On 7th March, students taking part in the Lent Term collaboration between LSE’s GROUPS and Imperial College’s Horizons presented their finished projects. In this post, staff from the Teaching and Learning Centre reflect on how students from different institutions and different disciplines worked together to create original research.

How quickly can you carry out a valid, original research project? LSE and Imperial College students tested the laws of (social) science this Lent Term. Groups of students met once a week for just two months, and undertook a complete research project, from choosing an initial question to presenting their findings at a poster conference.

The project was an adaptation of LSE GROUPS, the popular summer term undergraduate opportunity, in which students spend ten days on a similar task. (Applications are currently open for LSE GROUPS 2017.) This new, streamlined GROUPS (working in collaboration with Imperial Horizons) found fresh enthusiasts among the students who participated.

Complementing the hectic pace of the project, the overall theme – “Being human in a technological age” – encouraged several groups to choose up-to the-minute subjects to study. Felix, an Imperial student, researched ‘filter bubbles’ and social media news in his group: “So then the question was, how much did that actually affect [the US election]? … It was a new topic and it was directly applicable to us.”

Another group also chose politics, but were even more topical. Carl, an LSE participant, explained at the final conference: “We are analysing the Northern Ireland Assembly elections which took place just last Thursday. I like the fact that we are able to analyse something that’s happening right now, and apply what we’re learning in actual life.”

  GROUPS-Horizons best presentation//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.jsCarl and his group celebrate winning best presentation

Student research didn’t always progress smoothly, Felix told us: “It’s difficult to measure how much people live in filter bubbles, and how receptive they are to new ideas…. Designing a good survey took us a while. But once that was done, it was good!”

Felix found working with LSE students a “refreshing new experience… If you’re around science people all the time, you know how scientists think, and it’s often quite similar, and then when you bring them to a social issue, that type of thinking doesn’t always work. Social sciences people have a different perspective. And it works really well.”

Supervisors also noted the blend created by cross-institution, mixed-discipline groups.  Supervisor Helen noted: “It’s fun putting different social scientists together because you get a different mix of understandings in the room of what counts as valuable. But when you put natural scientists and engineers in the mix as well, it brings a totally different slant on things. And we get some really good discussions going – there’s lots of interesting disagreements! – and I think the students get a lot out of that.”

Bo Wei, an LSE student of Economics, summed up his time on the project: “It’s been a largely great experience! Because you get to meet people from different universities – Imperial and LSE, we get to work together – and we get to discuss a research topic that is unique and original to us. It was definitely an enriching experience.”

As mentioned, applications are currently open for GROUPS 2017. The theme is “Uncertainty” and all LSE undergraduates are welcome to apply (closing date: 31 March 2017)

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