Sheffield Geography students' work featured in the Science Museum

Geography students at The University of Sheffield have become some of the youngest students to publish a paper and contribute to the Science Museum.

Foam stress ball
Foam stress ball now part of the Science Museum exhibit

Sheffield Geography students have made a unique contribution to the National Covid Collection Working with curators at the Science Museum in London, Sheffield students collected and created objects that tell powerful stories of the loneliness experienced by young people during COVID-19. These objects - including notebooks filled with handwritten accounts of University lockdown life, are featured on the Science Museum’s recent blog post: ‘The Loneliness of the Pandemic Student’

Professor Richard Phillips was conscious of how lonely many students were feeling in the pandemic, “I wanted to do some research that wouldn't just explore student loneliness; but would help do something about it by bringing loneliness into the open, and bringing students together to research it,” he said. 

He reached out to students in the department through Geogsoc – Sheffield University’s Geography Student Society – and invited them to get involved in a project. This offered them the chance to meet and work with other students, learn some research skills, and do some meaningful research together. 

“I was encouraged when 12 students – from first years to postgraduates - got back to me. We met online at first and, when COVID rules allowed, in person. Before long we were working happily together and I was pleased to see the students making friends and also sharing some good ideas.

One of these ideas – from a student - was to work with objects, creating a kind of archive of students’ friendships, community and sometimes their loneliness during the pandemic.”

A globe stress ball (as depicted above) is one of the objects included in the collection. It was delivered in a care package to a student who was self-isolating after a positive COVID test.

Many of the students involved were in their first years when the pandemic hit and when the research was conducted and are graduating now. 

Rose McEnroe, one of the students involved explained how “The project was a great way to meet some more course mates, after a year of online learning I just took an opportunity to do some work face to face. I think we all felt like it was really important to reflect on and record what it had been like starting uni during the pandemic, so it was really exciting to be joined together by that.

It’s been extremely rewarding to see the journey our research project has taken with the Science Museum, and the fact that Sheffield student’s work is archived forever is something we’re really proud of! Starting uni in 2020 was a completely unique experience so to know that we were able to share our story, the tough bits but also how we made our own fun, is a part of my time at Sheffield I won’t forget.” 

Read the paper published by our students in The Geographical Journal here: The Geographical Journal - Wiley Online Library 

Read the full Science Museum blog here: The loneliness of the pandemic student - Science Museum Group

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