EURSS 2021 Virtual Showcase Highlight



The EUTOPIA Undergraduate Research Support Scheme (EURSS) provides an opportunity for EUTOPIA’s students to develop valuable transferable skills, build their confidence, and enhance their CV and career prospects by leading their own international research projects.

 

Projects are designed by students in collaboration with supervisors at two EUTOPIA universities. Mobility is a key component of the EURSS: participants are required to engage beyond national borders to carry out their research projects. Projects in all research fields are eligible.

 

This virtual showcase highlights some of the fascinating projects carried out by the students who successfully applied for a EURSS bursary in 2021. Find out more about their projects, and about their experiences of participating in the EURSS, below. The 2022 call for EURSS projects will launch shortly, so watch this space!

EURSS Showcase:

Arts and Humanities
Janne Vandebroek

Title: Puro Amor (2018) and Hair/Pelitos (1994): A comparative study of SandraCisneros’ works that combine English with Spanish and visual art
Home Institution: VUB
Home Supervisor: Diana Castilleja
Host Institution: CY
Host Supervisor: Gustavo Guerrero






 

Reflective Essay on EURSS:

My EUTOPIA experience in collaboration with the CY Cergy Paris Université was a really positive one, and I am so grateful to have been able to participate in the project. I thoroughly enjoyed doing research away from distractions and obligations, and at the same time living in another city with a lot of new impulses. I found the support from both universities exceptional, and I had everything I needed at all times.

What I liked most about the project is that I could really dig deep into a certain subject without other courses, social distractions or my job needing part of my attention. I had been wanting (needing!) to read more about black feminism for a very long time, and am so happy I finally got the chance to do that in a profound enough way. Furthermore, I really loved meeting another doctorate of my subject, because at smaller universities like the VUB we have the same professor for all Spanish literature courses. Because everybody puts another emphasis on their teachings, this exchange can offer new perspectives to your subject. Prof. dr. Gustavo Guerrero for example knows – and has taught me – a lot about the behind the scenes of the literary world, whereas prof. dr. Diana Castilleja seems to focus more on the experience of literature in itself.

It was, however, really challenging for me to set my boundaries regarding the research. As it interests me so much and is so broad, it was very tempting to keep reading everything I found on the subject – which was a lot! Moreover, I was not sure about how much work I was supposed to do, and I definitely wanted to compensate for the grant I received. This sometimes made me feel a bit overwhelmed because I also wanted to experience the city and its people. Eventually, I did go to museums but did not have time to make any friends in Paris, which would have been nice. Of course, a month is very short anyway for a city like Paris, so maybe at other universities this differs. Furthermore, I experienced some difficulties with my Airbnb-accommodation, so I think it might be helpful for other students to find one in the Cité Universitaire. I could not apply because I was too late, but maybe this could be arranged beforehand by future EUTOPIA students and cancelled in case their research does not get selected.

Even though it was at times very challenging and the freedom we had regarding the research really took me out of my comfort zone, I would recommend the EUTOPIA experience to almost everybody! I have not only learnt so much about my research domain through libraries, conferences and museums, but – as is for every time you are challenged – also about myself. In addition, participating in the ICUR was really beneficial for me because I really want to get over my fear of public speaking. Thank you so much for the amazing opportunity!

Jess Taylor

Title: Sacred Springs East and West: Evidence of the Genainville Excavations’ Sacred Springs and Surrounding Complex Compared to the Asclepieion at Pergamon.
Home Institution: UoW
Home Supervisor: Suzanne Frey-Kupper
Host Institution: CY
Host Supervisor: Vivien Barrière

Reflective Essay on EURSS:

What I love most about this project is telling people about it! Informing friends and acquaintances that I was awarded the privileged opportunity to use university funds to travel abroad never ceases to amaze, and this incredulity is only increased when they learn that I was able to work on a current archaeological dig and handle finds, something which popular media has consigned to the likes of heroes like Lara Croft.

While this shock is usually very funny, I feel it is not unmerited because my project experience was both rewarding and demanding. Looking back, I was not prepared for the reality of life on a dig site. The long days of digging, the awful Wi-Fi connection, and the occasional communication difficulties between myself and the French students, were all more extreme than I had anticipated. I didn’t even pack the right clothes for digging, and felt very singled out by my jeans in comparison to everyone else’s gardening/workman’s trousers!

These challenges necessitated a steep learning curve, but with the help of others I took away so much from Genainville that I hadn’t expected. My understanding of the actual process of excavation was enormously enriched on site. For example, I discovered the unique challenges that archaeologists might confront on each site; at Genainville this is the weather, and the back-dirt from previous digs by Mitard which obscures and even sadly discounts some archaeological evidence. I also learned the value of building relationships with your co-workers. Digging alongside strangers who became friends for three weeks has taught me how much your work and career can be impacted by your colleagues, and becoming friends with French archaeologists-in-training was certainly a highlight of my time. This is something I will try to apply to my future career.

Being given funding for my project truly made a world of difference to me. Due to the pandemic and its associated coronavirus testing requirements, the price of travelling abroad was much higher than usual in Summer 2021. Without financial assistance, I probably would have had to complete my project entirely from the UK. While this wouldn’t have been impossible, I think the lack of English-language information available about Genainville and its history would have impeded my understanding of the site, especially in terms of the spatial dynamics at play. I believe this would have made the comparisons I have been able to draw between Genainville and Pergamon much less insightful and would have had a particularly negative effect on my understanding of the material culture at Genainville. Additionally, completing my project remotely wouldn’t have given me the chance to learn how the site continues to be regarded by locals and archaeologists, and the important place in French culture that it occupies, demonstrated for example by the opening of the site to visitors during the Journées du Patrimoine festival while I was there. 

Overall, I am very grateful to have been a 2021 EURSS participant because this project transformed my understanding of both the people and site of Genainville, a feat that I couldn’t have accomplished otherwise. The professional network and human experience I have garnered through this project are unique, and I have no doubt they will be useful to me in the future.

Hanneloes Grezel & Filip Myrberg

Filip Myrberg
Filip Myrberg
Title: The new news: Youth experiences in digital spaces
Home Institution: GU
Home Supervisor: Linda Sternö
Host Institution: VUB
Host Supervisor: Ike Picone
(Photo of Philip Myrberg)




Filip Myrberg
(Photo of Hanneloes Grezel)











This project takes on the inventive form of a website. Visit it HERE!

Reflective Essay on EURSS:

Essay about Interactivity and the Eutopia experience by Filip Myrberg.


Having been able to participate in the EURSS has been a great opportunity as well as a challenging task over the course of the summer and autumn 2021. When applying for the grant I knew little about academic writing and getting the opportunity to plan, structure and execute a research project has been a very educational process.

In my essay I would like to adress the interactive nature of our project in more detail. Choosing an alternative presentation method and putting our project on the web was an idea that we had from the start and I’m glad it followed through. In the beginning we figured participatory elements in the presentation would reconnect with characteristics we found interesting with the news media of today. Our home supervisor helped us in the early stages in developing the idea and key features thereby. A concept that was introduced to me was cross disciplinary research, essentially combining two lines of education in one project, in our case the journalistic with the artistic.

The most prominent features of interaction on the website can be attributed to the comment section and the quote randomizer and they surely stand out as a bigger part in the interactiveness. But besides that more spread out design elements such as emoji representations, menu maneuvering and color coded quotes also play a part in making the project more intriguing.

The application format for EURSS was well designed as it required quite a well defined idea but still emphasized that changes could be made and the project could grow and evolve during the summer. I found adapting the mindset of a researcher somewhat challenging, and working in a team really helped with this as my project partner and I had different backgrounds and so could combine our expertises.

Our host supervisors from Vrije Universiteit in Brussels also really helped us from start to finish, always being there on Microsoft Teams for discussing ideas and the trajectory of the project! Getting the chance to work on a research project with a web format in mind has really been a rewarding process and for that I am thankful.

On academic accessibility and the Eutopia experience by Hanneloes Grezel

The EURSS has given me and my research partner the opportunity to let our own ideas rule how we want to conduct our research. As it comes to the work process, we have divided the work between us very equally, where my research partner has had more responsibility on the design part and I have had more responsibility for the language. I would say for the scope of this project, having each other has been a huge asset and I could not have done this alone. Finding youth to interview was really really hard! Having the project relayed over the summer probably made it harder, and not mapping out enough time for the project initially too. It was also hard to gage what was expected of us for the project, since we didn’t have a frame of reference and it would be nice to have clearer guidelines on certain aspects, also to communicate to the supervisors what would be expected of us for this project. 

The absolute best part of the project was getting to meet our host supervisors and experiencing university abroad, something we haven’t had the opportunity to do before this. The funding helped us stay in Brussels for a week, two days of which we sat at the VUB to work, which made everything 100% worth it. All in all, this is definitely an experience I would recommend, if you’re someone that is willing to put the work in. 

For me, I got to combine an academic research process with a journalistic presentation through the website we built as our method of presenting. The first question you would ask yourself when working on any article is who you are writing for. It was clear for us from the start that our audience was the same young people that we chose to interview for the piece. This meant we wanted to create a product that would be accessible to a general audience, with as few aesthetic and linguistic barriers of entry as possible. We wanted the piece to be understood on its own, regardless of experience with the essay form. Aligning our idea with the goals of EUTOPIA, this speaks to the upholding and creating of an open exchange of knowledge within Europe. For us this means looking at research culture not only within the universities, also remembering that scientific concepts created do influence public discourse outside of the universities. We want to present the research in a way that is therefore formatted to be able to directly communicate with both of these camps, without needing to be filtered by, for example, journalists. By presenting it in this way, we want to question ourselves when it comes to typical ways to present academic research. We don’t, however, see our method of presenting specifically as an example of how to go about presenting this research. It is just a method we have chosen because we thought that it fit our project on a more conceptual level, the interactivity and design mimicking the way in which youth consume news. The project doesn’t take credit for being ambitious enough to directly question academic inaccessibility, but we do hope that these questions are something that will be on the reader’s mind.

Berta Coll I Boch

Title: Rhythm and Musical Elements in Aurora Bertrana and Katherine Mansfield’s short stories
Home Institution: UPF
Home Supervisor: Pere Gifra
Host Institution: UL
Host Supervisor: Igor Maver

 

Reflective Essay on EURSS (In Catalan):

Berta Coll i Bosch Assaig reflexiu – EURSS 2021 (EUTOPIA) Octubre de 2021

Aquest estiu he tingut l’oportunitat d’elaborar el projecte ‘Rhythm and Musical Elements in Aurora Bertrana and Katherine Mansfield’s short stories’ a cavall de la Facultat d’Humanitats de la Universitat Pompeu Fabra i de la Facultat d’Arts de la Universitat de Ljubljana gràcies a la beca EURSS 2021 d’EUTOPIA. Sens dubte, ha estat una experiència enormement gratificant, tant a nivell personal com acadèmic, i m’atreviria a dir que ha estat el moment més intens de la meva vida acadèmica.

Vaig apuntar-me al projecte perquè des de feia mesos tenia una idea de recerca al cap i vaig pensar que aquesta beca em podria ser útil per a materialitzar-la. A més, després d’un any digital a causa de la pandèmia, tenia ganes de viure la universitat d’una forma més activa. Vaig pensar que aquesta beca podia ser un complement ideal per als meus estudis oficials a la universitat: vaig intuir que era un projecte prou flexible, que ens donava un grau de llibertat més alt que no pas els estudis de grau, que han de seguir un pla d’estudis concret. En definitiva, creia que seria una bona oportunitat per treballar de forma creativa. Ara puc concloure que no estava gens equivocada.

A nivell acadèmic, EURSS m’ha servit per espavilar-me, per començar a afinar els meus interessos acadèmics, per conèixer com funciona el món de la recerca universitària, per ampliar el meu coneixement literari, per fer contactes i per tenir discussions interessants amb professors experts en la matèria del meu treball. No tinc del tot clar si continuaré fent investigació relacionada amb el meu projecte, però sé del cert que el treball m’ha obert portes i, sobretot, m’ha permès establir possibles futures col·laboracions amb el meu tutor a Ljubljana. He pogut descobrir, també, el sistema universitari eslovè, que és prou diferent del català. D’alguna manera, veure aquestes diferències m’ha servit per detectar punts millorables de la meva universitat, però al mateix temps m’ha fet valorar la sort d’estudiar en una ciutat com Barcelona i en una universitat com la UPF.

A nivell personal, l’estada a Eslovènia ha estat realment estimulant. Tot i que ja havia tingut experiències a l’estranger, era la primera vegada que marxava sola a un altre país. Per tant, he hagut d’aprendre a ser completament autònoma. Vaig poder conèixer estudiants de diversos països, i això m’ha enriquit culturalment. També crec que he millorat el meu anglès. El fet d’haver de realitzar un treball prou sofisticat en una llengua que no m’és pròpia i en un context internacional ha fet que el projecte sigui doblement desafiador, però considero que me n’he sortit bastant bé i estic orgullosa del resultat final.

No tinc cap queixa del programa. L’únic que se m’acut com a punt de millora seria crear una comunitat (per exemple, un grup de Whatsapp) amb els becats de totes les universitats per tal de poder compartir inquietuds concretes d’una forma més àgil i, també, per poder saber si algun altre becari és a la mateixa ciutat que tu durant l’estiu.

Berta Galofré Claret

Filip Myrberg
Title: Lévinas and Blanchot: How language can introduce a new ethic?
Home Institution: UPF
Home Supervisor: Raquel Bouso
Host Institution: VUB
Host Supervisor: Karl Verstrynge




 

Reflective Essay on EURSS:

Lévinas is still today not as known as, in my honest opinion, he deserves, at least in Spain. In fact, the first time I heard his name, it wasn’t in an academic context, but my fascination after discovering his thought forced me to focus my final bachelor project on him. At that moment, I was just interested in his ethical thought, because I didn’t realize his aesthetic development. So, when I got noticed of the EURSS scholarship, I thought it would be an excellent idea to centre my project on this topic.

Lévinas based his aesthetics as a response to what Maurice Blanchot, his best friend, but also one of the greatest literary critic and philosopher of the 20th century, had conceived before. Thus, it was necessary to search for a professor specialized in Blanchot, that is why finding Professor Douglas Atkinson (VUB, Brussels) was a marvelous opportunity.

The methodology that I have been following during my summer project has been clear: reading the primary source: Réalité et son ombre (Lévinas, 1948), then, immersing myself into Blanchot’s thought, as knowing how to read him carefully. Also, reading all the bibliography that could help me to understand the topic. Most of the documentation has been provided and guided by my tutor. After reading all these works, I have been able to translate Réalité et son ombre in Catalan. As I said, Lévinas is not so known and in Catalan there are practically none of his works translated. So, this project could be a good opportunity to contribute to the spreading of his thought. In this way, the scholarship will allow me to do academic research, but at the same time bringing a palpable result to the society, it means, a translation of a non-translated play yet.

My point of departure was the following one: “How language can introduce a new ethic?”, or more specifically “Is it possible to think ethics poetically?”, according on the levinasian point of view. I didn’t know anything about it, so, it was necessary at the beginning to read all what I could about the topic in order to discover the subject. The results let me realize the complexity of the matter, something unexpected initially. That is why I had to centre my project only on the first levinasian aesthetic period. After all, I have discovered that in this period, in which I have been focused, ethics and poetics are antagonistic. Furthermore, despite ethics and poetics provoke the same anonymity feeling, they are completely the opposite, because while ethics needs to beat this impersonal way to express, to become responsible with the Other, poetry is born from this lack of subjectivity and there is any reason to avoid this emotion, basically because is the way how poetry can be produced.

To sum up, this project has offered me the opportunity to continue studying one of the thinkers with the most interest to me and about whom I will continue going deeply in the future. Doing this project abroad also have taught and given me new tools at the time to research, as well as practicing English and French, not just Spanish or Catalan, as I am used to. EURSS-Eutopia scholarship has been an excellent opportunity and I am pretty sure that it will benefit my academic future.

Social Sciences
Mateu Font i Mugnaini & Héctor Jiménez Garcia

Filip Myrberg
Title: Human realization through labour: a critical assessment of (neo)liberal and communitarian frames.
Home Institution: UPF
Home Supervisor: Sergi Morales-Galvez
Host Institution: VUB
Host Supervisor: Emiliano Acosta

(Photo of Hector Jiménez)




 

Reflective Essay on EURSS:
 

A) Mateu Font i Mugnaini

Background

The main objective of our research project was the rigorous and deep lecture of Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 to explore the concept of human realization through labour that Marx describes on it and contrasting it with the liberal and communitarian perspectives of work and realization. Furthermore, we wanted to relate these three perspectives with issues currently affecting our contemporary societies. In this sense, we decided to focus on the robotization issue and analyse how every and each of these perspectives interacts with the mentioned matter.

Methodology

As it is usual in philosophical research, the methodology used in our research consisted primarily in the analytical and critical reading of primary sources such as, Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, Locke’s Second Treatise of government or Sandel’s The tyranny of merit for a posterior discussion.

As mentioned before, we specially focused ourselves on Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, a book that we deeply read the first week of our research exchange and that discussed in various meetings with our host tutor Pr. Dr, Emiliano Acosta of the Vrije Universiteit Brussels.

Findings

After reading and discussing the books, we wrote an essay applying their basic ideas to the problematic of robotization. In this essay we made the analytical distinction between utilitarian conceptions of labour such as the liberal or the communitarian one, which focus on the outcome, the object that is produced through work and the Marxian conception that considers labour as an end on itself. This difference is crucial to handle the problem of robotization because it allows us to differentiate between perspectives that only consider individuals when they produce something useful for society, something that machines, as data shows, will be doing soon, and perspectives that conceive work not as a productive activity but as an exercise through which individual “freely” develops “his physical and mental energy”.

This perspective would be helpful in order to rephrase the economical debate and, instead of trying to find ways of reallocating the workers that will loose their jobs to machines in order to ensure their economic and physical subsistence, explore alternatives such as the universal basic income that allow individuals to work in a Marxian way, dedicating their energy and time to activities that they find truly meaningful and not to those that allow them to earn a salary.

Conclusions of the project

After this research stay in the VUB we’ve been able to deeply understand Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 and even work, with our host tutor, on Hegel’s thought and it’s influence on this Marxian text. Furthermore, the main conclusion of our research is the validity and relevance that this book still has and, especially, how useful it can be to imagine solutions to our current crisis. In this sense, it proves what Walter Benjamin tried to synthesize using the character known as Angelus Novus: when looking to the future, it is sometimes necessary to take a look to the forgotten ideas of the past.

B) Héctor Jiménez- Garcia

Nowadays, the increasing robotization and automatization of the labour market represents one of the most pressing issues for the future of our societies, since the vast majority of the current jobs will be performed by machines, as several studies have shown. Therefore, a revision of the notion of labor and a deep questioning of its conceptual meaning and implications is crucial for understanding the present and adapting to the upcoming future.

For this purpose, me and my colleague Mateu, have carried out a joint research focusing on Karl Marx’s Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844, following a methodology mainly grounded on the careful analytical and critical reading of this primary bibliographical source (and others, such The Thyranny of Merit or the Second Treatise of Government), and its informed discussion with our revisor Emiliano Acosta. In every step of the way, Mateu and I have worked side by side with complete knowledge and full participation in every collective outcome of the research.

Having carried out this eminently philosophical research, we can highlight two main findings.

Firstly, that communitarian (Michael Sandel) and liberal (John Locke) notions of labor, broadly speaking, can’t escape the univocal vision of work as an instrumental activity whose worth primarily lies on its consequences (being them either an individual accumulation or a communitarian contribution), but not in the act of working itself and the possibilities of human realization that this implies. This is increasingly problematic in the context of automatization, in which the material products of labor will be mainly produced by machines.

Secondly, that Marx transcends these limitations by considering that human realization is indissociably linked with performing labor as a life activity detached from material needs and deprivation, in which human beings can truly feel free. Hence, Marx draws a clear and fruitful distinction between the instrumental value of labour, and its intrinsic value. Focusing on this intrinsic worth is a nuanced overcoming of liberal and communitarian standpoints.

By apprehending these two main findings, we concluded that Marx’s approach to human realization does not only constitute a theoretical breakthrough, but also opens a new realm of unexplored possibilities concerning the problem of automatization in workplace. Since the productive activities of society will increasingly be carried out by machines, our societal focus must shift from considering labor as solely linked with its material outcomes, to embrace the Marxian idea of realizing oneself in a free and needlessly engaged labor with value in itself, and not only in its productive and objectual aftermath. This seemingly utopian scenario is becoming more realistic with the new technologies applied to work. Thus, what was regarded as a threatening problem could also be considered an opportunity to open new horizons of human fulfillment.

Aside from this brief account of our work, it is necessary to state that this research stay has given me the opportunity to actively complement the knowledge about Marx that I acquired in my degree. Furthermore, the long and productive meetings with our tutor Emiliano Acosta made me understand some points about Hegel’s philosophy that will be very useful in my Master’s degree. And, finally, I had the opportunity to produce with my teammate a longer philosophical essay about our research project that we will be presenting at ICUR 2021 and might be used in the future for further research or publishing purposes. All the above, leaving aside the rewarding and enriching experience that has been to live in Brussels for a month.

Sara Larios Ongay

Filip Myrberg
Title: Multilingualism in flea markets
Home Institution: UPF
Home Supervisor: Vicent Climent-Ferrando
Host Institution: VUB
Host Supervisor: Ann Peeters







Reflective Essay on EURSS:

When I first saw EURSS’ mail, I thought it could be an excellent opportunity to get to know a different place reality and dive into my city’s reality in a field that I am interested in, such as languages and street markets. Even though, I applied not knowing all the good things it would bring to me.

I’ve had the opportunity to carry on a small research on my own, having the advantage of choosing what to include and dealing with excluding things from it. It has allowed me to establish international relationships and get to know how relations between universities work.

The start was one of the most challenging moments because starting a research from the ground means getting excited about all you could add and being able to discard some ideas. I had a lot of ideas, and it was hard to organize them. Indeed, the support from my tutors was fundamental at this point.

Another difficult time was the start of the fieldwork. It has consisted of speaking with sellers in the markets, and even though it sounded easy in my head, once I was alone in the market, where there’s constant movement and interaction, I got a bit scared. In my first days in Barcelona, I had to force myself to start speaking and surveying sellers, but I began to get used to it little by little. Once I was completely used to it, I had to move one to Bruxelles, where there was one more difficulty to take into account: Language. There, I had to force myself again to start speaking to sellers and little by little get used to asking the question two times so that they could understand me. Even though it was a bit difficult to start, I can say that after surveying more than 300 sellers, I would even find it easy now!

In the same way, the project has allowed me to get experience and train myself in the research field, and I think now I have a lot of new knowledge and abilities that I will apply in the following projects, whether they are personal or academic.

Working with another European University has allowed me to know how relationships between universities are, and I’ve had a lot of practice writing formal mail in English. I’ve also gotten to know how other universities work.

I’m thankful for the funding because otherwise, this project would have stayed in my mind.

Emilia Rojo

Title: The Effects of Narrative-Building on Inducing Collective Action: How language and identity shape perception on mobilization
Home Institution: UPF
Home Supervisor: Ibrahim Sonmez
Host Institution: GU
Host Supervisor: Sverker C. Jagers

Filip Myrberg


Reflective Essay on EURSS:

As a Global Studies student, I am exposed to a very broad and interdisciplinary curriculum. I originally chose this degree because I was unsure of what I wanted to pursue with it but it was general enough that I could have a wide range of fields to choose from. I knew I wanted to pursue something related to environmental politics but wasn't really sure I wanted to go the political science route. As my second year progressed, I still asked myself what it was that I would do upon graduating. Would I pursue a masters in public policy, find work at an NGO, pursue something business-related? These were questions I asked myself on a daily basis. One day, I received an email from my department’s secretary and it was a call to apply for the Eutopia Undergraduate Research Support Scheme. My first year, I had dabbled in some research and data classes and really liked the idea of carrying out projects like these. At the time, I was reading about behavioural psychology, specifically on identity, just because it was something that interested me. So that same day, I came up with a broad research question and contacted my first-year Research Methods teacher, Ibrahim Sonmez. He guided me towards developing a more concrete research plan and from there I contacted Sverker C. Jagers, the director of the Center for Collective Action Research at the University of Gothenburg - thinking that my topic might fit into the research culture there. I was really surprised when I received an email in April confirming that I had been selected as a bursary recipient and that my research idea would actually be carried out.

The month I spent in Gothenburg, Sweden was easily one of the most transformative periods of my life. More than just the skills I gained related to qualitative research and development, I gained insight into what it is that I wanted to pursue. My love for environmental politics and psychology were not as incommensurable as I once thought. After reading a vast amount of literature, listening to dozens of speeches given by Greta Thunberg, and interviewing participants for my research project, I realized that I could combine the two and pursue a research career in environmental governance and behavioural psychology - essentially studying the ways in which humans interact with their environment and developing policy proposals on the basis of these findings.

From recruiting participants for interviews to long evenings spent at the library and coffee shops, this experience was not without its challenges. However, I am eternally grateful to the EURSS for giving me the opportunity to develop my research skills, explore my passions, dive headfirst into Swedish culture, and, most importantly, giving me the confidence to go beyond the boundaries of my undergraduate degree and explore other academic disciplines.

While presenting my findings at the International Conference for Undergraduate Research in September and watching fellow EURSS bursary recipients present theirs, I realized that we all came back from our summer holidays having grown, both academically and personally, from this experience.

Martin Justin

Filip Myrberg
Title: The Concept of Gestalt in Merleau-Ponty's Philosophy
Home Institution: UL
Home Supervisor: Sebastjan Vörös
Host Institution: UPF
Host Supervisor: Antonino Firenze









Reflective Essay on EURSS:

Although I’m always open to other opportunities, it is my dream to pursue an academic career. Thus, when I learned about the Eutopia undergraduate summer research program I immediately decided to apply. Conducting an international research project seemed like a great way to get important experience, boost my CV, and meet new people that could become future collaborators. As soon as possible, I wrote to my graduate thesis supervisor, Prof. Sebastjan Vörös, whether he would like to help me apply, and when he said yes, I immediately started looking for a second mentor abroad.

This – besides the uncertainty surrounding the covid restrictions – proved to be one of the most challenging parts of the experience. Since this was the first year my university participated in the EURSS, there was no existing procedure in place to help students find their second mentor. Thus, I had to go through the philosophy departments of all participating universities and check their staffs’ research interests. Lucky, I soon learned about Prof. Antonio Firenze, who published several papers on Merleau-Ponty, and who was immediately prepared to help me with my project. Unfortunately, I was never able to travel to Barcelona to meet him in person, but we nevertheless collaborated fruitfully and plan to continue to do so.

As for the project itself, I thoroughly enjoyed doing it. I was already quite familiar with the topic, i.e., Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, but focusing on a specific aspect of his work gave me a whole new perspective on it. Although it was quite challenging at times – some passages in Merleau-Ponty proved to be quite opaque and hard to understand – I felt sufficiently competent in my analytic skills. And since I had to write a lot of short summaries of significant passages, I improved a lot in my ability to present an idea precisely and concisely. An interesting part of the research was also looking for sources online. Most of the Merleau-Ponty’s books I needed were available neither in the faculty or the city library nor in the local bookstores, so I had to rely on the internet. Fortunately, all the works I needed were available through The Internet Archive’s free “Books to Borrow” service.

But most importantly, I now have a lot of research materials, which I can use to write and publish a research paper, and new ideas, on which I can continue working. If anything, the experience of conducting this research project reinforced my wish to work as a researcher, be it in academia, in a non-profit organization, or the private sector. I think that the EURSS was a great opportunity for me to further improve my research skills and get important experience and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to pursue a research-oriented career or just wants to learn more about a topic that interests them.

Physical Science and Medicine
Hope Rowden

Filip Myrberg
Title: Exploring the role of AKR1C3/1B1 inhibition on Endometriosis progression
Home Institution: UoW
Home Supervisor: Nicholas Hopcroft
Host Institution: UL
Host Supervisor: Tea Lanišnik Rižner












 

Filip Myrberg


Reflective Essay on EURSS:

Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory disease which affects up to 1 in 10 women of reproductive age. It occurs when endometrial cells grow outside the uterus and is categorised based on the location of ectopic lesions, namely: ovarian, peritoneal, and deep infiltrating endometriosis. The exact cause of endometriosis is yet to be determined. Nevertheless, for the last 50 years progestins (synthetic analogues of progesterone) have been used to treat endometriosis. Progestins are known to be anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the function of certain immune cells and affecting the balance of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines. However, the pharmacological action of progestins in endometriosis is not completely understood. Previous unpublished data from our laboratory has identified IL-1, IL-10 and OPG signalling pathways involved in progestins mechanism of action. The aim of this study was to further assess the role of progestins on the pro-inflammatory IL-1 signalling pathway. We examined the effect of progesterone and three progestins (Medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA), Dydrogesterone (D) and Dienogest (DNG)) in a model cell line of peritoneal endometriosis (12-Z). We utilised Real Time-qPCR to assess expression of 6 genes involved in the IL-1 signalling pathway. We found that the gene encoding IL1 receptor (IL1R) was upregulated by MPA and DNG whereas repressors of IL-1 signalling pathway, IL1R2 and IL1RN, were upregulated by all progestins. Ligands IL1A/B showed changes depending on the progestin, and expression of IL1R1 co-receptor named, IL1RAP, was not affected by any condition. Although progestins showed different effects on expression of the investigated genes, up-regulation of IL1R2 and IL1RN suggest that all progestins decrease pro-inflammatory IL-1 signalling in an endometriotic cell line 12-Z.

Personnal feedback

This project allowed me to undertake complex laboratory protocols, expanding my skill sets and passion for laboratory work. Specifically, calculating 12-Z growth curve chart to ensure the cells were growing in the most optimal conditions possible, and utilising Real Time-qPCR has been a great challenge. The later required high precision as I had to pipette 15 conditions for nine genes, in triplicate, onto multiple 386 well plates.

Furthermore, I was able to present my research findings at a national conference, which has pushed me out of my comfort zone and developed my confidence with public speaking. Finally, I am very grateful for the ‘soft skills’ I have developed whilst being on the EURSS program, including making new friends and navigating living in a foreign country. I loved being a part of a different culture, where people are encouraged to hike at the weekends, and late-night café culture is standard. I was also able to travel to four other countries in the six weeks I spent living in Slovenia, which would have never been a feasible option before.

To improve, it would be beneficial if EURSS could work with Erasmus, as those on the later program had pre-arranged or suggested activities – making the transition of living abroad easier.

Martin Smit

Filip Myrberg
Title: AI that Strives for Equality: The Homo Egualis Principle for Multi-Agent Learning
Home Institution: UoW
Home Supervisor: Paolo Turrini
Host Institution: VUB
Host Supervisor: Ann Nowé








 

Filip Myrberg


Reflective Essay on EURSS:

Unlike my previous research experience, the EURSS project I ended up with has strong resemblance to the project my supervisors and I formulated. When I first contacted Dr Paolo Turrini, and he in turn contacted Professor Ann Nowé, we came up with an ambitious project tackling an active area of research. Artificial intelligence is a very broad field, and our focus was on engineering socially desirable outcomes, which we achieved. However, the methods we used to reach this outcome took a different direction.

When discussing possible angles of attack for the problem of getting multiple artificial intelligence-controlled robots, known as agents, to work together, Ann suggested that we build on work she had done previously. In this work, agents’ assessments of what a good and bad outcome was were altered to include a notion of how well other agents were performing. This work had been partially successful, but they were not able to prove for certain whether agents that were altered in this way would be guaranteed to learn socially desirable outcomes, or whether they could get stuck in some non-optimal state.

While proving this was the ultimate goal, I started in a different direction. I wanted to take a specific situation, namely that of continuous load balancing where one assigns tasks to processors in such a way that minimizes how long they take, and models it mathematically in order to gain some base level of understanding about the system before any learning took place.

This work proved fruitful, and I slowly built up a deep understanding of what an optimal outcome would look like, and even proved that this outcome was both unique and that Ann’s altered agents would perform optimally if tweaked correctly. Unfortunately, I discovered while writing up my results that this model that I had thought was novel had been used before to study this situation.

Fortunately, I had made other observations during my research. In my simulations, I noticed that the theoretical results of the current literature were not accurate in cases where the size of tasks arriving represented a non-trivial proportion of the total traffic in the system. In this case, the methods employed by previous work would be inaccurate, as they assumed that the tasks arriving could be infinitely subdivided as opposed to discrete.

The work I submitted for the EURSS deadline includes only the work up to the application of Ann’s technique. It shows why it is necessary for an efficient system and provides context for how it is implemented.

Currently, I am continuing this research while doing my Master’s and I still hope to submit the eventual paper to an academic journal on artificial intelligence and multi-agent systems. The project has given me the opportunity to dive deeply into a topic I didn’t know so much about, learning from academics all over Europe and showing me that an interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving can go a long way.

Rahil Haria

Filip Myrberg
Title: Electronic structure of epitaxial topological materials
Home Institution: UoW
Home Supervisor: Gavin Bell
Host Institution: CY
Host Supervisor: Karol Hricovini







Reflective Essay on EURSS:

The reason I wanted to take part in EURSS was because I was keen on doing research as a potential career path for when I finish my degree. Experience in a university lab as part of a course is not a fair representation of what research really is and I wanted that perspective to aid me in my decision with what to do in the future. The EURSS program would also allow me to use the amalgam of skills I have developed over my degree and apply it to real world applications using cutting-edge technology.

In my EURSS project I had hands on experience with Ultra High Vacuum systems, which is something I would have never encountered through my degree. Dr Gavin Bell gave me an excellent rundown of all the systems that I would be using and by the later stages, I was able to operate a large amount of these systems without supervision.

The best part of the experience was operating on the UHV Molecular Beam Epitaxy chambers and repairing the system. This was beneficial as repairing machinery helps you understand how it works. The most challenging bit was making sure everything was as clean and precise as possible to ensure the best results.

I have come away from the experience with a great appreciation for researchers and all the small working cogs that must move for the best research to be conducted such as funding, repairing when things go wrong, resources and outsourcing specialist tasks. It is much more than I would have ever known without this experience.

A lot of the work was conducted of my judgement of what I thought would be the best course of action, which is initially daunting, but I quickly developed confidence in the decisions I made. Having more independence also allowed me to experiment with new ideas which is a skill which is not really developed throughout education.

I’ve taken away from this experience an improved understanding of UHV physics as well as condensed matter physics. I have also come away with other soft skills which I value, such as vastly improved communication and teamworking skills. It has become very apparent to me that scientific endeavours are a collaborative effort.

I would of course recommend doing this experience, even if you have no intention of doing research in the future. If you love your subject, I strongly believe that undertaking a small research project to further the knowledge in a field of study is a very rewarding experience and something that everyone should try

The funding really helped make the important measurements of InBi that were made at the ATTOLab in Paris. The ARPES results are incredibly important for understanding topological semimetals. The funding also allowed me to spend time at Warwick learning all the basics of UHV physics, now I could conduct a full experiment on a pristine sample on my own.