Miri – 25 April 2012 – Curtin University, Sarawak Malaysia (Curtin Sarawak) held its first Undergraduate Research Opportunity Programme (UROP) Seminar recently. The event was an opportunity for UROP students to present the findings of projects they undertook during the summer semester break between December and February.
The UROP initiative at Curtin Sarawak has grown substantially since its introduction in 2009. Under the programme, undergraduates are given the opportunity to participate in breakthrough research and develop creative thinking and independent learning skills whilst managing their projects. More than 30 undergraduate students participated, of which 25 were funded directly by Curtin Sarawak’s R&D Office and the rest through research grants.
The research experience facilitates the connection of classroom learning to practical applications. In addition, mentoring by lecturers provides an opportunity to enhance staff-student relationships.
Second-year mechanical engineering student Eng Ze Ru, who completed a project on researching for data on renewable energy resources, said, “I learned to think critically and creatively in the process of identifying and solving problems. UROP fulfilled my desire to be involved in research and contribute not only to technological advancement but also improving the lives of rural folk.”
Echoing Eng’s sentiments, second-year chemical engineering student Ling Jin Hong said UROP formed a new chapter in his study life. He related how he learned a lot of new things, starting from the basics and gradually enhancing his knowledge and skills through practice.
He related that throughout the three months of doing research, he experienced a lot of failures but remained committed to the success of his project.
“Without failure, there will be no success, as they say. All the challenges instilled in me the spirit of never giving up and taught me to appreciate the value of success. UROP has been the most meaningful and memorable experience of my university study life so far and I’m glad to have been a part of it,” Ling added.
Ling’s classmate, Goh Wui Seng, meanwhile remarked, “I also learned how to deal with open-ended challenge and learned how to work creatively and to be independent.”
Master of Philosophy student in electrical and electronics engineering, Alex Goh, who completed a UROP project when he was still an undergraduate, said, “I would definitely recommend the programme to my friends. I got to learn the path of doing research and satisfy my curiosity in every way. It was fun reading a lot of research papers and I had the opportunity to learn tools and algorithms that were beyond what we were taught in class.”
Another student in electrical and electronics engineering, Chua Shin Cheng, described UROP as an exceptional experience and was glad for the opportunity to learn beyond the classroom. He said he got to strengthen his research skills and learned what supervisors expect in research and that the experience would help him in his ongoing research work.
Second-year civil engineering student William Liew Jia Yang described his UROP experience as ‘awesome’, adding that the knowledge and experience gained was the main benefit while being paid to carry out the project was certainly a bonus.
Dr. Tang Fu Ee, a senior lecturer in the Department of Civil and Construction Engineering and William’s UROP supervisor, said UROP provided his students with an opportunity to learn about water quality testing and monitoring even before they learned such skills and concepts in their classes.
According to him, the students got to learn about preparing a testing and monitoring regime, and gained considerable hands-on experience in the lab. The experience and knowledge they have gained will prove useful not only in their studies, particularly in carrying their final year projects, but also as practising civil and construction engineers in the future.
Another senior lecturer in the Department of Chemical Engineering, Tan Yin Ling, said she always encourages her students to be involved in non-academic activities to differentiate themselves from other graduates and UROP provided the ideal opportunity.
“Their involvement in UROP broadened their technological knowledge and skills and they were able to apply the know-how they acquired,” she said.
Dr Abey Philip, a senior lecturer in the School of Business, commented that UROP allows students to appreciate the university as a centre of knowledge creation and adds a different dimension to their learning experience by exposing them to the research culture of the university. He said that, through deliberations with students, he himself had come to value different perspectives in examining research topics.
According to Acting Dean Research & Development, Professor Aaron Goh, undergraduate research is a vital component of a dynamic research environment at many top universities in the world, including MIT and Imperial College London. Although UROP is a relatively new initiative at Curtin Sarawak, the results presented at the seminar showed the quality and research potential of the undergraduate students.
“Even if the students don’t go on to research careers, the UROP experience will help them pick up valuable personal development skills. I must also take the opportunity to congratulate the academic staff who have done well in supervising and managing the UROP projects,” he said.
He added that although most of the UROP projects are funded by Curtin Sarawak and through research grants, the university has also completed projects for industry. Curtin Sarawak welcomes collaboration with potential partners, who may contribute to UROP through gifts or funded projects.
For more information on Curtin Sarawak, visit its website at www.curtin.edu.my, call +60 85 443 939 or e-mail [email protected] Curtin Sarawak can also be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CurtinUniversitySarawakMalaysia.