Do undergraduate research internships really work?

Research Interns - Poster Event

By Anthony Hudson.

Earlier this evening my colleague, Aga Spytkowska, and I attended UEL’s Undergraduate Research Interns’ poster competition as part of our evaluation of the Undergraduate Research Internship Scheme.

Over 35 interns attended the event and presented a poster based on their internship. Whilst the posters showcased the work of individual interns and their supervisors, it also demonstrated the variety and quality of work being undertaken across academic schools, research institutes and services at UEL. Poster presentations are an excellent way of communicating research findings from projects, as well as outcomes from knowledge exchange projects. However, producing a poster is no easy endeavour. It requires clarity and creativity to produce succinct and accessible text, with carefully chosen graphics, an appropriate layout and appealing design.  Observing the poster presentations – the interaction between interns and attendees – provided valuable context for our evaluation.  To evaluate the current iteration of the internship scheme we are drawing on data from an online survey administered to all interns and supervisors, and interviews from a sample of participants.

A couple of colleagues attending the event asked me whether I thought research internships made a difference. Until we’ve completed our evaluation I was reluctant to answer. Instead, I suggested that they look around the room – crowded and buzzing, with poster presenters and attendees in animated conversation – by way of an answer.

Yes, that’s fine they said. ‘But does it really work?’ I shared my experience of the scheme as a supervisor. Our research centre, Continuum, was pleased to host undergraduate research interns in the first two years that the scheme was run. Our first intern obtained a good degree in psychology, progressed to postgraduate study and obtained a Distinction in her Master’s degree. She worked at UEL as a Learning Achievement Advisor and now runs a successful consultancy. Our second intern was awarded a first class undergraduate degree, secured a job in our research centre and progressed to postgraduate study, achieving a distinction in her Master’s degree.  Aga, was the second intern I had the privilege of supervising is now working with me to evaluate the internship scheme. So yes, from our perspective the internship scheme works!

As the evaluation progresses we’ll be posting thoughts and findings on our blog and welcome thoughts and comments.

About Tony Hudson

Currently undertaking doctoral research at the University of East London focusing on the learning career and academic identity of Access HE teachers.
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