We all made the train this time, all 23 of us, unlike on the way up when Ahmed missed our train to Manchester by a whisker. After two intense days at the British Conference for Undergraduate Research at Manchester Metropolitan University, we were tired and looking forward to getting back to London and beyond. But there was still time for celebrating. Aiysha produced a cake to celebrate Ahmed's birthday, which we'd all missed the day before. Poor Ahmed, not only had he missed the train but his hotel room in the 'Palazzo' splendor of the Britannia Hotel was closer to a prison cell: no windows, a bed. We had the whole train carriage singing happy birthday so that he was properly embarrassed.
Over the two days, 400 students from the UK and Europe attended the conference. The 22 science and engineering undergraduate students from Queen Mary talked eloquently about their research, presented their posters or gave presentations, and attended talks on topics as diverse as 'Women, Mental Health and Islam' and 'Determining the efficiency of recovering DNA from latent fingerprints.' The breadth of the research and multidisciplinary focus were the main differences from the usual fare of academic conferences. In all other aspects students experienced an academic research conference: they had opportunities to meet peers, exchange ideas and socialise.
And socialise we did. There was a magnificent reception in Manchester Town Hall, a wonderful example of neo-gothic architecture with grand interiors that we were allowed to wander around. The mayor spoke with passion and eloquence about the city he clearly loved. We decided to go for an early evening mooch to kill time before the conference dinner. To their horror, I suggested the central library around the corner. It's hard to capture the blend of high tech touch screen wonderland of its interior, in a circular neo-Corinthian building that weaves mock-classical and a contemporary networked interior together. And then we walked to dinner and dinner was good.
It was a pleasure to spend time with such an interesting group of people. We had a lot of fun, enjoyed Manchester and they gave a good account of themselves and their research. What was special about the conference was the energy and enthusiasm students bring to the event. Talking to our group from Queen Mary, I could see that they were testing the water for their futures and finding it good. They wanted more and we talked about getting funding to go to the international student research conference in Qatar and how we would support this opportunity for next years' students.