Over 50 BU students presented their work at the SURE 2021 Conference on Wednesday 17 March 2021. Below you can meet nine of the students that participated to read more about their abstracts and motivations behind their research.
SURE 2021 Research
Assessing dominance hierarchies and food preferences in garden birds
Morven Smith – Faculty of Science & Technology
There’s no denying that the various lockdowns we have been through this last year have had an impact on most students, and I’m certainly no different. However, the first lockdown actually helped me devise a new dissertation idea that enabled me to conduct field research in my own back garden!
I’m looking at dominance hierarchies and food preferences in garden birds. It’s perhaps the ultimate lockdown research because not only was it something I could do without leaving home, it’s also timely because more and more people are reconnecting with nature at the moment, and getting into feeding birds at home.
My research looks at the different foods each bird prefers and the best way to give them equal access to what they need. It can help those new to birdfeeding to attract their favourite birds into their garden while also ensuring that the smaller, weaker species are not forced to compete directly with much bigger, stronger rivals.
It’s an important topic to consider, because wildlife, habitats and food sources are under serious threat from increasing urbanisation. Birds need access to different food sources, but there is actually very little information about the nutritional values of different bird foods.
While people mean well when they feed birds in their garden, it’s all too easy to provide them with an unbalanced diet, which can cause longer-term issues. By adding to the body of research on birdfeeding, I’m hoping to help people make better choices for the birds they feed, while still allowing them to enjoy the numerous psychological benefits that birdfeeding brings.
It’s something I’ve benefitted from myself by doing this project during lockdown, actually. I’ve been lucky enough to be able to observe some of my favourite birds, such as the Nuthatch, which can forage upside down. My garden was also visited by a Great Spotted Woodpecker from time to time – an absolutely beautiful bird. Admittedly, it is slightly less beautiful when banging its head against a tree outside my bedroom at 5.30 in the morning, but we all have to make sacrifices in the name of research!
I’d love you to join me for my presentation at the SURE conference, and learn a little more about ways we can feed birds in a way that benefits us and them.
Consumer perceptions on cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation of Eastern cultures in the Western fashion industry
Beth Harris – Faculty of Media & Communication
Have you ever noticed that some brands or celebrities take cultural reference points from different places and make it work for them, while others are accused of cultural appropriation? As someone who has always had an interest in sociology and who has a very diverse group of close friends, it’s something I’ve taken a real interest in, which is why I’ve based my research on the topic.
The debate between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation is a near constant one, but clearly articulating the difference is not easy, with many potentially subjective factors involved. Those who feel that someone has appropriated their culture often feel hurt and exploited by the celebrity or brand in question, identifying that their culture has been misrepresented or disrespected. Often this can be down to perception of the brands’ attitude to the culture – whether what they consider to be appreciation is seen to be a sincere and honest belief, or a shallow one that serves only self-interest.
For that reason, I’m investigating consumers’ opinions on cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation to see the extent to which personal experience plays a role when we determine what is and isn’t culturally appropriate.
My research, and research like it, builds our understanding of consumer opinions and behaviours, and may ultimately help to minimise the polarising way these debates are often conducted, helping brands better understand how their customers perceive their intentions and actions.
I hope you’ll join me for my presentation to find out more!
Does the Musical Kuleshov Effect exist? An investigation into the use of music and harmony in visual media, and their influence on the emotional judgement of characters
Megan Gampell – Faculty of Science & Technology
Have you ever wondered just how big an impact music has when you watch a movie? How the choice of music can add to a scene’s drama and give you an insight into how the characters are feeling – or, if it goes wrong, how it can completely undermine the whole scene?
I’ve always been fascinated by the power held by music in films, and the way in which it can impact our emotions. My research looks at how the Kuleshov Effect can be implemented in movies via music, and how effective it is.
Kuleshov’s original experiment was conducted over a hundred years ago. People were shown a man’s neutral face, followed by an image of either a plate of food, a girl in a coffin or a girl lying on a bed. The nature of the second image defined how people thought the man looked – hungry, sad or lustful.
In cinema, music can a similar effect. Stephen Spielberg uses it as a signature technique to allow the audience to see a character’s close reaction to something. One of my favourite examples is the final scene of E.T. where Elliot says goodbye and watches ET fly away. Elliot’s face is neutral, but we know from everything else in the scene, including the music, that he is feeling a huge range of emotions – sadness at his friend’s departure, but happiness for the experience they shared.
My research looks at the way harmony and chords build emotions into music, and whether that can impact how we perceive what we see on the screen. There’s actually been very little research into the impact of a musical or auditory Kuleshov Effect, so it’s definitely an area that I’m excited to be looking at!
I hope you’ll join me for my presentation so that you can see – and hear – what I’m talking about!
How are immigrants portrayed within tabloid media?
Tyiesha Falcon – Faculty of Media & Communication
The words we use – and particularly, the words the media uses – can influence the way we think about so many topics. In the build up to Brexit and since it happened, the negative way in which the tabloid press talk about immigrants has been of particular interest to me, and something I am proud to be presenting on at this year’s SURE conference.
Why? I am an immigrant too.
I moved to the UK from Sweden as a young child, and speak with a British accent. You wouldn’t know I’m not British from looking at me or talking to me, so why are immigrants like me demonised and our stories sensationalised by the tabloid press?
Part of my work looks at the way the word ‘immigrant’ is used interchangeably with ‘refugee’, in a manner that does not tell the true story of immigration as a whole. There is a perception that immigration has a negative impact on the UK economy, when in fact the opposite is the case. Immigrants fill jobs that British people traditionally don’t want to do. They pay taxes. They staff the hospitals. They contribute. They matter.
If language is allowed to be used in a negative way that does not reflect the truth, then this can only breed division. I hope that my research, and research like it, plays a role in shining a light on the ways the tabloid media tries to manipulate our opinions by managing the message.
I hope you’ll join me to hear what I have to say.
Internet of Things and blockchain in smart traffic and vehicle scenarios
Amir Khan – Faculty of Science & Technology
My research focuses on the use of blockchain and the Internet of Things in smart traffic scenarios. Smart ‘things’ are being introduced so that we can build smart cities, and it’s the way we could use them to monitor traffic that I am focusing on.
For example, if we know that a traffic light is on red, and a car goes through that red light, the sensors on the car would talk to the sensors in the traffic light so that the driver of that car could be traced by the relevant authorities. Smart cities will involve this kind of technology but in increasingly more complex systems than this specific example.
Now, this is all well and good – it can help the relevant authorities track offences and carry out important tasks that keep citizens safe. However, if the information in this smart traffic scenario were to end up in the wrong hands, there would be serious repercussions. That’s where my research into blockchain comes in.
Blockchain isn’t the easiest thing to explain – it’s a complex way of encoding an interaction between two computers. The data is stored in different locations and can only be decoded with a cryptography key. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle with the image removed, and the pieces then scattered all over the world. The only chance you’d have of completing the puzzle would be with information telling you where all the pieces are, and that could then put the image back on the pieces. That’s what the cryptography keys do.
We have developed an initial test bed prototype that can demonstrate data travelling from a ‘car’ to a blockchain cloud, which will emulate the real world principles that could exist when this scenario becomes a reality – and it enables us to start working on ways of keeping that sensitive data safe.
Come and join me for my presentation to find out more about the way’s researchers are trying to keep your personal data safe in a heavily connected future.
The effect of nanoparticles on heater exchange performance
Ryan Mitchell – Faculty of Science & Technology
They usually tell you to think big when it comes to your final project. I did the opposite.
My research involves nanoparticles – particles that are 100,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. They can be made from a variety of materials depending on what they are being used for – in my case, I’m looking at the effects of adding them to cooling systems to transport heat.
These tiny particles can be suspended in fluid in a cooling system without making it thicker – it means it can be easily pumped round the system while making it easier for the fluid to heat up or cool down.
The end goal of research into nanoparticles could be crucial to the planet. If research can find ways to make cooling and heating systems more efficient, it will preserve the planet’s natural resources until there is sufficient energy produced from renewable sources. Smaller systems will be needed for the same effects, making it easier for businesses to invest in new equipment.
I’ve based my research on my placement with NATS, the air traffic control service. It’s not an easy place to introduce renewable energy supplies into, because they need to maintain a steady supply of electricity (it’s not the kind of place you want a sudden power cut…). With that in mind, making the existing heating and cooling system more efficient is the smartest way to help reduce the impact that NATS has on the environment.
In general, making building cooling more efficient is essential for a more sustainable future. Worldwide power consumption for air conditioning alone is forecast to increase by 33 times by the year 2100, and by the middle of the century, its estimated that people will be using more energy for cooling than they do for heating.
Come along to my presentation to find out more about why these tiny particles have a huge role to play in our future…
To what extent has the dissemination of an anti-elite style of populism affected public trust in a Covid-19 vaccination in the UK?
Finlay Brown – Faculty of Media & Communication
As the world faces a global pandemic and unprecedented financial difficulties lie in wait for us, it’s more important than ever that our society is united and works together in order to overcome these obstacles.
However, anti-elite populism could yet prove to be an even bigger danger than both of these challenges In its simplest form, populism divides the world into two groups - the people, who are good and virtuous, and the elite, who are self-serving and dishonest. At its worst, anti-elite populism can reshape political mobilisation, change political and moral boundaries, erode democratic institutions and potentially give rise to authoritarian regimes and increase political polarisation.
By glorifying the virtuous ‘us’ and vilifying the corrupt ‘them’, the spread of anti-elite populism creates a society of division and conflict perhaps most easily recognised in the US as the world watched the turbulent culmination of Trump’s presidency just a few weeks ago.
I became interested in the effects of populism after the financial crash of 2008, when I was shocked by how many developed democracies turned to populist leaders for answers to very complex issues. Perhaps the most notable recent example of this was Brexit - widely seen as a populist success.
In more recent times, the spread of populism could have an even darker impact on our society. My research looks at the links between anti-elite populism and public trust in Covid-19 vaccines. Research has already shown that fewer people in the UK would ‘definitely’ take a Covid-19 vaccine than is required in order to achieve herd immunity and I believe that the spread of anti-elite populism may have pushed these levels further away from that goal.
Initial findings show that there appears to be a strong relationship between people having low trust in government and having lower trust in a Covid-19 vaccine. Similarly, people who believe the government have been deceiving during the Covid-19 pandemic appear to hold more anti-elite populist views.
Studying the ways in which anti-elite populism can shape people’s inclination to accept scientific consensus can help us make important discoveries that impact on public health and the incompatibility of populism and crisis management.
I’d love you to join me to hear my findings and draw your own conclusions about the risks that ant-elite populism poses to a Covid-free future.
What are the impacts of drama-based interventions when used in forensic settings?
Amy Preece – Faculty of Health & Social Science
My research focuses on drama-based interventions for people in prison, looking at whether they can play an effective role in rehabilitation. That means anything that is rooted in drama – it can be roleplaying scenarios related to the people themselves, or the production of a play alongside professional actors. Both those experiences will provide a therapeutic experience for the participants, just in different ways.
One of the key themes I identified was identity development – the way people view themselves, and how they see their own potential. As a society, we have a very scripted idea that those who commit crimes are ‘bad’, without necessarily looking at the life events that led them to that point, or what they are able to achieve going forward.
Even worse than that, however, is the fact that those who have been identified as ‘criminals’ struggle to see themselves as anything else. They believe that they cannot develop or grow into anything else.
Drama interventions can help to challenge this. Creating a new character for them to inhabit, even if only for a short while, can help them to think in a very different way, exploring new thought patterns that can challenge existing ones that may inhibit their development. It can even help with posture, releasing pent-up tension as they move in a different way.
We have a criminal justice system that preaches rehabilitation, and a mental health system that is grounded in recovery. For either of these aims to be realised, the people touched by those systems need the skills and opportunities to live full and successful lives once they are discharged from them.
My research, and research like it, gives people a better chance of being able to do so. I hope you’ll join me at my presentation to find out more.
The events industry – exploring collaborative advantage to address the balance of sustainability.
Scott Hope - BU Business School
One of the biggest challenges facing the planet is sustainability, and the events industry needs to play its part in meeting that challenge. However, sustainability is a term that can be misunderstood – it means different things to different people.
That means that when organisations or industries collaborate, they may be thinking about sustainability in very different ways. My research focuses on effective collaboration, to get everyone on the same page and committing to genuine sustainability.
Sustainability is not just about the environment, and that is where a lot of the confusion arises. It needs to be understood more widely that sustainability is about people, profit and the planet.
Through my research, I’m arguing that we need to refocus on the balance of sustainability to ensure the future success of the events industry. While we acknowledge environmental as our acute issue, there can be arbitrary approaches that don’t necessarily align with the bigger picture.
By helping to define what sustainability is, the events industry will be able to make sure its messaging around the topic is clear and consistent. Once that is done, it will be much easier to define what best practice is with regard to sustainability, and that can only help effective collaboration for the future of the events industry.
Join me for my presentation to find out more!