Partner University News

AUCA Joins The Undergraduate Awards!

The Undergraduate Awards is delighted to welcome the American University of Central Asia (AUCA) as an Associate Institution. The American University of Central Asia, located in Kyrgyztan, is a liberal arts university which has been offering education in the American model since 1993. They offer Bachelor of Arts degrees in 16 undergraduate programmes, along with a number of postgraduate courses and masters’ degrees.

AUCA develops future leaders for the democratic transformation of Central Asia. American University of Central Asia is an international, multi-disciplinary learning community in the American liberal arts tradition. Its curriculum includes the Preparatory Program (New Generation Academy), fourteen undergraduate majors and four graduate programs. In addition to its top-flight academic programs AUCA is committed to freedom of expression, critical inquiry, and academic honesty. AUCA is the first university in Central Asia to offer US accredited degrees in liberal arts programs through a partnership with Bard College in the United States. In addition to Bard, AUCA maintains partnerships with a number of universities and organizations worldwide.

For more information about Associate Partnerships, contact Samantha Gordine at

Hello From UA Partner Institutions: Considering your options for further study

As the Summer draws to a close, many of you may be considering your options for further study. Find out more about some of our Partner Institutions below!

King Abdulaziz University

On behalf of King Abdulaziz University (KAU), I would like to thank you for your participation in The Undergraduate Awards (UA) 2017, and I thank you for your valuable contribution. KAU is honoured to be an official Partner Institution and among the Affiliate Institutions of The Undergraduate Awards.

Briefly, KAU, founded in 1967, is located in Jeddah – a city on the coast of the Red Sea and one of the major urban centres of western Saudi Arabia. KAU is one of the distinguished universities in the Middle East and worldwide both for its quality of education and for its cutting edge research. KAU is committed to best practices in teaching, research, and innovations. Besides that, KAU has a well-coordinated distant learning program. To know more about the university, please visit us at:

Once again thanks for such a great contribution and we wish you the best of luck!

Prof. Abdul Rahman Alyoubi
President of King Abdulaziz University (KAU),
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Western University, Ontario

Congratulations on submitting your work to The Undergraduate Award 2017s. As a UA Partner Institution, Western University is proud to congratulate all of the amazing scholars whose work inspires, provokes thought and enhances collaboration across many fields and disciplines, and across diverse cultures and nations.

Founded in 1878, Western University is one of Canada’s oldest universities and a top destination for postgraduate studies with internationally renowned faculty members, world-class research facilities, and excellent scholarship opportunities. Western is home to 38,000 students, including 4,300 international students from 127 countries. Our worldwide alumni network is composed of global citizens whose education and leadership have propelled them to successful careers in Canada around the world.

We invite you to explore all Western University offers at or Once again, congratulations on your participation in The Undergraduate Awards.

Dublin Institute of Technology

At Dublin Institute of Technology, innovation is our tradition, and we have produced generations of leaders in a range of fields from business; law; tourism & hospitality; the creative and visual arts to engineering & the built environment.

Our lively City-Centre campuses are home to more than 20,000 students from Ireland and abroad, creating a culturally diverse and stimulating learning and research environment. Our new Grangegorman campus, currently under construction on a 73-acre site in the heart of Dublin city, is the most significant development of its kind in higher education in Ireland.

DIT is an enthusiastic supporter of The Undergraduate Awards which allow students from across our wide range of disciplines to see their work judged not only by DIT standards or by national standards, but also against the standards of their peers internationally. We look forward to meeting the 2017 Winners and Highly Commended Entrants and welcoming you all to DIT.

The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, a large number of international students and scholars are attracted to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. With approximately 1,200 international students from over 100 different countries, UT is committed to ensuring our campus is a welcoming environment where people are open to learning from one another.

Our Center for International Education (CIE) is the university’s hub for global education, research, and engagement activities. Our English Language Institute welcomes students for short- or longer-term intensive English language learning. The International House, the Confucius Institute, student organizations, and many other units also offer a wide range of internationally oriented activities.

We understand that committing to study at a university is about more than academics. It’s about finding the right place to call home. Our campus is located near downtown Knoxville, a thriving modern city with small town charm that is home to music venues, museums, galleries, annual festivals, local sports teams, excellent restaurants, craft breweries, and eclectic shops.

UT is also perfectly situated for outdoor enthusiasts with easy access to cycling, paddling, hiking, rock climbing, and other adventures. The Tennessee River runs by campus, which is just a few miles from Knoxville’s Urban Wilderness, a system of more than 1,000 forested acres with over 50 miles of multiuse trails. Campus is also just a short drive away from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most-visited national park in the country.

To learn more about UT and our graduate programs, visit

Dublin City University

Dublin City University is delighted to partner with The Undergraduate Awards again this year and would like to wish every student the very best of luck with their submission.

DCU is a young, dynamic and ambitious university with a distinctive mission to transform lives and societies through education, research and innovation.

Recognised nationally and internationally as a centre of academic excellence, DCU has over 17,000 students across three campuses, DCU Glasnevin, DCU St Patrick’s Campus and DCU All Hallows.

We have an excellent reputation as Ireland’s university of Enterprise through strong, active links with academic, research and industry partners, both at home and overseas, providing limitless opportunities for our academic and student cohort.

Our Business School is internationally accredited in the top 5% of Business Schools in the world; we are recognised among the top 6% in the world for our technology, sciences and humanities disciplines and we are among the top 200 universities globally for modern languages.

Upcoming developments will include the launch of our new strategic plan, setting out the university’s roadmap until 2022 and the opening of our new state-of-the-art student centre scheduled for early 2018, which forms part of our ambitious infrastructural development.

For further information visit

University of California, Berkeley ranks among world’s top six universities

We are delighted to hear that our Partner Institution, University of California, Berkeley, has once again joined five other world universities in a cluster known as the “elite six”.

The newly released Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings 2017 placed Berkeley sixth, after Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Cambridge, and Oxford. The reputation rankings are based on a survey of more than 10,000 academics worldwide and this is the seventh time Berkeley has placed in the “elite six.” The reputation rankings are separate from THE‘s annual World University Rankings, which come out in the fall.

Berkeley became a Partner Institution of The Undergraduate Awards in 2013 and since then they have had an active and enthusiastic involvement with the Programme. In the 2017 Programme, submissions from Berkeley increased by 26% more compared to 2016, placing them fourth on the Partners Leaderboard.

Previous Award Winner and Highly Commended Entrant from Berkeley included Ariel Hsian-Au Hsiung, who won the Human Rights category in 2011; and Matej Silecky, who was Highly Commended in the Gender Studies & Anthropology category in 2014 and recently formed a production company, Kitsune Tale Productions, LLC.

Ariel (Centre) receiving her medal at the 2011 UA Global Summit alongside fellow winners, Richard Sun (L) and David Molloy (R)

World’s Challenge Challenge Global Final to take place at Western University this May

Western University, a Partner Institution of the Undergraduate Awards, is partnering with some of the world’s best universities for the first international World’s Challenge Challenge in 2016-2017.

Students from participating partner universities will form diverse teams of three to bring ideas forward to address a global issue. Winning teams from each World’s Challenge Challenge partner institutions will present their solution at the Global Final at Western University, in May 2017, for a chance to win $30,000 (CAD). A second prize of $15,000 will also be available.

The World’s Challenge Challenge is an exciting way to engage in discussion and debate about world issues and to bring ideas from many different perspectives to the table. It also presents students with an opportunity to learn more about global issues or problem of interest to them; gain experience preparing and presenting compelling arguments in front of academic and community leaders, and make global connections with others who have a passion for changing the world.

Past winning projects from Western University

Partners institutions of the competition included the University of Alberta, University at Buffalo, Dalhousie University, University of Waterloo, Monash University, University of Otago, Radboud University, the University of Hong Kong and the University of British Columbia.

The finals will be live stream on May 31 from 9 am to 12:30 pm EST from the website here. To find out more about the competition and read more about this year’s Global Final, click here.

St Andrews rises to third in the UK in independent guide

We are delighted to hear that our Partner Institution, University of St Andrews, has become Scotland’s top university according to a new league table published recently.

The Complete University Guide 2018 ranks St Andrews top in Scotland and third in the United Kingdom. Only Oxford and Cambridge outran St Andrews, which has secured its highest ever place in this league table.

In separate listings covering 70 subjects, St Andrews features in the top ten for 23 of the 25 subjects it teaches, occupying the top UK spot in two (Business & Management Studies and Middle Eastern & African Studies).

St Andrews’ rise from fifth to third place in the guide is believed to be due to its high scores for teaching quality and student satisfaction with the quality of its academic programmes. It is currently UK University of the Year for Teaching Quality.

Welcoming the news, Principal Professor Sally Mapstone said:

This all-time high is a great endorsement of what St Andrews stands for. Our values are those of a small, Scottish, and highly international university. We are outward looking, inclusive and focused on excellence.

We see teaching quality and research excellence as commensurate, and we provide them in an environment that is beautiful, friendly and enriching.

St Andrews became a Partner Institution of The Undergraduate Awards in 2013 and since then they have had an active and enthusiastic involvement with the Programme. In 2015, the University of St Andrews has four Global Winners and in 2016 had 29 Highly Commended Entrants in different categories.

From left to right: Conor MacDonald (Medical Sciences), Alekseje Sazonovs (Computer Sciences), Eilidh Johnston (Mathematics & Physics), and Vincent Forster (Politics & International Relations)

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


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


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.

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. 

Listen to UA Global Winner Mary Wang on CBC Radio

Mary Wang, a student at Western University and the UA Global Winner 2016 in the Languages and Linguistics category, was a recent guest on the ‘Ontario Morning’ radio programme broadcast on CBC Radio.

Ms. Wang whose winning paper was entitled ‘Does developmental social pragmatic intervention for children with autism influence parent language use?,’ was invited to speak about her research which explores the potential benefits of parents and primary caregivers providing a key source of linguistic input early in the developmental process of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). 

Mary Wang, a fourth year Medical Sciences Student at Western University.

Mary Wang, a fourth year Medical Sciences Student at Western University

Regarding children with autism, Ms. Wang commented that “we need to provide a way for them to receive therapy on a daily basis and this is the idea behind my project, getting the parents involved in their child’s language development.”

Ms. Wang also explained her inspiration to study this topic:

“My interest in language and communication comes from a time when I wasn’t able to communicate at all. My parents and I immigrated to Canada from China when I was 5 year’s old and I was thrown into an entirely new world. I didn’t know a word of English and it turned out also that my first day of school was on Halloween so everyone was in costume. I remember thinking that this was a strange place. Having that language barrier was a source of frustration for me, not being able to tell the teacher what I needed or to interact fully with the other kids in my class. I think that’s why I wanted to study autism because I could definitely relate first-hand to the challenges they faced with communication.”

Ms. Wang’s paper is just one example of the ground-breaking research that’s being completed by undergraduate students all around the world. UA is proud to recognise and celebrate these achievements, and offer a platform to outstanding students like Ms. Wang.

Listen to Mary Wang on Ontario Morning from 28: 08 minutes.

Read more about Mary Wang’s research. 


UC Berkeley News: Older Adults Use More of Brain For Short-Term Recall

A new UC Berkeley study suggests that older people’s brains which continue to perform well as they age do this by using more of the brain to complete mental tasks. The researchers observed age specific changes in network organisation when carrying out short term memory tasks which may help to compensate for overall brain aging.

The study was completed by UC Berkeley graduate student Courtney Gallen and her colleagues. They compared 18 adults in their twenties to 38 healthy adults ages 60 and older. The older subjects showed larger changes in the organisation of brain networks when moving from a task-free state to performing a task. Older people who did not show adaptation in brain signaling were less adept at performing tasks.

The researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging to track communication within specific brain sub-networks called modules, along with with connections made across modules. The focus was on the frontal cortex, a critical area for executive functions.

During fMRI scanning, the participants were asked to perform four different tasks in two minute trials, with five trials assigned to each participant for every task. Images of faces and scenes were flashed before the subjects sequentially for six-tenths of a second each, followed by a pause. The easiest task required participants to press a button categorising the image as either a scene or a face. Other tasks included remembering the previous scene while ignoring the faces, and recalling whether the previous image matched the displayed one.

Older adults performing any of the tasks used additional between-module connection. In contrast, the younger adults did the only for the most difficult task. According to Gallen, the results “support the idea of compensatory recruitment and suggest a large scale network-level mechanism by which the aging brain reorganises to support executive control processing.”

Western Researchers Discover Humans Are Seen As ‘Super Predators’

A new study by Western researchers has shown that smaller carnivores perceive humans to be far more frightening than larger animals like bears and wolves. Liana Zanette and Michael Clinchy from Western’s Faculty of Science worked in collaboration with British biologist David Macdonald from University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit and others. In the course of their research, they confirmed that smaller carnivores have learned to fear humans as a ‘super predator’ far more than their traditional enemies.

Zanette observes that the fear large carnivores inspire can shape ecosystems, meaning this learned fear of humans have important implications for conservation, wildlife management and public policy. Large carnivores help maintain healthy ecosystems by frightening prey and preventing their smaller counterparts eating everything in sight. Thus, the shrinking of this ‘landscape of fear’ adds to conservation concerns about the loss of large carnivores.


The team conducted the study on European badgers in Wytham Woods, just outside of Oxford. They played badgers the sounds of bears, wolves, dogs and humans in their natural habitat and filmed their responses using hidden cameras and speakers. Hearing the bears and dogs had some effect but simply hearing the sounds of humans speaking in conversation prevented most badgers from feeding entirely and dramatically reduced the feeding times of the few others who did emerge.

Ghostly molecules lead to scientific advancements at UC Berkeley

Chemists at University of California, Berkeley have been surprised recently as their new technique for taking snapshots of molecules with atomic precision showed up chemicals that shouldn’t be visible. Due to reactions taking place often within a trillionth of a second, the steps in these reactions are expected to happen much too quickly for scientists to observe.

However, in the process of taking snapshots of two molecules reacting on the surface of a catalyst, the team at UC Berkeley managed to find intermediate structures lasting for the time required to take the photo. Usually, only lasers firing in femtosecond bursts (every one quadrillionth of a second) can capture the molecular structures which form when a chemical reaction is taking place.

The visibility of these “ghostly molecules” means that there are new possibilities for chemists to make their reactions faster or more efficient. It could also lead to the building of new molecules which have never been seen before. These developments could impact many fields of the science world, especially if chemists can use them to improve catalytic reactions.

Attempts are currently being made at UC Berkeley to do just this. An Assistant Professor in their Department of Chemistry, Felix Fischer, has used this newfound knowledge to make a molecule that has long been predicted but was never able to be realised until now. He has also begun the process of building a toolbox to help design or improve catalytic reactions which are integral to the chemical industry.

Fischer cites this kind of progress as an advancement for scientists, saying, “This is an example of why it is important to understand what is happening on these surfaces, and how you can use this understanding to access structures and reactivities that are not accessible with the standard tools we have right now.”

The Undergraduate Awards:
UA is proud to be partnered with universities who have groundbreaking research occurring on their campuses. We believe it is important to also recognise the achievements happening at an undergraduate level in universities and colleges across the world. Submit today for the opportunity to make your work go further and potentially win an academic award.

Other co-authors of the Nature Chemistry paper are Alexander Riss, Sebastian Wickenburg, Hsin-Zon Tsai, Aaron Bradley, Miguel Ugeda, Han Sae Jung and Patrick Gorman of UC Berkeley, Alejandro Pérez Paz of the Universidad del País Vasco in Spain and Dimas G. De Oteyza of the Donostia International Physics Center in San Sebastián, Spain.

The work was funded by the Department of Energy, Office of Naval Research, European Research Council and Grupos Consolidados UPV/EHU del Gobierno Vasco.


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