Home > Research, UBC > Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference 2012

Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference 2012

Daphne and I recently attended UBC’s Multidisicplinary Undergraduate Research Conference (MURC). It was my first time at a research conference so I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of the quality of the presentations. However some of the students’ research were incomplete so there wasn’t any merit to presenting (one study reported results on data from only six test subjects). I also noticed there were flaws with methodology and data analysis with many presentations. Is this common among undergrad research?! 😦

The opening keynote was given by Ashley Whillans. The talk centered around her research in money and happiness. She reported people were more happy spending money on other people than themselves. Whoever said money doesn’t buy happiness didn’t know how to spend it :P. Personally, it’s more important to base one’s own views of happiness (contentment is probably the more appropriate term) from his or her own experiences rather than simply follow a scientific (or religious) one.

Afterwards we went to see the first session of oral presentations. They ran simultaneously so we listened to only six out of thirty talks. One interesting one was the Perceived threat of infectious disease and its implications for conformist attitudes and behaviour by Houman Rashidian (the paper is here). The basis was different threats can have different effects on social cognition and behaviour. It wasn’t explicitly stated, but I think it’s fear of the unknown triggers conformity. My theory is if one is facing an unknown (ie obscure) threat then he or she would feel safer going along with a group instead of  standing out, hence conformity. Perhaps that helps explain why so many people unnecessarily went to get the H1N1 vaccine… One problem with this study (and other psychology studies at the conference) was 79% of the test subjects were women (women have a greater tendency to conform than men).

MURC provided us with lunch after while we got a chance to look at all the poster presentations. Arjun Nanda’s poster detailed the benefits of yoga to treating bipolar disorder (BD). However most of the cited benefits apply to only the depressive phase of BD and the student told us yoga actually brings out the manic phase so I was confused about that. Anyways there is potential to studying the effects of various physical activities on patients with BD.

There was a second session of oral presentations following lunch. This time Daphne and I decided to stay in the same room the entire time although we quickly regretted that after. I seriously think I have ADD since I can’t sit in the same seat for long periods of time and I have a short attention span… I was looking forward to hearing about The effects of pre-exam writing exercises on student exam anxiety by Stephanie Ryn since it was a study on education, but was very disappointed with how it turned out. She reported students believed participating in expressive writing (write about one’s feelings) and brain dump (write the concepts one think will be tested) exercises right before an exam helped them achieve a higher grade and there were no differences in anxiety levels among students participating in both exercises. However this study measured only perception and not if those exercises actually improved exam performance. Also apparently there was no control since she didn’t report the relative anxiety levels for students who didn’t do the pre-exam exercises.

There was a chance to network with everyone else afterwards. One attendee came up to us and asked if we were one of the presenters at the conference. We said no although I realized five seconds after she walked away I should have said yes and pretend to be a presenter. Unfortunately my Mafia instincts didn’t kick in at that time 😦

Natalie Sopinka gave the closing keynote. This was a bit different from the opening keynote, but I found it inspiring for people who wanted to get into research. She talked about her journey through research and gave her winning three-minute thesis speech.


Overall I enjoyed my day very much. MURC should have kept the Learning how to network workshop they had last year since it’s important to know how to connect with professors. I also liked that all the sessions started on time (one of my biggest pet peeves is events not following on schedule). That made it easy for us to go to different rooms to listen to various presentations since they were in sync with each other. Also guys need to participate in more psyc studies since most of them (at least at UBC) are biased towards using women test subjects. Other than that, I wish I had more to say, but I don’t 😛 (lesson learned: don’t wait a week after an event to blog about it or you might forget some parts).

Categories: Research, UBC
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