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Internships give UC undergraduate students first-hand experience in the world of research

Emma Larouche

20 March 2023: A growing number of undergraduate students in the University of Canberra’s Faculty of Business, Government and Law are pursuing research internships, some leading to the research being published as co-authored journal articles.

Nitya Reddy, who is in her third year of studying a Bachelor of Politics and International Relations, completed two internships in 2022.

“In Semester One I worked with UC’s Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance on a report for the New South Wales Government about countering violent extremism and in Semester Two, I worked on a project in collaboration with the Telecommunications Society of Australia,” Ms Reddy said.

Her second internship was supervised by Senior Lecturer in Political Science Dr Michael de Percy, looking at how advancing Australia’s digital economy and improving digital inclusion needs to start with a National Digital Communications Strategy led by the Federal Government.

Dr de Percy said having undergraduate students involved in the research process, benefits the academics and industry partners.

“Our internships allow a level of one-on-one mentoring that is difficult to achieve in the traditional classroom. Connecting our students with my industry networks has also benefited the sponsor organisations by bringing a fresh perspective to their operations,” Dr de Percy said.

“Under supervision, students get to work at an appropriate level for their skills and get to work directly with my industry colleagues. The internships have been beneficial to industry partners, the academics involved, and most importantly, the students.”

Dr de Percy also supervised Atikah Mekki during her research internship, where she was tasked with examining the political implications for North Macedonia adopting the European Union's green energy policy, with a report being prepared for publication.

Ms Mekki is in her fourth year of a double degree – a Bachelor of Politics and International Relations and a Bachelor of Laws.

“The internship was part of completing my major in government policy and the topic was something I really didn’t know much about, but I was willing to give it a go,” Ms Mekki said.

“I definitely have a newfound respect for the process and how long it takes to conduct research!”

Both students say they have gained new skills from their internship experiences, including how to conduct research, and having the confidence to voice their views during the process.

“One thing Dr de Percy always told me was to step out of my comfort zone and make suggestions and when I did, it boosted my confidence and made me feel like I was making a valuable contribution to the project,” Ms Reddy said.

“Also writing my own research question was a whole new concept for me and it has even helped me when writing assignments in general, as I can always go back to that question for guidance.

“I learnt that research isn’t always a linear process, and the experience helped me improve my time management and communication,” Ms Mekki said.

Dr de Percy said the students’ contributions will stand them in good stead for applying for a research degree if they wish to do so.

“Depending on the project, the internships give undergraduate students real-life research and practical experience in industry. When it can lead to research publications, co-authored with the students, it gives the students a competitive advantage when applying for honours degrees or other degrees by research.”

“Internships are a key impact area for our Faculty, and I am very proud of Atikah’s and Nitya’s achievements.”

Found out more about the BGL Research Internship unit here.