British Conference of Undergraduate Research

I was invited to give the opening keynote at the British Conference of Undergraduate Research 2015 on 20 April 2015. BCUR has been going for five years. It's an organisation that encourages students to understand their undergraduate work - usually in dissertations and other final-year projects - as research. Placing their work in this context encourages students to take autonomous responsibility for the work, to defend it intellectually, and, by presenting it in a conference like this one, fosters skills of economy, clarity and speaking to wide audiences. This conference was attended by over 300 students from across the world. I could only stay for the first day, but saw a stunningly good range of papers on subjects as diverse as  Napoleon's horse Marengo, detection of secondary semen leakage in crime scenes, and the evolution of research within undergraduate curricula.  

I was asked to set a tone, talk about the value of research, and generally be a bit of a cheerleader. My talk began with the material about Sgt Bertrand the nineteenth-century necrophiliac and I talked about the value of the unexpected discovery and the odd chains of research that lead you from Naturalist theatre to reading about the profanation of Parisian graves in the 1840s. I defended a view of research as 'a kind of pointless openness towards the world'. An inspiring day.