Navigating the Multiverse of Undergraduate Research: A Journey with REx and UROP+REx Conference

Losheini Ravindran and John CAINES
Office of the Provost

Editor’s Note: Explore the transformative landscape of undergraduate research with the REx programme, guiding students through diverse workshops and real-world experiences, leading to the pioneering UROP+REx Conference, shaping a collaborative learning ecosystem for emerging researchers. This post follows on from the authors’ presentation about the REx workshops during HECC 2023.

Losheini-Caines anchor picREx Fellows during an interactive session with Dr Tait Caleb Bergstrom at the REx Research Writing Workshop.
(Photo provided by the authors)

Ravindran, L.. & Caines, J. (2024, May 28). Navigating the multiverse of undergraduate research: A Journey with REx and UROP+REx Conference. Teaching Connections.



The pursuit of providing a holistic research experience for students commenced our team’s inception as the Undergraduate Research Coordinating team at the Office of the Provost. Our team holds the stance that undergraduate research should be treated as a pedagogical subfield, as undergraduates are not just conducting research, but are also being taught about research (Figure 1). Taking into consideration the pivotal role that research opportunities play in developing this subfield, our team explored various ways to recreate the research experience for undergraduates as a means of providing them the impetus to become self-directed learners who take ownership of their learning. 


Figure 1.  An infographic about UROP’s history and how the REx course upgrade enhances holistic research learning. (Click on Figure 1 for the full-sized version.)


Discovering the R factor—Introduction of REx course upgrade

We inaugurated our efforts to promote undergraduate research by introducing the Research Experience (REx) programme, an optional course upgrade to the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP/UROPS) wherein students (or REx Fellows), as a deliverable submission, draft a grant proposal explaining the area of research in their UROP project they wish to pursue further. Given that we wanted undergraduates to have a prelude to the various research approaches as a means of providing a foundational framework, the workshops were curated with a focus on its preliminary and exploratory scope in the curriculum (Figure 2).

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Figure 2. List of REx workshops offered by the REx programme (list updated as of 29th Jan 2024)


The REx workshops were conceptualised to provide students with a strong foundation in research by introducing them to topics which include

  • formulating good research questions,
  • constructing good hypotheses,
  • choosing optimal research methods,
  • writing a research paper, and
  • communicating research professionally.


Workshops such as “Ethics in Research” focused on that idea that educational experience is interaction, particularly in the form of “free communication” (Garrison, 2015, p. 14) where students had to analyse various case studies that posed an ethical dilemma in research. This gave students more space to discuss and brainstorm the thought processes or factors which informed such ethical dilemmas without inhibition. This interaction facilitated greater critical thinking in developing greater awareness about the considerations to be made, such as when dealing with human participants in a research study.


It is pertinent to note that for these workshops we collaborated with various NUS units, such as NUS Libraries and the Centre for Future-ready Graduates (CFG)1. We also collaborated with external vendors to explore effective ways in communicating data, such as Kontinentalist to conduct the “Data Storytelling” workshop. The reason for consistently seeking such partnership and collaboration opportunities stem from the sense of a shared purpose and mutual interdependence in achieving the intended learning outcomes in promoting research to undergraduates, given the benefits of collaborative approaches to higher-order learning (Garrison, 2015).


Participation at HECC

The Higher Education Campus Conferences (HECC) in 2022 and 2023 were pivotal in our outreach efforts whereby the team received the opportunity to present about various aspects of the REx programme (Figure 3). The conference also us the opportunity to approach relevant university partners with a shared interest in developing undergraduate research.

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Figure 3. Paper presentations by the UGRC team at HECC 2022 and HECC 2023.


With interesting conference themes, accomplished speakers and an engaging audience, we received constructive feedback about our undergraduate research efforts, which was useful in improving our communicative approach in our promotional initiatives.


REx STEER Field Trip

Researching beyond the classroom became our new area of interest as we saw the importance of encouraging students to step out of their comfort zone to gain hands-on experience on the ground, deal with actual scenarios, and brainstorm practical solutions. This led us to initiating the team’s first STEER2 trip to Hanoi, Vietnam and the nearby provinces. The trip, attended by students from Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) and Faculty of Science (FOS) explored Vietnam’s industry landscape, the environment, and its culture. Through the trip, students examined the impact of economic development on the marine environment, experienced circular farming, floating aquaculture models, and networking with local businesses. The trip was coordinated with the support of University of Science, Vietnam University of Hanoi (VNU-HUS) (Figure 4).

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Figure 4. Students on the STEER trip (with our hosts) attending a seminar held at VNU-HUS. 


The STEER trip was attended by eight selected students and was well received by the organisers and students alike, and this has motivated the team to plan for more of such research-oriented trips mainly to Southeast Asia in subsequent semesters.


UROP+REx Conference 2024

Pursuing research from an undergraduate level requires students gaining foundational knowledge of methodology, literature, and a proactive approach towards learning beyond the classroom. In order for students to gain a firm foothold in their research aspirations, they should be given a myriad opportunities to gain a greater awareness of and exposure to the relevant research learning resources.


In this regard, we organised the inaugural UROP+REx Conference to celebrate undergraduate student researchers (Figures 5 and 6). The Conference served as an introspective groundwork for research inquiry and critical thinking and provided scope for exploring new approaches in communicating research by serving as a microcosmic space for research creativity and innovation. The Conference enabled the team to promote sharing and discussion of ideas in making undergraduate research a versatile and holistic learning experience.


Figure 5. At the “UROP+REx Conference 2024: A Celebration of Students’ Research Experience”, with the inaugural batch of REx Fellows, who graduated from the REx upgrade, posing with student and staff attendees.


The Conference comprised the following sub-themes:
1. New Approaches to Communicating Research
2. In Pursuit of a Holistic Research Learning
3. Research Beyond the Classroom
4. Discovering career pathways with research


The conference also included panel discussions which covered curated topics which addressed common research-related issues and considerations students would want to learn more of.

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Figure 6. Poster presenter Mr Ganesh Selvarajan presenting to A/P Loy Hui Chieh and attendees about his research project.


The Conference, which saw more than 70 sign ups, nine students presenters and 14 panelists, was well received by NUS student and staff attendees. The oral and poster presentations were also given much encouragement and support by educators who found the conference to be a good starting point in initiating more of such undergraduate research opportunities for students.



It has thus far been a journey of reflection for the team, and a constant striving for excellence in giving undergraduates accessibility to quality research education. Through our ongoing and future initiatives, we aim to create a pedagogical multiverse wherein students gain exposure to an assortment of diverse yet converging faculty “universes” that have scope for holistic interdisciplinarity in creating a community of inquiry with proactive undergraduate student researchers. Hence, REx’s pilot efforts reinstate the possibility of venturing into a “multiverse” of research learning possibilities across various disciplines, with the common shared purpose in making research an insightful experience that propels undergraduate education towards a collaborative learning ecosystem.



  1. We conceptualised and developed the “Research Methodologies” workshop with NUS Libraries and we sought advice from the Centre for Future-ready Graduates (CFG) to develop the “Career in Research” workshop.
  1. Study Trips for Engagement & EnRichment (STEER) programme, under the Global Relations Office (GRO), NUS.



Garrison, D. R. (2015). Thinking Collaboratively: Learning in a Community of Inquiry (1st ed). Routledge.



Losheini RAVINDRAN works with the Associate Provost (Undergraduate Education) in duties related to the marketing, publicity and coordination of undergraduate research. She facilitates opportunities for partnership and collaboration with relevant stakeholders, initiates the online and physical presence of UROP and REx learning, and structures advertising campaigns to create awareness about student research opportunities and promote undergraduate research across the various faculties.

Losheini can be reached at


John Leo CAINES currently works with the Associate Provost (Undergraduate Education) in duties related to the development, advancement and coordination of undergraduate research, and implements reforms and enhancements to the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme (UROP). He also liaises with deanery representatives of NUS Faculties and Schools to adapt UROP enhancements to their curricula and programmes.

John can be reached at



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