Posted in All things 301, Written by James

My Experience of the SURE Scheme

As my colleague Stefana has already explained the what the SURE scheme is, I thought I might share my own experience of participating in the SURE scheme at a student.

Applying

I was interested in the SURE scheme for a few reasons. First, I was thinking about going into academia when I graduated, or at least further study with a research focus. It’s always good to find out if you don’t like something before you put another year of your life into it. The SURE scheme gives you a chance to really experience what working on your own research project is like. Second, I was going to be staying over the summer in Sheffield anyway. My friends were going abroad on placements, or otherwise engaging themselves with work experience or internships. I needed something to keep my busy over summer, and it didn’t hurt that they’d pay me £1,080, to complete the project. That would keep living expenses down a bit!

The application process was quite easy. The main task is finding a lecturer willing to supervise your research over the summer, so it takes a little bravery to start asking around. But most lecturers won’t bite, and those that do aren’t worth working with anyway! Once I’d found mine, I started working with them on the topic of my project. Sometimes it will be something your tutor is already planning to work on, and you’ll be helping them with an aspect of it. Otherwise, it will be something you can do on your own, with your tutor providing a guiding hand.

There are forms to fill out, but its quite simple once the SURE staff can explain it to you, and we at 301 are always willing to answer your emails on the subject! There are limited places, especially if you require extra funding for materials, hiring spaces etc. So its best to spend a little time polishing that application! If you’re anything like me, it will be the first in a long line of application forms, so its good practise!

My Project

Here is where my experience diverges from some others. I was doing my undergraduate degree in philosophy, which is a subject where research takes the form of reading books and papers, discussing ideas with colleagues, then writing your own paper on the subject. This is of course wildly different from what some other students were doing. There have been people building small robots or computer programs, people writing and performing plays or other artworks. Some even choose to do ambitious research proposals involving surveys and studies. All this is possible to do, but mine was just a dinky little research paper on the philosophy of fiction. Of course, I enjoyed it nevertheless.

It was extremely fun to research a topic that I had a serious and personal interest in, beyond what I would be taught in lectures. It gave me a taste of what research in my field was like, and I found I loved it. From pacing around muttering in frustration to myself to those eureka moments where everything suddenly made sense. It made me realise what I like about my subject. Of course, for you it might do the opposite, but better to know now than later!

I spent the six weeks I had funding for working on my paper, talking regularly with my supervisor and otherwise having fun. The SURE project doesn’t leave you totally on your own. Not only will your supervisor regularly check in or work with you on the project, there are many forums, meetings, workshops and trips available to help you out, including a trip to the British Library in London if you have some sources which are particularly hard to find!

The SURE Showcase

Once your project is over, everybody creates a poster or similar media to present at the SURE Showcase. With some frankly excellent catering (Inox Dine has the best food and wine when its free), students are invited to wander around commenting and discussing the research with their peers and present their own. I had quite a few people interested in my project and had some very engaging and productive discussions. Afterwards, there is an award ceremony where certain awards are given out for especially brilliant student research.

The same research project can be submitted to the British Conference of Undergraduate Research, which provides an excellent opportunity to continue developing and presenting your work!

I later got the essay I worked on published in Sheffield’s own Undergraduate Philosophy Journal, and presented it at a couple of conferences! Not bad for six weeks of work I got paid to do! This helped immensely with both job interviews and applications for further study. I have no doubt I wouldn’t be where I am now without it.

All in all…

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the SURE scheme. It has certainly shaped my future and bolstered by CV and applications. Nothing is more impressive that a standalone, independent project for applying for funding for a masters degree or place on a doctoral programme.

If you’re interested in applying for SURE yourself, you have until the 12th March. So get cracking!

More information can be found here.

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We are 301 Academic Skills Centre and we give academic skills advice to our students at the University of Sheffield. We offer workshops and 1:1 appointments.

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