A Look at Undergraduate Research: Brexit’s Toll on the United Kingdom

By Grace Chen

When Megan Lau (CGS ’21) traveled to London during her gap semester, the trip sparked an interest in the impact Brexit left on the United Kingdom. With the help of the CGS Center for Interdisciplinary Teaching & Learning (CITL)’s undergraduate research program, Lau was able to translate that interest into a 20-page research paper examining Brexit’s effects on the country.

In the Fall 2020 semester, Lau worked alongside Social Sciences Lecturer Shawn Lynch to examine the different movements persisting in the UK after withdrawing from the European Union. Her research focused on the rise of nationalist and right-wing sentiments and racism after the UK severed ties with the EU.

The topic was one Lau and Lynch expressed a shared interest in.

“I jumped at the chance because of my personal experience witnessing the Brexit vote and aftermath personally, due to my role in the CGS Boston-London Program,” Lynch said.

Lecturer Shawn Lynch and Megan Lau (CGS ’21) meet over Zoom to work on their research project.

Lynch and Lau came to work together through mutual connections. Lau had expressed her interest for the CITL program to Associate Dean Lynn O’Brien Hallstein, the Director of CITL, and Donna Connor, CITL’s administrative coordinator, who connected her with Lynch. The pair met over Zoom, where they discussed Brexit and agreed to work together that very meeting.

The pair worked together solely over Zoom, but that didn’t limit Lau and Lynch’s productivity.

“We met regularly to discuss a variety of research related topics, but also just general global events such as the Presidential election in 2020,” Lau said.

While Lau researched, Lynch served as a resource for her. In meetings, she was able to solicit feedback and ask questions about her paper.

“Dr. Lynch’s feedback was extremely helpful for me because it forced me to reconsider my position, dive deeper into the topics, and question the accuracy and reliability of the sources I used,” Lau said.

Upon beginning their project, both Lynch and Lau established several goals, most of which have already been achieved. Lau hoped to learn more about researching and writing a twenty-page paper and enjoy the process of researching Brexit specifically. According to Lau, she planned to translate these skills to Capstone, and her next research project: a directed study focused on feminist literary intellectual thought.

Additionally, the pair shared a goal for her paper to be published, an achievement both Lau and Lynch hope to pursue in the future.

“I came into this experience unsure of what guided research entailed but came out with a wealth of knowledge, a mentor, and a growing passion of shedding light on global events that have an impact on our daily lives,” Lau said.

She strongly recommends the CITL research experience to CGS students as passionate about researching as she is.

“I live by a simple philosophy: learn everything I can, anytime I can, from anyone I can,” she said.

CITL provides stipends for CGS students to pursue paid undergraduate research with a member of the CGS faculty. Students interested in pursuing undergraduate research can learn more here.