly scrolling through social media or checking your messages, this might be a good tip for you.
  7. Set manageable goals – There’s no point in setting yourself three days work to be done in an afternoon. You’ll end up disappointed and potentially uninspired to get more completed the next day. Make sure you’re only setting yourself what you can actually do and taking a break after that.
  8. Don’t guilt yourself for procrastinating – Sometimes it’s just one of those days or you need a couple of hours before you can get around to studying. Don’t make yourself feel bad, just make sure you commit to it when you can focus.
  9. Get fresh air – Even a short stroll down the street can make all the difference in refreshing your mind with a new perspective and helping you get back to it after your break.
  10. Enjoy your work space – Set up a designated area to get your assignments done. Try to make it a tidy, pleasant place to be but also have it be a space you can step away from when you’re done if possible.

Despite these great tips from our alumni, sometimes you just can’t get in the zone. If you are taking a break or trying to avoid studying, make it productive procrastination by entering the coursework you’ve already completed to The Undergraduate Awards right here. You never know, maybe that bit of inescapable procrastination will win you an academic award!

Alumni Questionnaire: Finalising UA Submissions

The questionnaire results are in! We surveyed our alumni and we’re going to bring you some of the interesting information we found out over the next few weeks. This week it’s all about our favourite tips from our alums on how to finalise your submissions for the Undergraduate Awards.

  1. Don’t underestimate yourself – Many past Winners and Highly Commended applicants never expected that they’d win a programme like UA. If you’re getting good grades, it’s definitely worth taking a chance.
  2. Give in more than one submission – A couple of our alumni expressed regret for not handing in three submissions when they had the opportunity. Not all of the winning papers are a thesis or final year project so why not increase your chances by sending in multiple papers?
  3. Proofread – A lot of respondents came back on the questionnaire saying they’ve since noticed frustrating errors on their submissions. Make sure you read it a couple of times or get somebody else to read your paper before sending it our way.
  4. Be original and submit something you’re proud of – Not everything has to be your highest graded paper. We appreciate if they’re of a II.1 or upward standard but it’s better if it’s also a paper or project that stands out to you.
  5. Don’t change it too much – Spend a little bit of time going through and editing your paper if you think it can be improved but try not to overthink it. Have confidence in your work and get it submitted.
  6. Ask somebody to read it for you – Whether it’s getting some extra feedback from a professor or asking a friend to read your paper, it’s always good to have a fresh set of eyes.
  7. Dedicate some time to the abstract – The abstract is the first impression anyone will have of your submission. It should be a succinct summary or synopsis to give the judges an idea of the purpose of your paper.
  8. Check the criteria – Have a look at the submission guide and the eligibility criteria. It’s such a shame to have high quality work but not get to the judging stage because of word count or anonymity issues. It only takes a couple of minutes to check these things but it could make all the difference.
  9. Don’t wait until the day of the deadline – It’s an easy process so if you have course work completed, why not get it in now? Anything that can be done quickly and easily during this busy time of the year is a plus.
  10. Just submit, you could be the next winner!

That last one is the tip we heard most in the questionnaire. Participation in UA only benefits you so it’s worth the few minutes it takes to submit. If you’re ready to get a paper in now, you can do that right here or any time before the May 31st deadline.

Submissions and Anonymity

Let’s talk about anonymity. Many undergrads are entering work that they’re proud of to UA as we approach the June 14th deadline and we’re excited to have those submissions coming in. It’s always such a shame when we see great quality work that can’t advance to our judges because of a lack of anonymity. So we’re going to give you some brief guidelines to make sure your work is anonymous.

The Undergraduate Awards prides itself on awarding academic work without bias. That means we have to be a little firm on making sure there’s nothing that could inform our judges who the submission belongs to.

A few tips to ensure your paper is anonymous are to do a simple search for the following:

  • your surname 
  • the name of your university (and any abbreviations)
  • your student number 
  • your course code 
  • your lecturer/supervisor’s name or email

Also, make sure that the file is not named with your own name.

Submitting is as easy as checking these anonymity guidelines are met along with making sure you’re within the word count. Then all you have to do is upload your paper by completing the steps here and we’ll take care of the rest!

Trinity College Dublin team creates new cell language

Very exciting work happening over in Trinity College Dublin this week! Scientists working in Trinity’s School of Biochemistry and Immunology have made groundbreaking moves in a study which combines several different disciplines, including “linguistics, enzymology and mathematical modeling”.

In this recently published study, the group have revealed a new language written by them to gain more information about cells. The computer-based language will allow deciphering of the way in which proteins are modified by sugar molecules. It aids in understanding how cells can develop multiple glycoforms of the same protein, and has the potential to help in gaining more information about cancer cells, neurons, and immune cells, among others. This means that they could use it to get more data on how these cells change their surface glycosylation when there is a disease present.

Andrew McDonald, a team member who invented the language, said that their system “is capable of predicting the millions of possible glycoforms in the cell and also the control points that generate much of the complexity present in normal and cancerous cells”.

Funding for the study was provided by EU Marie Curie and Science Foundation Ireland to Professor Gavin Davey, an Associate Professor in Neuroscience at Trinity, and his team. Along with the published study, the group also launched an interactive web application called O-Glycologue which is a simulator of the enzymes of O-linked glycosylation. The app is available to the public through the Trinity College Dublin website.

Undergraduate Awards:

This is the type of research that is wonderful to see our partners engaging in and we’re proud to potentially link our undergraduate applicants with institutions where groundbreaking research is taking place. If you have any undergraduate research that’s you’re particularly proud of or are currently doing an interesting project, don’t forget to submit it to us here.

UA Highly Commended Entrant Awarded Uversity Scholarship

UA is delighted to announce that our 2015 Highly Commended Entrant, Laura Cummins, has been awarded a scholarship at Uversity. Laura has been award the Creative Impact Scholarship to enrol at Uversity’s 2016/17 Master of Arts in Creative Process.

As a partner of The Undergraduate Awards, Uversity was present at the UA Global Summit in November 2015 and met with the 2015 attendees at the UFair event where Partners of The Undergraduate Awards have the opportunity to be present at the event and meet the world’s top students face to face.

Laura was a perfect candidate for Uversity’s MA programme having achieved the UA award for her entry in the hugely competitive Music, Film, Theatre & Art History category.

A graduate of the University of Leeds in French and History of Art, Laura is the first UK participant in Uversity’s MA programme.

Laura will be joining a diverse group of international students at Uversity who will customise their academic and creative journeys to achieve personal and professional goals. During the course of the year, Uversity students choose courses offered by Uversity’s twenty-four partners, attend a core module, Creative Process and Immersive Practice, with their classmates and then complete a final project.   Uniquely, Uversity students are supported by a mentor who is an arts practitioner.  This ensures that Uversity students access additional opportunities to unlock their creative potential and career prospects.

Uversity is still accepting applications for the 2016/17 year. To find out more check out their latest video, visit their website at or attend the free Virtual Grad Fair on April 20th 2016 from 14:00 to 17:00 (GMT).   At the event you can chat with Uversity staff, Uversity students and graduates and mentors.

master of Arts Creative Process

Deadline Announced for 2016

Before you read on – register your place in the competition here. If you don’t have a paper to submit, you can come back to the UA Form later, but whatever you do register first.

Did you do it?

Really? (Register here)

Ok great, please read on…

The official Deadline for The Undergraduate Awards 2016 programme has been set for Tuesday 31st of May 2016. You have four months to the day to submit your best coursework to the UA programme. Submit work  you have already done to the programme and make your coursework go further.

Take a look at what last year’s Winners and our Affiliate & Partner Universities had to say about submitting to UA:

WHY Should I submit?

As a winner, you are recognised as one of the most impressive students in your field; you become part of a network of outstanding Winners of The Undergraduate Award from around the world; your winning paper is published in our academic journal, and you receive a ticket to the exclusive UA Global Summit in Dublin. Shortlisted students who are in the top 10% of all submissions are also recognised for their excellence, which can be a significant catalyst when pursuing further studies or your chosen career.

HOW do I apply?

If you would like to submit your work to The Undergraduate Awards you can do so here on the UA Form. If you are not ready to submit your work just yet, you can simply register your details on the UA Form and upload your paper at a later date. Once registered, your place will be saved until May 31st 2016.

WHO is UA for?

UA is open to all  graduates of 2015, 2016 and 2017 – that is all penultimate and final year students, as well as 2015 graduates, of all disciplines.

WHAT do I apply with?

Individual undergraduate coursework which received a II.1 or higher (A-grade).

Screen Shot 2016-02-02 at 15.52.06

New Year, New… UA Office!

2016 has already kicked off with a bang for The Undergraduate Awards. The time has come to finally fly the nest, to leave the warm, comforting, bosom of Google HQ and set up on our own. We have moved into our very own office in Dublin city centre. We have been busy little bees starting up our new laptops, buying office essentials and generally learning how to fend for ourselves.

We are so excited to have our own space. The Undergraduate Awards has seen huge growth since we first started our international programme 2012 and with that our core team has grown to seven with an additional four around the time of the UA Global Summit in November.

Our very resourceful team managed to find a huge, cool space as well as free office furniture and appliances! Most importantly, we are very nearly, ready for our office party*!

A huge thank you to everyone who has helped us with our set-up, we would be office-less without you!

Take a look at our brand new space…

*more on this to follow.


Our fabulous desks!



Opening our new office presents: heaters and smoothie-makers!


We have TWO office kettles!

We have TWO fancy office kettles!


One of our kettles matches our toasters and they're PURPLE!

One of our kettles matches our toasters and they’re PURPLE! (Yes, that’s a smoothie-maker)



Our office bike! (well…David’s bike in the office)



Our first team meeting while waiting for the wifi to be installed!

Our first team meeting while waiting for the wifi to be installed!


Our first team meeting in Brother Hubbard Cafe!

Our first team meeting in Brother Hubbard Cafe!

Irish Scientist wins Nobel Prize for Medicine at the Karolinska Institutet Ceremony in Stockholm


An Irish-born scientist has jointly won the 2015 Nobel Prize for medicine for work against parasitic diseases. Donegal native William Campbell and Japanese Satoshi Omura won half of the prize for discovering a new drug, Avermectin, that has helped the battle against river blindness and lymphatic filariasis, as well as showing effectiveness against other parasitic diseases.

Omura, a microbiologist, isolated new strains of a group of bacteria called Streptomyces, and successfully cultured them in the lab. Campbell’s role was to show that a component from one of Omura’s cultures was active against parasites – this became Avermectin.

Mr Campbell was born in Ramelton, Co Donegal in 1930 and is affiliated to Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, USA. He qualified from Trinity College Dublin with first class honours in zoology before being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to the University of Wisconsin, where he completed a doctorate on liver fluke. He regularly returns to Ireland to visit family, and was given an honorary doctorate in science by Trinity in a 2012 conferring ceremony.

After Wisconsin, he moved to Merck research laboratories where he was elevated to the role of director of parasitology. It was there that he became involved in the development of the Avermectin drug which cures river blindness. Mr Campbell was an instrumental influencer behind the pharmaceutical firm’s decision to make the treatment freely available to people from 1987, and around 25 million people continue to be treated under this scheme every year. Campbell lectured on parasitology at New York Medical College for many years, was elected to the US National Academy of Science in 2002 and was awarded the American Society of Parasitology Distinguished Service award in 2008.

Last year, the prize went to British-American researcher John O’Keefe and a Norwegian couple, Edvard Moser and May-Britt Moser, for discovering the brain’s ”inner GPS” that helps people navigate. This year’s Nobel laureates will share the eight million Swedish kronor (HK$7.4 million).


The laureates received their prizes at a formal ceremony in Stockholm’s City Hall on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of prize creator Alfred Nobel, a Swedish philanthropist and scientist. A separate ceremony is held for the peace prize on the same date in Oslo, which Nobel wanted to include in his initiative because Norway and Sweden were joined in a union when he created the prizes. The ceremony took place in front of 1,600 invited guests including the Swedish Royal Family, the Swedish Academy of Sciences, the Nobel Assembly of the Karolinska Institutet and the Nobel Laureates at Stockholm’s Concert Hall which was decorated for the occasion with 20,000 white, yellow and orange flowers donated. The flowers are donated every year by the Italian city of San Remo. The Swedish scientist and prize creator Alfred Nobel died there on December 10, 1896. The laureates received Nobel diplomas and gold medals from Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf in a ceremony interspersed with classical music and presentations by the prize-awarding institutions.

Screen Shot 2015-12-11 at 12.25.28 PM

Tu Youyou of China won the other half of the award for her work in artemisinin, a drug based on ancient Chinese herbal medicine, the Nobel Assembly of Sweden’s Karolinska Institute said. She is the first Chinese woman national to win a Nobel Prize in science. The Nobel Jury stated that Tu won her award “for discoveries concerning a novel therapy against malaria”, which had significantly reduced the mortality rates of patients.  Tu received half of this year’s medicine prize of about U$$47.5 million. She received the Nobel medal, Nobel diploma and a document confirming a cash award.

Physics Prize: Takaaki Kajita from Japan and Arthur McDonald from Canada were awarded the physics prize for determining that neutrinos have mass, a key piece of the puzzle in understanding the cosmos.

Chemistry Prize: The chemistry prize was presented to Sweden’s Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich of the US and Aziz Sancar, a Turkish-American, for work on how cells repair damaged DNA.

Literature Prize: Belarussian writer and dissident Svetlana Alexievich was given the literature prize for her work chronicling the horrors of war and life under the repressive Soviet regime.

Economics Prize: Poverty expert Angus Deaton, a US-British microeconomist, took home the economics prize for groundbreaking work using household surveys to show how consumers, particularly the poor, decide what to buy and how policymakers can help them.


The Undergraduate Awards

Dubbed the ‘Junior Nobel Prize’ The Undergraduate Awards is the world’s largest academic awards programme, recognising excellent research and original work across the sciences, humanities, business and creative arts. If you would like to register to submit your work to this year’s competition you can do so here, we have 25 different categories.




Irish Research Council’s New Horizons Scheme Award Funding to Trinity Researchers

The Irish Research Council’s New Horizons scheme supports top-class researchers in Ireland’s higher education system to develop novel and excellent ideas and to build towards seeking further investment in those ideas from the EU’s Research and Innovation framework, Horizon2020. The scheme represents one of a number of measures implemented by the Council that contribute towards enabling Ireland to be successful within the European research sphere, and ultimately to reach our national target of winning €1.25billion of Horizon 2020 funding.

Screen Shot 2015-12-02 at 10.45.03 AM

Horizon 2020 is the biggest EU Research and Innovation programme ever with nearly €80 billion of funding available over 7 years (2014 to 2020) – in addition to the private investment that this money will attract. It promises more breakthroughs, discoveries and world-firsts by taking great ideas from the lab to the market.

“This scheme will nurture outstanding talent and help to promote the development of a research community that is internationally competitive into the future,” stated Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, Chair of the Irish Research Council. “The potential for the awardees to go on and win further funding for Ireland through Horizon2020 is strong. The scale of European research funding is such that a single award from the European Research Council in the future for one of the successful awardees could outweigh the aggregate cost of all awards being announced today under New Horizons 2015. Given our ambitious target for Horizon2020, these modest investments in future research leaders make a lot of sense on many different levels.”

Speaking about the scheme, Minister English said that the funding will ‘provide opportunities for the Irish research community to maintain momentum in what is an incredibly competitive European research funding environment. This scheme taps into the incredible breadth and diversity of expertise in our institutions, and the funding will enable a set of exceptional researchers to carry forward their research and also help to establish a strong track record in interdisciplinary research.’

The winning research spans across various disciplines including Agriculture, Bio-based industry, Climate, Innovation, Security, Space and Transport. Three Trinity College Dublin researchers recently received awards under the Irish Research Council’s New Horizons scheme. Overall Trinity received 18% of more than €2m in competitive funding for 17 different research projects which were announced by Damien English, TD, Minister for Skills, Research & Innovation:

Associate Professor of Economics, Eleanor Denny’s research will explore developments in behavioural economics and information systems in her interdisciplinary project on efficient energy. Her data analytical research will ascertain whether providing customers with information on how much electrical appliances cost to run will encourage them to buy more energy efficient products.

Ussher Assistant Professor in Irish Writing, Tom Walker’s research, ‘Yeats and the Writing of Art’ examines the work of W.B. Yeats through the prism of nineteenth and twentieth-century art writing – encompassing the many textual forms through which art spectatorship and writing were combined during the period, ranging from aesthetic philosophy to art history to exhibition reviews to ekphrastic poems.

Assistant Professor in International Peace Studies and Intercultural Theology and Interreligious Studies, Carlo Aldrovandi’s research, ‘Transforming the Conflict over the Holy Land: An Engagement with Israeli Religious Zionism and its Sacred Values’ looks at the interface of international relations, religion, human rights and peace studies.

More information on Horizon 20/20 can be found here.

Trinity College Dublin is a partner of The Undergraduate Awards, the world’s largest, pan-discipline academic awards programme. UA has 25 different categories that are now open for submissions. You can submit your undergraduate research to UA by uploading your paper to the UA Form.  Please read the submission criteria before submitting.

The Undergraduate Awards: Unifying the World via the Brightest Young Minds – My Experience

Oluwaseun Aladeboyeje writes about his experience at the UA Global Summit 2014 and his first visit to Europe.

The Undergraduate Awards (UA) is an inspiring as well as impactful program which will hopefully be sustained and consolidated to make the world a better place.

This program promotes innovation amongst the future leaders, i.e. the youth whose brilliant research findings could provide solutions to the world’s challenges such as poverty, hunger, emerging diseases, ethnic conflicts, terrorism and insecurity. The publication of  works of these bright students in The Undergraduate Journal contributes substantially to the body of knowledge in their various disciplines. Most importantly, the unique 3/4-day global summit that brings together the most innovative students from every corner of the globe to Dublin is a complementary initiative to the efforts of the likes of the United Nations towards promoting global unity.

The 2014 summit experience being my first trip out of Africa to Europe gave me a better understanding as well as a concrete and realistic view about the world itself as opposed to the initial abstract knowledge I used to have about our planet. In addition, I was exposed to different climate, cultures and diets which are rarely obtainable on the African soil and I believe that this alone is a vital education which everyone ought to acquire in life. As the only Nigerian student, I was privileged to mingle and interact intimately with other great minds from North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, which to a large extent raised my self esteem, making me feel like a worthy ambassador of the African continent.

Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 4.31.31 PMFurthermore, I feel accomplished that my selection in the 2014 UA as the first Nigerian student since inception of such intercontinental academic contest has earned my home country a great honour and recognition. I felt particularly elated as a Nigerian when the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Mairead Corrigan Maguire who delivered the summit opening address, emphatically acknowledged the presence of Nigeria for the first time in the UA, which diverted everyone’s attention to me with cheers!

Nigeria was further honoured when I confidently stood on the podium at Google Foundry to present my winning paper in front of my foreign counterparts as well as the international speakers. The recognition which I have earned for my country is also evident on the UA Website which now has on its 2015 registration portal about 10 Nigerian universities in addition to my alma mater, University of Ilorin. Moreover, the news of my selection as the first Nigerian Highly Commended Entrant in the 2014 Undergraduate Awards flooded Nigeria’s most popular online social forum (Nairaland) and this has gone a long way in promoting UA in Nigeria and I am proud to have been the trailblazer of UA in Nigeria.

In conclusion, The Undergraduate Awards has made a tremendous positive impact on my life. Today, I am building on my singular achievement with UA which is supported by its network of Speakers, Judges, Partners and Alumni, to advance my academic and professional career. I now use my UA Certificate as an additional document to enhance my CV, and it distinguishes me from the crowd. Since November 2014 following the summit, I have completed my mandatory one year national service which ended in October. Now that I have completed my service, I will be travelling to the United Kingdom to pursue my Master’s degree. I am optimistic that the Undergraduate Awards could provide an invaluable platform to catalyze the change we desire in our generation.

Up UA! Keep the flag flying.

Highlights from UA Global Summit 2014 from the History Category Overall Winner 2014

Daniel McKay was awarded a prize for his essay ‘Dust and Bluster: An Historical Evaluation of the Political Discourse on Drought in Australia’ at The Undergraduate Awards in 2014. His essay has been published in The Undergraduate Journal and the Burgmann Journal.

Report on the UA Global Summit 2014

The unexpected is what makes history so exhilarating. The thrill is in the chase, as one hunts down forgotten, unknown or hidden stories in the dusty depths of libraries and archives. You never know what you’ll find, or what twists and turns the story will take. However, when I began to research the story of political responses to the Australian experience of drought for a history course, it was wholly unexpected that my research would eventually lead to winning the Historical Studies category of The Undergraduate Awards and receiving a free trip to Dublin to accept a gold medal.

All good stories begin with an even bigger story. History is all about finding and telling such stories, of the people and places that have shaped the world around us. ‘Research’ is such a thunderously dull term for something so exciting. The remarkable Frank Bongiorno demonstrated this in his course on Australian political history, making the stories of our political institutions and politicians come alive. Encouraged to find our own topics for the research essay, I began researching political responses to the Australian experience of drought since European colonisation. This project had particular personal resonance, as I had grown up on a family farm in rural New South Wales during the long drought of the 2000s. As a member of the seventh generation of our family to live on the property, I knew that my experience fitted into a much longer history. My reflections turned to the wider Australian experience of an environmental variability that we take for granted in a ‘land of droughts and flooding rains’. The story of how our political system has responded can only really be told by stepping back from individual droughts and looking at patterns over time.

Entering The Undergraduate Awards is a simple affair. So simple that, months down the track when I received a call from Ireland, I’d largely forgotten even entering. It seemed quite unreal, but after flying into Dublin the day after my last exam, the Irish welcome I received at the Global Summit was an utterly unforgettable experience. Each stage of the summit came in a magnificent historical setting: Dublin Town Hall, Iveagh House, Farmleigh House, Trinity College and Christchurch Cathedral. Locations that over the course of the summit The ANU Undergraduate Research Journal 14 were peopled with brilliant delegates and guest speakers from around the world. Every room was full of a bright and bubbling optimistic chatter, as people discovered each other’s research and plans for the future. The diverse range of guest speakers brought another dimension to the discussion – hearing from, amongst others, the filmmaker Lord Puttnam, entrepreneur Ingrid Vanderveldt, and former Harvard librarian Helen Shenton. Each had a fascinating story of how they had made careers out of curiosity and ideas.

On the last day of the Global Summit, we were each given the opportunity to present our research in the auditorium at the Google Headquarters. With limited time, and with an interest in sharing some of Australia’s best art to an international audience, I used a selection of famous paintings from our national collections to convey the sense of changing understandings of environment and drought which they captured. From the bucolic arcadias of John Glover, to the more realistic treatments of the Australian landscape in the impressionism of Arthur Streeton, and finally the confronting imagery of Sidney Nolan, we can see an evolution not just in aesthetics, but a total cultural shift in our ways of seeing our environment.

The Global Summit ended on a high, with a black tie award ceremony in Christchurch Cathedral. Winners from each category were presented with a gold medal by Patricia O’Brien, the Irish Ambassador to the United Nations, as well as having their work published in The Undergraduate Journal. The  evening finished with a magical dinner in the crypt of Christchurch Cathedral. The sight of everyone seated around a long white table that snaked its way through the undercroft, between the arches and great white marble eighteenth-century tombs, illuminated by unseen lights, will long be etched in my memory.

If I had deliberately set out to write a ‘winning’ essay, I would never have been so fortunate. Good research comes about by finding something that you are passionately curious or intrigued by. In the case of history, that’s following an interesting story and working out what that tells us about ourselves. If you find something fascinating, chances are someone else will too. It is such a chance that is worth pursuing: entering The Undergraduate Awards is easy, the hard work of researching and writing for your essay is already done. By taking the time to fill out a form and upload a file, you have nothing to lose, and everything to gain. You may well just have an unexpected story of your own to tell.

Bibliography: McKay, Daniel (2013). Dust and Bluster: An historical evaluation of the political discourse on drought in Australia. Burgmann Journal (2) 33–39. McKay, Daniel (2014). Dust and Bluster: An Historical Evaluation of the Political Discourse on Drought in Australia. The Undergraduate Journal 6 311–319.

This text is taken from The ANU Undergraduate Research Journal, Volume Six, 2014, edited by Jonathon Zapasnik and Alexandra Hogan, published 2015 by ANU eView, The Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.


If you would like to submit your work to The Undergraduate Awards 2016 programme you can do so by clicking on the UA Form here. If you are not ready to submit work just yet, you can simply register your details on the UA Form and upload your paper later.

By visiting this site, you consent to our use of cookies.