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.
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
Masculine, 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.
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
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.
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.