We’re excited to dive into the King’s Undergraduate Research Fellowship experience… and our new series “Got Your Eye on KURF?” will feature stories from KURF academics about their projects, what the experience of being (and leading) an Undergraduate Research Fellow is like, and their advice for interested students! First case study of the series is from Victoria from War Studies.
Hi! My name is Victoria. I’m a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of War Studies. I came to King’s after finishing my PhD at the Centre for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Birmingham. I am doing my post-doc part-time, and have three small children.
My KURF project experience
I have been doing a project exploring the experiences and motivations of ethnic Russian citizens of Kazakhstan who have emigrated to Russia. My Russian is up to the job of desk-based research, but conducting interviews is a different matter, you need to be able to think on your feet, and respond dynamically in the foreign language, which is really tricky and requires a high level of fluency! Thanks to the KURF scheme, I was able to work closely with a native Russian-speaking student to do the interviews in line with my research design.
I found the experience of mentoring really rewarding; it’s great to be involved in giving a student experience that can influence and benefit their future career trajectory. On a practical, organisational level, the recruitment all worked extremely straightforwardly and really streamlined the process of finding a great candidate and then getting the work done. The candidate was well-briefed thanks to the KURF online induction, and ready to hit the ground running.
The student’s role – what’s it like to be a KURF fellow?
Prior to our project, the undergraduate fellows receive information and training from the careers team to help them succeed in their role.
Right at the beginning of our joint activities, I provided some reading materials to set the context of the research and to give detailed insight into the interview as a research method. This was important as the student hailed from a discipline where quantitative methods are dominant. We talked it all through and discussed the interview questions, building rapport with interview participants, avoiding “leading” questions etc. We held debriefing meets after the interviews, especially at the beginning of the series of interviews, in order to refine the process.
As undertaking research interviews on behalf of the university entails quite a bit of responsibility, the undergraduate fellow and I were in very regular contact throughout the project; he turned to me with questions or in case of complications. It was a pleasure to work with a highly motivated, engaged student.
During KURF, you’ll develop lots of things: you’ll gather in-depth knowledge, develop attributes, build new skills and gather diverse experiences! Read more about developing your employability on this KEATS page!
Reflecting on the value of KURF
The KURF programme is a two-way street. It’s a great chance for a researcher or team of researchers to draw upon the skills and knowledge of an undergraduate, who in turn gains insight into running a research project with established academics. Everyone is pressed for time, so it is wonderful to be able to share the task of conducting some of the research with some outstanding students, while at the same time helping them gain useful experience.
It’s a fantastic opportunity for the student to show how their knowledge and skills can be applied in practice. This is especially useful when leaving university because new graduates can sometimes stumble on the issue of having no experience to cite on job applications. As well as giving the student a chance to stand out, it’s a good way to get to know an academic better and to show one’s skills and personality more roundly than in the lecture theatre, which is really useful from the point of view of reference writing!
What’s more, because it is a paid placement, anyone can apply, without the financial worry, debt or moonlighting associated with an unpaid internship. In this sense, the programme really helps “level the playing field” and social mobility, which is to be applauded!
Thinking of applying? Top tips!
For students thinking about applying to KURF this year, I’d say: Go for it! The KURF scheme is a fantastic way to avoid the post-graduation vicious circle: the hurdle faced by new graduates searching for a first job but lacking relevant experience to refer to in applications. This isn’t always easy to get, especially if you can’t afford to take an unpaid internship.
Although the KURF scheme is a brilliant way to gain first-hand experience of doing research, even if you ultimately decide to go down a different career path it’s still a great chance to demonstrate and hone your transferable skills. What’s more, it’s an opportunity to get to know the academic staff better, so you stand out in their mind and they have more to refer to when writing you a reference.
If you’d like to apply for a KURF project this year, then head on over to King’s Careers & Employability KEATS pages for more information!