Justin Yu is a final year Law undergraduate student at the University of Warwick. He has presented his dissertation research in various conferences around the world, including BCUR (the British Conference of Undergraduate Research) where this year the Reinvention team was present. In this interview he tells us more about the impact of presenting his undergraduate research.

Could you tell me a bit about your journey as an undergraduate researcher? How did it start?

My journey started in my second year when I did the “Legal Issues of Brexit” module, where I wrote a mini dissertation. I got to choose something I was interested in instead of answering one of the questions usually given. At the time I was interested in competition law. I communicated with my professor Kathryn McMahon and ended up writing about digital markets regulations from a Brexit angle.

Why do you think undergraduate research is important? What have you learnt so far?

I think it is really important because [when you do research as an undergraduate student] you are on your own. I think it is crucial to recognise the difference between writing an essay and a dissertation. While essays to me, are assignments, [a dissertation] is a project.

A dissertation throws that playbook out of the window. You have to find the topic that you are interested in and then start learning, finding articles, journals, and opinions written about it and learn a great deal of it. For example, I had to learn US antitrust, EU competition law, and UK competition law. It was a lot of self-studying, arguably more effort than writing an essay, but it was very fulfilling because I was interested in what I was writing. Also, it provided me with an opportunity to voice my own opinions. It is something that bears fruit rather than being a chore. I managed to write 5000 words in less than a week because I understood what I was doing and was capable of piecing everything together. Time limits did present a challenge, but I managed to finish everything on time despite having other commitments such as preparing for this conference.

Do you think it's important to give visibility to undergraduate research as for example in BCUR or ICUR? Do you think that these types of platforms, where we give visibility to undergraduates through conferences and journals, are helpful?

Absolutely. I actually applied to ICUR [the International Conference of Undergraduate Research], when the University of Warwick was hosting back in my second year. That is how I became aware of undergraduate research. If I hadn’t received an e-mail [about it], I would have never known of these kinds of events and I would have never been able to go to the United States to do a presentation or to come to LSE to give a speech in front of other delegates and attendees. So I think it is really important because it gives you an opportunity to present yourself and explain your work. That is very fruitful, and it gives people an incentive to do research.

It also forces you to think about structuring your research in a way that can help other people understand it better. Because I could have written a very technical piece, but if nobody is going to understand it, then it won’t be very useful to the public. An article that maybe five people in your field [will be able to read it] will have limited benefits. Therefore, through these kinds of platforms you are forced to simplify things. You have to put it in simple words and explain it to the public, and that's really important in order to convey your message.

Do you know what you are going to do now that you are finished with your degree? Do you think that your research and platforms such as BCUR have helped you with your plans for the future?

I do have plans for next year: I will be heading to UCL to do a competition law master’s. The way this year’s research has really helped me is because I had to learn a lot of stuff on my own. I was even enrolled into a master’s module [during the dissertation research] which gave me access to a lot of resources. It felt like doing a masters module which gave me advanced knowledge [on the topic]. Therefore, because I am moving on to study this area that I was already interested in, I will have it easier compared to a person who has not had this learning experience. So of course that's one benefit [of my research journey].

If I were to do a PhD in the future, my research so far would also be really useful because [in PhD research] you start writing really long research essays. So [undergraduate research such as dissertations] is valuable experience. And if you were to pursue a career as an academic, you will be writing these long pieces every few months. Starting at UG acclimatises you to the life of an academic.

Lastly, even if I were to become a corporate lawyer, research is still valued. As much paperwork as there is, you still have to think about arguments and your research skills are still valuable. Maybe you are not writing a 12,000 essay but you might be structuring it into skeletons and maybe submitting 2000 words to a partner. Those are valuable skills you learn from research. No matter what your degree or your future plans are, I would recommend to people to get involved with undergraduate research more generally.

Are you student interested in starting your research journey?

Visit Student Research (warwick.ac.uk) 

Are you a member of staff interested in getting involved?

Visit Student Research Staff Network Meeting (warwick.ac.uk)

Interested in publishing your research with Reinvention? Find out more at Reinvention: an International Journal of Undergraduate Research (reinventionjournal.org) or get in touch via reinventionjournal@warwick.ac.uk