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ULISSES Project | Interview with Professor Luis Castro

Projeto ULISSES | Entrevista com o Professor Luis Castro

ULISSES Project | Interview with Professor Luis Castro

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It is on the 5th of July that the second phase of the ULISSES project will begin.

The 32 students who successfully completed the preparatory phase and were selected to participate in the project phase will form multidisciplinary and international work teams. For three weeks they will work intensively on solving a challenge related to the sustainability of the Oceans.

ULISSES (ULisbon's Interdisciplinary Studies on Sustainable Environment and Seas) is an international educational project that aims to provide students with an active learning experience and the acquisition of skills and competencies related to the preservation of the oceans.

We spoke with Professor Luís Castro, the project's coordinator, to learn more about this initiative and the expected results.

The ULISSES project is a two-phase course. The first phase, a preparatory course via e-learning, took place between March and May and corresponded to a preparatory course via e-learning. How did it go?

The first phase of ULISSES project was very successful. Most of the students who participated in this phase of the project were really committed and followed with enthusiasm the materials that were made available through Moodle platform. A final evaluation survey is still to be carried out, but the feedback we have been able to gather through the testimonies that have been received by the organizing team has been very positive so far.

In the preparatory course, we were happy to have a truly international and interdisciplinary team! For this first stage of the project, we had a total of 83 students:  54 students coming from the University of Lisbon, 23 students that are studying at one of Unite! partner universities and 6 students coming from other universities from all over the world. We had students with 10 different nationalities and three continents were represented.

Porque se encontra estruturado desta forma o curso?

O grande objetivo do projeto ULISSES é o de proporcionar aos estudantes uma experiência de aprendizagem ativa através da realização de um trabalho de pesquisa sobre um tema real e atual, onde a interdisciplinaridade e o trabalho em equipa são ingredientes essenciais.

Durante um período de três semanas, os estudantes trabalham em equipa (constituída de forma a assegurar o carácter internacional e multidisciplinar de cada um dos grupos) por forma a poderem conceber um conjunto de soluções inovadoras que lhes permitam responder ao desafio que lhes é proposto. Esta é seguramente a fase mais importante e gratificante do programa.

Para melhor preparar este trabalho em equipa, é organizada numa primeira fase do projeto um curso preparatório (via e-learning). O objetivo deste curso, para além de motivar os estudantes para o problema que vão analisar, é o de resumir as competências fundamentais das disciplinas envolvidas no projeto, proporcionando aos estudantes com formações académicas de base diferentes uma visão geral de todas as áreas científicas envolvidas no desafio. Isso visa assegurar que depois todos os estudantes se possam envolver com maior facilidade nas discussões ao longo do evento principal do projeto.

Why is the course structured in this way?

ULISSES fosters active and effective learning through a problem-based learning course. The project aims to promote interdisciplinarity and team collaboration through the development of a “real life” research project.

For a period of 3 weeks, students will take part in an international multidisciplinary team, whose task will be to develop innovative techniques contributing to the solution of an important challenge raised by the sustainability of the Oceans. This is for sure the most important and rewarding phase of the project.

To better prepare this teamwork phase, a preparatory course (via e-learning) is organized in the first phase of the project. In this preparatory course, a wide range of online lectures and learning materials are provided via the Moodle learning platform. The main goal is to summarize the fundamental and core competencies of the disciplines involved in the project, giving students with different academic backgrounds an overview of all the relevant scientific areas. This ensures that all participants can comfortably engage in discussions during the main project event.

How many students have reached the final phase of the project?

As this is the first edition, the ULisboa team involved in the organization of ULISSES considered that it would be wise to restrict to four the number of teams involved in the team project phase. For this reason, and as announced since the beginning of the preparatory course, a final selection process led to the definition of the group of students who will participate in the second phase. The 32 students (11 of whom are foreigners) with the best performance were selected.

How many weeks will this new phase last and what is the challenge the students must solve?

This phase will begin the 5th of July and last for three weeks (until the 23rd of July). The topic of the project for this year is "Oceans without plastic". The specific challenge to be addressed will be known only at the beginning of the team project phase. It will be based on the development of innovative technological solutions to characterize and mitigate ocean pollution by plastics.

What results do you expect to obtain and what are the learning outcomes of ULISSES project?

In a world of increasing complexity and demanding challenges, multidisciplinary approaches are nowadays of crucial importance. International cooperation is also a key ingredient to ensure success in the development of innovative and sustainable solutions for the great challenges of today's world. These are the reasons why our university is highly committed to offer this kind of learning experiences to the students.

The main objectives designed for students include: to take part in an interdisciplinary real-life research project, to experience the academic and social diversity of an international research community, to work with colleagues from other schools and with different scientific backgrounds, to be acquainted with the importance of the oceans in our planet life, to identify the sources of ocean pollution (especially plastic pollution), their impact and the main techniques used to mitigate them.

Why did the University of Lisbon decide to implement this project?

The ULISSES project is held in the framework of the European University alliance, Unite! (University Network for Innovation, Technology, and Engineering). The project ULISSES follows the educational concepts that underlie the project INSPIRED as developed at TU Darmstadt.

The decision to create a similar program in Lisbon was taken following the initial consortium meetings. Since then, the INSPIRED project team (from TU Darmstadt) has continuously and very closely supported the work of the ULisboa team that has been involved in the organization of the ULISSES project.

Unite! (University Network for Innovation, Technology and Engineering) is an Alliance of European Universities, in which ULisboa is part of. It aims to lead the transformation of the European Education Area through a new generation of Europeans, committed to cross-border, transdisciplinary and multilingual cooperation, whom are able to face the great societal challenges, while contributing to Europe’s leadership as an area of knowledge.

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