The BPS (British Psychological Society) Undergraduate Conference is an annual event, where Level 4 students get the opportunity to present their thesis projects, meet fellow students from other universities and hear about their thesis projects. It is a great opportunity for students to network with their peers and to learn about the current research being conducted in different universities. We spoke to three final year students, Elle Milne, Emma Warburton and Igne Jasukaityte, who took part in the online event earlier this year.
How did you hear about the BPS Undergraduate Conference?
Elle: Before the start of the pandemic, while I was still in third year, myself and some friends heard about the conference during a lecture, and we planned to attend the 2020 conference in Edinburgh. Sadly this event was cancelled. But, the following year I decided to apply to present my thesis.
Emma: I heard about the BPS Undergraduate Conference through the School of Psychology who emailed all 4th year psychology students encouraging us to take part in the fantastic opportunity.
Igne: I have been interested in participating in this conference from the first year of my degree. I would hear it being mentioned every once in a while, by lecturers and tutors so it was an event I was looking forward to as I was approaching my final year.
Did you present a project in the conference?
Elle: Yes, I presented my thesis, "I don't know what that means, but I know I don't like it: Iconicity and swearing," which investigated how statistically regular linguistic properties of words can be used to infer the meaning of unfamiliar words. We used swear words and non swears from 11 different Indo-European languages and an invented language based on the statistics of English swear words, and found that participants significantly rate unfamiliar swear words as a more “sweary” than unfamiliar non swear words.
Emma: I presented my final year thesis project, ‘Intergroup Bias and the Formation of Stereotypes via Cumulative Cultural Evolution,’ at the virtual conference. I was supervised by Dr Doug Martin who provided excellent support and guidance throughout my project. My research supported the theory of stereotype formation via cumulative cultural evolution, however we did not find support for intergroup bias affecting stereotype content.
Igne: For this conference I prepared an oral presentation on my dissertation project, which investigated whether emotional context modulates how we visually perceive dynamic facial expressions.
How would you describe your overall experience of the conference?
Elle: Good! All the staff at the event were very friendly and helpful, it was also nice to be able to network with lots of students from other universities and get to see the sort of research that’s done elsewhere.
Emma: I enjoyed learning about current psychological research that has been carried out by other students at Universities across Scotland. The variety in university research fields enabled me to expand my knowledge in research topics beyond the ones I have studied. I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with like-minded students who are equally as passionate about psychology as myself. The conference was a fantastic way to connect with academics and students, expanding my network. Although the conference would usually be held in person, the virtual ‘webinar’ was also very effective.
Igne: This conference was a great platform not only to share my research with peers but also an experience which pushed me out of my comfort zone. I always found public speaking quite intimidating, however the prospect of having 10 minutes to talk about your own research motivated me to overcome this fear and create a presentation I am proud of. It was a great way to finish months of working on my research project and hear about research carried out by fellow students.
What did you learn from the conference?
Elle: There were lots of interesting posters and presentations at the conference covering all sorts of topics. One that stuck with me that I’ve been thinking about during pride month, found that there is a higher incidence of body focused repetitive behaviours (hair pulling, nail biting, etc.) LGBTQ+ people.
As for what I learned from the conference itself, I learned that presenting to 30 strangers isn’t as scary as I might have thought, especially if you can’t see them.
Emma: In addition to learning about current research, the conference helped me to develop key transferable skills. I gained greater confidence in presenting to an audience which I have always found nerve-racking and is something out of my comfort zone. However, volunteering to present my project enabled me to target my weaker skills of presenting, enabling me to develop my skills further which is essential for future employment. The conference was a valuable insight into the British Psychological Society as an organisation which is particularly relevant for my future career plans as I aspire to become an Educational Psychologist in the coming years.
Igne: I found that I learnt a lot more from preparing for the conference rather than the event itself. It was a great opportunity to improve my communication skills by presenting abstract ideas and complicated research in a concise and simple yet informative manner. I was motivated to create a presentation that was engaging and easy to follow, which allowed me to apply and further enhance my presentation skills I learnt from my undergraduate degree.
Would you recommend other students take part in the conference in the future?
Elle: Yes, most of the attendees were in the same position as me, students who were nervous about presenting at a conference for the first time. So, I think this is a good introduction into presenting in a professional setting.
Emma: I would highly recommend other students to take part in the BPS conference. It is a great opportunity to demonstrate your presentation and communication skills, and to connect with others. I would particularly encourage students who are considering a career in psychology to participate as it highlights your enthusiasm and passion for psychology. (I would also recommend becoming a BPS member if you are not already!)
Igne: Attending this conference was a highlight of my university experience. There is nothing better than being able to share your research, which you have worked hard on for the whole final year, to peers who are motivated to hear about your project. It is also a great event to network so I would recommend attending and experiencing it for yourself.