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MESSA 2018: A Platform for Groundbreaking Undergraduate Research

Irene Promodh. April 12, 2018.


At this year’s MESSA conference, we received an unprecedented number of both international and local submissions that discussed the theme of “Uncertainty, Stability & Cohesion: A Transforming Middle East”.  In order to celebrate the opening of our conference this year, we hosted an Al Jazeera panel on AJ’s influence on the Middle East and freedom of expression in the region. The AJ panel featured world-renowned journalists and speakers Clayton E. Swisher, Jamal ElShayyal, and Folly Bah Thibault. NU-Q professor, Banu Akdenizli, was also present to moderate the panel and their discussions.

The Al Jazeera panel discussed issues of current relevance pertaining to the GCC crisis and its controversial role in the conflict, as well as the dilemmas that it has faced in ensuring that their reports on the matter maintain the highest level of objectivity, which is often a challenge. With new avenues of discussion opened by the panel, members of the audience engaged in heavy debate with the speakers and revealed their personal sentiments and outlook on the current situation. This presented a range of diversity in thought, experience and attitudes towards this central political issue that has swept this region with force, but with a lingering hope for resolution and peace.  

After the success of the opening ceremony was celebrated, Alisha Kamran (Class of 2018) presented her research on “The Main Drivers of Nuclear Energy in the UAE” at this year’s MESSA conference and shed a deeper level of insight into this often overlooked or even unknown geopolitical subject matter. Her presentation, like others before and after her, raised eyebrows and spurred a great amount of discussion among the audience during the Q/A session.


A research being presented from the US digitally through Zoom. Photo from GUQatar Twitter.

The bulk of her research had its humble roots in a genuine interest that was sparked within her for this particular subject, after taking a certain class for a semester. However, instead of discarding this passion as “temporary” or merely the product of a semester-long class, Alisha turned this spark of interest in the subject, into a heavily detailed and sophisticated research project. She encourages her peers to delve into research in subjects that may unexpectedly catch their interest and to take every class with a burning desire to discover something new that could turn into a large-scale, MESSA-worthy research project.

Having served on the MESSA board for the past year, I have received the unparalleled opportunity to help organize and construct one of the finest undergraduate research conferences in the Middle East, if not the world. MESSA has also enabled me to develop professional relationships with international presenters who were able to guide me in the fundamentals of research, while also sharing their personal experiences during their undergraduate research journey that helped to address my specific interests and prospective fields of future research.

To me, MESSA is much more than a research conference – it is and always will be a platform for student empowerment and research facilitation, and I believe that this is something that every Georgetown student MUST experience. So, join us next year, and together, let’s pave a pathway for discussion on often ignored or understated national and global issues from the eyes of ambitious undergraduate students and, thus, help make this world a better place. Hoya Saxa!

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“As a current sophomore at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Qatar, I hope to major in International Politics with a major focus on the role of media in shaping domestic and regional historical, cultural and structural narratives. Through these series of blogs, I hope to share my personal insights, analyses and perspectives on regional and wider cultural affairs, and most importantly, help contribute to the dialogue across the TGG board and the Hoya community more generally.”

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