Research Scholarships & Expeditions

An introduction from Professor Suzanne Cholerton

Newcastle University places a high value on students pursuing new knowledge, developing independence of thought, and being exposed to the culture of research. The University supports undergraduate students with scholarships to work alongside researchers on summer vacation projects and, through its Expeditions scheme, to undertake field research in other countries. Both these schemes enable students to experience research-led learning and to develop key skills through a wide range of activities, such as researching new archival material in Newcastle or further afield, working on archaeological material, collecting, analysing and interpreting social data, working on a laboratory project alongside members of a research team, or travelling to another part of the world to undertake a research project in an unfamiliar and challenging environment.

Conducting independent research with the support of more experienced researchers can have a very positive impact on the confidence and motivation of students. By giving students the opportunity to work closely with staff on these schemes, students are able to understand the research activities of academic staff, and to have a window on the research environment. For some students the experience of working on a ‘live’ research project will stimulate or confirm an interest in postgraduate research, for others it will be a way of integrating knowledge, enhancing the learning experience and developing valuable skills and attributes.

As well as encouraging students to explore their interest in pursuing further research, the University has a strong ethos of supporting interdisciplinary work which allows students to work collaboratively on joint research projects. For the first time this year collaborative interdisciplinary research projects undertaken by small groups from different faculties or subject areas have been funded by the Research Scholarships Scheme. In addition, the projects undertaken by students participating in Newcastle University Humanities Research Intitute's Challenge Labs scheme will also showcase the endeavours of students working collaboratively: this scheme sees both undergraduate and postgraduate students working together in groups to addresses in humanities. 

Whatever the domain of activity, a Research Scholarship provides an opportunity for students to find out what research is like, to develop research and problem solving skills and to engage in enquiry based learning. The production of a poster at the end of the project helps to develop the student's presentational skills and underline the importance of being able to communicate research findings to a variety of audiences.

I hope that all of the students who were successful in gaining funding to support their research projects will have benefited from their experience through an enhanced understanding of the value of research, and an increased confidence in their research and professional skills.

Professor Suzanne Cholerton
Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education)



An Introduction from Dr Emma Pearson

The history of student expeditions at Newcastle dates back to 1948 when a small group of Geography undergraduates took part in a pioneering expedition to Iceland, guided by Hal Lister, a Reader in the Geography Department and noted Arctic and Antarctic explorer. Subsequent expeditions over the past sixty-nine years have been organised and conducted by students themselves from a wide range of disciplines from each of the three faculties to countries as diverse as Brazil, Greenland, Iceland, Israel, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Norway, the Maldives, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, Tibet and Zambia. Research has been carried out on a range of topics including biodiversity, ethnography and rock art, tropical diseases, medicinal plants, nursing care, melting glaciers, territoriality and identity, forest tribes, and nomadic communities.

Organising an overseas expedition is a challenging exercise, requiring students to develop research aims and objectives, identify study sites, learn new techniques, obtain field equipment, and liaise with research counterparts and institutions overseas. An additional challenge is that overseas expeditions often require substantial funding which the students must raise themselves, including from external professional bodies such as the Royal Geographical Society and commercial sponsorship.

The students who rise to these challenges gain a wide range of valuable skills and also benefit from team-working and leadership experience. In addition to the hugely rewarding experience that students gain throughout the whole expedition process from planning through to successful completion and write-up, they always return with new skills, a huge sense of satisfaction and fulfilment, and increased confidence and maturity.

Dr Emma Pearson
Chair of University Expeditions Committee