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SoH Students organise inaugural Undergraduate Research Conference

Nov 18, 2019 | News

On 23 May 2019, humanities students from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and the National Institute of Education (NIE) gathered at the School of Humanities (SoH) for the school’s inaugural undergraduate research conference. The conference, titled, !deas Fest 2019, was a student-led endeavor; entirely conceptualized, organized and run by final year undergraduates and graduate students from SoH, with the support of SoH faculty members.

!deas Fest 2019 featured twenty-four research papers gathered from across the various disciplines in SoH and NIE. With this year’s conference theme ‘Bridging Tradition and Innovation’ in mind, undergraduate researchers from SoH and NIE presented papers that reflected their deep engagement and thinking upon the role of the humanities in confronting the challenges of our future. The conference attracted participation from both students and faculty from NTU and NIE. Dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Professor Joseph Liow as well as SoH Chair, Professor K. K. Luke were amongst faculty members who joined undergraduates in attending the conference.’

“The conference was envisioned as a platform for budding undergraduate researchers to present their ideas and to showcase their academic research amongst their peers. We hope that by organising !deas Fest, we can provide an inclusive avenue for our fellow SoH undergraduates to take that very first step on their journey in academic research. !deas Fest is a reflection of SoH’s ethos as a collaborative learning environment that allows our undergraduates the space to explore new ideas and thoughts both within and beyond the classroom,” said Mr. Rafiq Ismail, a final year English undergraduate and the Conference Chair of the !deas Fest 2019 Organising Committee.

!deas Fest 2019 featured six unique presentation sessions spread across the one day event. Presenters tackled complex and thought-provoking questions, ranging from the politics of the body to the role of history, cultural mythologies and literature in understanding ourselves and our societies. Conference participants also engaged with presenters who explored the synergies between cultures and belief systems and between the humanities and the sciences. They also reflected together with researchers upon the nature of humanity itself in the Age of Disruption, bearing in mind the predicted prominence of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning in the near future.

Ms. Zahrah Aljufri, !deas Fest’s conference Communications Director and final year English undergraduate, further elaborated; “We are very pleased to have with us this year over twenty talented undergraduate researchers, whom we had the opportunity to listen to and learn from. In keeping with our conference theme, their diverse research papers and interests reflect the continued relevance and influence of the humanities in the world around us. These papers also represent the emerging patterns of thinking from Singapore and the greater Southeast Asian region, whereupon exciting conversations are bound to take place when we come together to engage with the issues of our time as budding scholars and practitioners of the humanities in Singapore.”

For undergraduate researcher and presenter Mr. Ian Ng, !deas Fest was a welcome chance to engage with fellow undergraduate researchers in SoH.

“!deas Fest was one of the highlights of my undergraduate experience. I was impressed by the depth and sophistication of my schoolmates’ research projects and obtained insights into an eclectic mix of fields which included Islamic mysticism, the philosophy of language and jazz music. The conference provided me with an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas with humanities students from other disciplines and to learn from their perspectives as we journeyed together toward greater critical inquiry and creativity,” said Mr. Ng.

Mr. Ng, who is also an accomplished undergraduate scholar, presented on the competing social utilities of language and literature in his paper, ‘Entertaining and Educating: The Ambivalent Didacticism of Language in the Alice Novels’.

NTU President Research Scholar Ms. April Thant Aung, who presented her research on the relationship between illness and theatre, found the experience of participating in !deas Fest similarly valuable and enriching.

“!deas Fest was an intellectually stimulating conference experience. It was a great platform for undergraduates to exchange unique and original insights and to engage in incisive discussions across the various fields of studies in the humanities,” said Ms. Aung.

Ms. Aung’s presentation at the conference titled, ‘Sickness on Stage in Singapore: Analysing Performance and the Subjective Experience of Illness in Patient and Caregiver’ was met with wide acclaim from attendees. she was one of the six presenters to receive awards for their presentations.

!deas Fest 2019 has come up with a unique way to commend and celebrate presenters whose ideas have intrigued and engaged their session attendees. Each winning presenter from every session was awarded the Shookt! Award in recognition of their achievement in presenting an insightful paper.

Conference attendees also walked away with a refreshed perspective on the humanities. For attendee Mr. Khalid Hazriq Marzuki, an NTU Maritime Studies undergraduate, the conference was an eye-opening introduction to the world of humanities research.

“I found it interesting how various ideas from the different areas of the humanities can come together. More often than not you will find links between these seemingly different ideas presented today. I think that’s the value of this conference. I got to see how we can generate new thoughts from what I initially saw as entirely different concepts. Beyond listening to interesting ideas, attending this conference got me thinking about how these concepts and thoughts actually do relate and interact with one another. And it showed me that this is really how ideas work,” said Mr. Khalid.

Speaking at the conclusion of the conference, Mr. Rafiq congratulated the undergraduate researchers and presenters for their successful participation in !deas Fest.

“Your papers and presentations today prove that there is demand, appetite and aptitude from undergraduate students for research and scholarship. You have proven that research is the lifeblood of any university. Furthermore, you have proven that this university is also a crucible for the gestation of knowledge through critical thinking and that this university is a generator and repository for ideas that matter,” said Mr. Rafiq.

Concluding the inaugural conference, the Conference Chair addressed the closing plenary by stressing the importance of the humanities and its place in the world to all undergraduates present.

“Beyond the bolts and terabytes that power our modern world, your work in the humanities helps us understand our shared humanity in order to better ourselves as a community, a society, and a nation. This is the guiding principle and lodestar for research and scholarship in the humanities and it is within it that we find value in our work, be it as future academics, teachers or thinkers in the workplace. Research must exist in service of the community. Ideas are only valuable if they are shared,” he said.