UniCamillus brings Research into the classrooms

The Students for Research project, conceived and promoted by UniCamillus, involves students in medical and scientific research even before they complete their studies.

UniCamillus is the first university in Italy to involve medical students in research projects as an integral part of their studies. The initiative, promoted by the Director of the CPD course in Maxillofacial Rehabilitation, Professor Piero Cascone, and the President of the MSc programme in Medicine and Surgery, Professor Barbara Tavazzi, stems from the observation that scientific research at university level is often limited to dissertation writing. In many cases, this prevents the rich contribution of energy and innovative ideas offered by young students from being fully appreciated.

Through this project, which was launched a year ago, UniCamillus aims to channel this proactive energy into an activity that is beneficial to both individual professional development and cultural growth, as well as a stimulus for innovation and societal progress. Students are offered an opportunity for personal growth and the acquisition of an additional qualification.

Under the guidance of the same tutors who supervise them, and arranged in groups of 3 or 4 people chosen voluntarily on the basis of their areas of interest, the students engage in activities for a minimum of 3 hours a week for a maximum of one year, without affecting their performance in exams or other curricular activities. The students, who are actively involved in the work from the outset, are taught the necessary methodology to develop research of international significance, potentially leading to publication. At the end of the process, when the results are presented, the students’ names will appear among those who have contributed.

“Students, especially those in the field of medicine, are usually not immediately oriented towards research”, explains Professor Tavazzi. “In this way, it’s possible not only to improve their skills, but also to make them passionate about research work and orientate them towards it. This is extremely useful for them because, since the creation of the Abilitazione Scientifica Nazionale by the Ministry of Education, more than years of experience, it’s the scientific value of the work done that’s taken into account to assess eligibility for roles in academia. So, a lot of emphasis is put on the scientific aspect, and if students don’t learn what that means straightaway, they will inevitably face difficulties”.

The response from students has been positive and enthusiastic from the start. Martina Longo, a third-year MSc Medicine and Surgery student — she was in her second year when she took part in the project — has described her experience: “My colleagues and I learned how to do research, how to handle sources, compare them and assess their reliability. Practical laboratory work allowed us to collaborate with professionals and experts — not as mere students, but by experiencing the direct responsibility of being participants in real work, the results of which will then be published and disseminated”. The research she took part in focused on the possibility of different approaches to orthodontic treatment for individuals who are still in the age of development, and the results were presented at the International Conference on Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Vancouver in June 2023. “Thanks to this activity”, adds Martina Longo, “aspects of medical and scientific professionalism that are often overlooked in traditional courses can be highlighted. Through this non-strictly didactic-pedagogical approach, I was able to develop and refine all those transversal and relational skills that are increasingly necessary in today’s professional activities”.

Iga Mamińska, another UniCamillus student, shares the same opinion. She took part in a medical research project that also included history: “Together with Professor Cascone, we are working on the study of maxillofacial trauma suffered by Admiral Horatio Nelson. The project is particularly interesting because of the wide range of aspects it covers. From reading the archival letters that the hero of the Battle of Trafalgar sent to his beloved, to the in-depth analysis of the characteristics of maxillofacial fractures. Personally, I have always known that I wanted to do this kind of work, and thanks to this project I have the opportunity to be involved in the process of creating a research paper from the beginning, to see it develop from ideas, to participate in meetings, to consult the work already done, to share materials and opinions of all the other members involved. In addition, the project has given me the freedom to develop my concepts and to immerse myself in the details of academic activities, which I believe are an integral part of a medical career”.