In Focus | Celebrating our UREP and BRIO Winners
By Dr. Aisha Al-Obaidly, Director of Capacity Building
Along with being active architects of the research infrastructure in Qatar, Qatar National Research Fund is one of the major forces leading local capacity development since its inception. We began with one capacity building program in our portfolio, the Undergraduate Research Experience Program, and over the years, have added several programs and opportunities that benefit our students. Students can count on QNRF’s support from as early as their K-12 years all the way to the early career stage and even when they have established themselves as experienced researchers, academics, and scientists.
During my time at QNRF and over my career of working in research and education, one observation I have made with students at all levels is that a little appreciation and encouragement can go a long way. This observation is shared by my colleagues too. Therefore, in addition to offering capacity-building programs, we decided to launch competitions to recognize and celebrate the achievements of the top-performing students. One such competition is the Annual Undergraduate Research Experience Program Competition and last week, we celebrated the thirteenth edition of it.
This year, we had a total of 26 teams competing for the UREP awards. The participants join our UREP alumni, four thousand seven hundred and sixty in total, who over the 27 cycles of the program have participated in one thousand one hundred and sixty research projects spanning across different disciplines. Building on this success, this year’s competition was distinguished by the fact that we had the alumni of our capacity-building programs, who once themselves had been UREP awardees come back to participate as judges in the competition. This goes on to tell the impact that QNRF has in preparing Qatar’s future science and research leadership.
While such competitions provide a platform to recognize exceptional talent, they are also very effective in sharing the outcomes of research happening in Qatar with members of the general public. Thanks to the guidance and vision of the leadership of Qatar, we have been successful in establishing a research infrastructure that is enabling high-level research in Qatar. Due to the complexity and advanced technicalities of these projects, they are often not accessible to the general public. However, some of these projects have a direct and profound impact on the people, and we must utilize every opportunity to learn more about them.
QNRF is committed to bridging the gap between the public and advanced research, and the Best Representative Image of an Outcome (BRIO) Competition captures this commitment. Through BRIO, we also bridge the gap between art and science and engage a larger audience with the artistic side of research. Contrary to the prevalent thought that art and science are on divergent paths from each other, they have much more in common than we tend to think of.
To begin with, both are rooted in the processes of observation and trial and error. Similarly, both art and science provide us with a window to see that our universe has a lot more than meets the eye, and be it a captivating art piece or a high-impact research outcome, both capture and convey the brilliance of the human mind and are a testament of one’s skill, intellect, and imagination.
We had quite a busy month here at the Capacity Building directorate, but more is to come as in November, we are celebrating the annual National Science Research and Innovation Week 2021, designed specially to celebrate the research and innovation of K-12 school students in Qatar. I encourage you to join us to visit the Virtual Platform for the NSRIW to gain a deeper understanding of how QNRF is truly helping tap potential at all levels.