Summer Student Projects 2019

This summer, three of our then-third year PGRs (Pablo Martinez Pancorbo, Ned Taylor and Elizabeth Martin) were awarded summer student bursaries, covering a small stipend and project fees to allow them to host an undergraduate student for 10 weeks to complete a summer research project.

In a competitive process, the PGRs had to put forward project proposals, which were then reviewed by members of our Management Board and awards were granted. Once the call out had been made to undergraduates, the PGRs reviewed applications and decided who to call to interview before selecting the successful applicant.


These are the successful PGRs and undergraduate students, and their projects:

Novel magnetoplasmonic core-shell nanoparticles for cancer theranostics via surface enhanced Raman spectroscopy and magnetic/photothermal hyperthermia

This project was supervised by PGR Pablo Martinez Pancorbo, working with undergraduate student Sam Treves, who graduated this summer from MPhys Physics with Astrophysics .

The project was interdisciplinary research focused on the fabrication of novel core-shell composite nanoparticles for both early-stage cancer cells imaging and treatment. It involved the nanoparticles synthesis and several materials characterizations techniques such as XRD, DLS, TEM, SEM, UV-vis spectrophotometry, Raman spectrometry, and vibrating-sample magnetometer. The project involved collaboration with with the Living Systems Institute (LSI) and Applied Magnetism Institute (IMA), Spain.

Pablo reports that all expected outcomes were achieved and as well as the scientific findings, he found transferrable skills:

I am taking several ideas out of this experience for future positions in which I manage others. The collaboration was very fluent, and we communicated effectively in a daily basis. I really enjoyed being part of this opportunity and think I will be a better manager and mentor in future roles.

Sam plans to apply for PhD positions after graduating and also grew his professional development:

My supervisor encouraged me to work independently from early on in the project. This presented problems initially as things took more time to complete and there were more obstacles that I did not know how to solve. These issues were resolved after speaking to PhD students and looking at published papers. As a result I am now able to work independently without supervision and my resourcefulness when problem solving has been enhanced.

Investigation of Coupled Elasto-Magnetic Pumps for Wireless Fluid Movement

This project was supervised by PGR Elizabeth Martin, working with final year MPhys student Tom Moynihan.

Lab-on-a-chip technology holds the key to fast, low power, portable diagnostic devices. This performs laboratory functions on one chip. In order to achieve this, there is a need for microscopic devices that can transfer fluid at this scale, which is a challenge due to viscouslike regime. This project aims to tackle this problem by employing novel elasto-magnetic devices, to manipulate liquids at microscopic dimensions. These devices will be implemented and tested which would aid in optimising the design and fabrication process. This could lead onto improvements in lab-on-a-chip technology in the future.

Elizabeth explained how the experience taught her skills outside of her usual day-to-day work:

The main skills that I have developed further through this experience (which are not so prominent in traditional day-to-day PhD work) are: motivating others to continue their research even when the preliminary results aren’t what you expect; forward-planning for people other than myself; and guiding someone in their research.

Her favourite part of the experience was seeing how her summer student enjoyed the research and she would recommend anyone who has the opportunity to give it a go.

Tom experienced the leap in difficulty from undergraduate experiments to postgraduate research:

Working on a research project without a given exact script to work from has given me the skills to work independently toward a goal with no fixed path. Working full time has allowed be to learn the skills required to manage my time efficiently, plan each day according to what I think I can do and adjust accordingly. I have also learnt how to deal with speed bumps in the research. I found when working on something that people haven’t done before (as opposed to early years undergraduate experiments where there’s a given script) there are far more difficulties to overcome in the completion of the task at hand, and overcoming these difficulties has been a large part of my learning.

From Chaos to Order: Predicting the True Interface Using First-Principles Methods 

This project was supervised by PGR Ned Taylor, working with final year MPhys student Isiah Rudkin-Crawford.

Ned’s project employed computational and theoretical methods to tackle the problems presented by interfaces by predicting the true interface between any two given materials. To make the ideal solar cell, several interfaces are needed; as such, we need to understand their attributes. These interfaces can remove, change or even create the desired properties of a device. By gaining insights into the interface, we can better understand the device.

Ned learnt many transferrable skills from his project:

I found the interview panel to be one of the most useful experiences of this programme. I had to select an interview panel and create a set of questions to gauge each candidate’s potential. This was very interesting, as the purpose of each question needed to be made clear to the panel members. Going through the Uni’s interview process was helpful in understanding the requirements of interviews and the rules under which they are conducted. For the students who were unsuccessful in this stage, I tried gave individualised, constructive feedback to each in order to help them for their next time applying for a role.

The third stage allowed me to develop and improve my skills of project management. I tried to keep close to the initially outlined plan of the project, whilst still allowing room for deviation if work merited it and if the student had some ideas they wanted to test. This project has given me the opportunity to guide a student in the development of new skills and give them goals to work towards.

Isiah felt the project had improved his scientific skills:

The project has required me to be imaginative when trying to find ways to manipulate physical systems and implement mathematical models in computational form.
Undertaking this project has significantly enhanced my programming ability. I am now competent with Fortran, a programming language that I hadn’t used before the project started and have learnt a lot of transferable coding skills that aren’t specific to the language. I have also gained significant experience working with other people’s code in a group project, which is an important and difficult skill for my future working with others on large programming projects.
The opportunity to use the University supercomputer is also a valuable experience, as it has given me insight and experience into how these devices are run, used, and managed in a professional environment.

The call out for Summer 2020 project proposals is coming soon so watch this space!


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