Guidance for during a UROP

Your first day

Good (but proportional) preparation by both you and the supervisor should help increase the chances of a successful start to your research experience.

Needless to say, you should expect your supervisor to have arranged a time for you to arrive on Day 1 and for them (or an associate) to conduct your induction

  • All UROP participants should complete a Day 1 Safety Induction Checklist/Form, including Imperial College undergraduate students of the department in which the UROP will take place.  A completed Safety Induction Form is normally also required by the College ID Office before a new ID card is produced or an existing ID card is extended or renewed. 
    • If you are new to the College then you will need to obtain your ID Card (refer to your UROP registration email).
    • If you are an Imperial College undergraduate who is new to the department, or perhaps the building in which your UROP will take place, to have your ID card updated with the correct buildings access.
    • If you are an Imperial College undergraduate whose degree programme is about to conclude, then you will need to have your ID card extended on or after the end of the academic year depending on when you commenced your UROP.
  • The Day 1 Induction should include (but is not limited to):
    • general health and safety awareness;
    • reference to upcoming training for any materials and equipment you would be required to handle/use;
    • emergency routines;
    • local access to rooms/corridors/facilities;
    • names of designated first aid officers and fire wardens;
    • any allocation of desk space;

Some research groups will require the UROP participant to complete Occupational Health procedures before the UROP can commence. This may have been actionned (with you) before your first day.

Some further points:

  • Your UROP should, of course, have been registered with the College in advance.
  • If your UROP is to include periods away from the College Estate then the Imperial College's Off-site working procedures must be followed by the Host Department at Imperial. Local Research Group administrators can advise. If a UROP includes a period abroad (yes, it does occasionally happen) then the College's Overseas Travel Insurance can be presumed to apply, subject to policy wording. Local Research Group administrators can advise.
  • If you have been promised a bursary and the source is the host department then you will at some stage be asked to complete some paperwork. Please read the Funding: Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Don’t forget the UROP Participant's Declaration that you signed up to when registering your research experience with UROP.

Ensure that you address any problems on the first day, and as they arise during the research experience.

All students should take a moment to make yourself familiar with both the building you are located in and the campus.

It is possible, if you are Imperial undergraduate, that you may already know quite well the environment you will be working in from your undergraduate study but equally you may not.  Of course, if you are a student in another department at Imperial College or you are a student from another university then it will all be new to you and you will need some time to adapt, although the short nature of many UROPS means that you need to be someone who adapts quickly to new environments.

If you are new to the College, perhaps a student from another UK university or an Erasmus trainee student from a European university, you might wish to make acquaintances with other UROP students by contacting the UROP Manager (urop@imperial.ac.uk) who will be pleased to assist.

LINK to Orientation Information for UROP Students who are new to the College

During the research experience

This is where all UROPs take their own path and we wish you every success.

You are advised to observe rigidly the supervision framework agreed to with your supervisor. Academic staff are very busy people, who often also need to fit in conferences and a family life, more so when a UROP takes place in the College’s summer vacation. Once again we ask you to be respectful of your supervisors and we are sure that in return they will be very respectful of your contribution.

As you proceed through your UROP it will also be important to know about any deadlines by which work needs to be presented and how you might be expected to do that, for example, will it involve a formal presentation to the rest of the group. Many supervisors will make the effort to include you in the regular activities of the research team, including ‘team meetings’ where progress on the whole group’s activities are reviewed and perhaps where they occur a journal club. It might be at one of these regular meetings that you present your progress, or present your findings before your UROP concludes.

Research groups can often offer a seriously good social life, so try and embrace as it will help you feel accepted (and, a serious point, help ypu to avoid any sense of isolation)

Members of staff who invite you into their working environments are offering you a unique opportunity to experience the complex 'ecology' of research work. In addition to carrying out the tasks you are given you will have the chance to observe and to ask questions - both from the faculty and from the graduate students.

You might, for example, want to know:

  • Who funds the research and why?
  • What are the key ideas around which the research is built?
  • What have been the most influential papers in the sub-field in the past and recently? Read them!
  • Who are the main competitors of the research group for fame and fortune in the field?
  • What are the main obstacles to progress in the sub-field?
    • conceptual/theoretical problems?
    • technical difficulties of measurement?
    • funding?
  • What, if any, are the industrial/commercial possibilities of the research? How are these possibilities exploited?
  • Are there any special problems connected with the research that take up the time and energy of the researchers - political, security, safety, ethical, and suchlike questions? Upon what principles are potentially sensitive matters resolved?
  • What are the career tracks/prospects (in universities, government laboratories, industry, commerce, international agencies, etc.) for specialists in the sub-field the research group represents?
  • How is the time of the people in the research group disposed between 'basic formative thinking', fund-raising, purchasing and setting up apparatus, carrying out observations, writing research papers, presenting findings at conferences, working with/consulting for outside agencies, etc.? What takes most time?
  • How, if at all, can things be improved? (as an outsider, you may see things that those who have been around a while may not see. But be tactful in what you say!)

Experiencing problems?

The vast majority of UROPs go well, and that is normally due to the ability of both student and supervisor(s) to communicate well throughout thus ensuring that problems are kept to a minimum or when they occur they can be speedily resolved.

However, occasionally problems might arise that you may just not know how to deal with. This is fine as it can happen to anybody.  Perhaps the "problems" are due to issues with the work you are pursuing or perhaps the interaction with your supervisor is not meeting with your expectations or they concern other interactions with others associated with your UROP. You might perhaps be experiencing problems away from your UROP. 

In all such circumstances you should still seek to discuss these issues with your supervisor in the first instance.

It is important that you do not struggle on while keeping matters to yourself. Talk! 

Perhaps the environment you are working in provides for close contact with many people or perhaps you are working in a more solitary way (perhaps from the library; perhaps from the supervisor’s office). Whatever your working environment try and avoid any sense of isolation to begin with by making an effort to join in with tea/coffee breaks (even if you are not a tea of coffee drinker!) and if you are invited to a social gathering please make every attempt to participate. Having "friends" during your UROP experience will give you friendly faces to raise matters with.  

Imperial College undergraduates can also consider talking to their "personal tutor" if they need to identify someone other than their supervisor to talk to, although we would encoruage you to air the "problem" with your UROP supervisor first.

If you feel need to speak to someone outside the host department (perhaps you just can not talk to your supervisor) then you can approach the UROP Manager (Contacts) for a confidential chat. The UROP Manager is very experienced having managed the programme for 12 years, and you should feel able to approach him. Please remember that the UROP Manager is best approached in the first instance by email (during normal Office hours).