PHASE 1: University and secondary school research collaboration

Maneesh Kuruvilla
In the summer of 2016, Maneesh Kuruvilla, a Postgraduate Researcher in the School of Psychology & Neuroscience, won the St Andrews final of Three Minute Thesis and was awarded £500 to run a public engagement with research project.

This is what he did.....
I came up with the idea of PHASE 1, a Platform for Honing and Accelerating Scientific Excellence aimed at introducing my passion for research to students at Madras College. Through PHASE 1, I hope to not only equip students with research skills for university but to also encourage future cohorts of school students to take up Higher Psychology courses.

I pitched my idea to the Depute Head Teacher and Higher Psychology Teacher at Madras College, a local secondary school in St Andrews.What makes Madras College unique is that it offers students a Higher Psychology course. Students who take this course must conduct their own psychology research projects.

Over several months I went into the Higher Psychology classes and delivered modules on various aspects of research fundamentals, design and methodology. We then selected students who had expressed a desire to pursue Psychology at university. The students worked in two groups and chose their research areas of interest, designed studies, formulated hypotheses and collected data by recruiting their peers to participate in their experiments.

Over a six-week period, these students were then invited to the School of Psychology and Neuroscience and spent over 10 hours analysing and interpreting their data and preparing 8-minute presentations and academic conference-style posters.

At the closing event, the students, who had been mentored by throughout the project, presented two 8-minute talks on the research projects and presented posters of their projects over tea and coffee. ​

The main objective of this outreach programme was to give school students a breath of research experience at a university level and, in this regard, PHASE 1 has been an unquestionable success. To put things in perspective:
  1. The basic research fundamentals and types of analyses the students have performed with their data is at par with First Year Psychology undergraduates. 
  2. The use of SPSS statistical package to analyse data is at par with Second Year undergrads. 
  3. The ability to visually represent data in the form of a poster is comparable to Junior Honours level. And to receive supervision and give a presentation on one’s own research project is Senior Honors level and above. 

The sold-out event took place at the Byre Theatre in front of close to 100 audience members made up of staff and students from The University of St Andrews and Madras College as well as the general public.

Student presenters
PHASE 1 also featured guest talks by Professor Dave Perrett, Dr Jamie Ainge and Dr Maggie Ellis from the School of Psychology & Neuroscience.

We were pleased to welcome Professor Sally Mapstone (Principal and Vice Chancellor, University of St Andrews), Professor Keith Sillar (Head of School, Psychology & Neuroscience) and Mr David McClure (Rector, Madras College) at the inaugural edition of PHASE 1.

Student Presenters: Aeonie Ramsay, Ross Lavin, Till Sprengelmeyer, Arin Beaver and Jack Laird Mentors: Maneesh Kuruvilla (PhD Student, University of St Andrews); Brianna Vandrey (PhD Student, University of St Andrews); Dr Akira O'Connor (Lecturer, University of St Andrews); Mrs Catherine O'Donnell (Higher Psychology Teacher, Madras College)