Celebrating project success

Students, staff, industry and supporters gathered to learn about the career development projects students completed over the summer, and to announce the winner of the best project report and poster.

The School of Physics and Astronomy runs a Career Development Scholarship programme, funding and supporting students to undertake research projects over the summer period.

This year 42 undergraduate students took part in the programme.  Students can undertake an academic project based in the School or a project based in industry.  Projects have a duration of around 8 weeks, and students are provided with a stipend of £1,500.

These projects enable students to gain new skills, experience different workplaces and create a network of contacts.  In many cases, students also got the opportunity to work on problems with immediate real world applications.

Grace Alster, who is currently in year 4 of the BSc (Hons) Computational Physics degree was presented with £1000 for the best project poster and report. Grace’s project, on the behaviour of methane and water inside icy planets was titled ‘Computational molecular dynamics of methane and water mixture under extreme conditions using CASTEP’. She was awarded the prize by the Head of School, Prof Jim Dunlop.

Grace commented: 

Undertaking a project in summer was a great way to gain insight into what postgraduate research is like. It has made me more informed about my options after graduating, and given me the kind of skills I will need whether I end up in industry or academia. I’m glad I took the opportunity, and very thankful to Lewis (Project Advisor) and Andreas (Project Supervisor) for all their help.

Project supervisor, Dr Andreas Hermann reported:

I am absolutely delighted for Grace to have won the prize for the best summer project poster and report - having seen the amazingly high standard of work produced by all summer students it must have been a tough competition! I always try to get summer students to work on projects we are currently puzzling over, so they see how real research looks like: there is a lot of communication, dedication, and some ingenuity - yet outcomes are always uncertain. Here, Grace looked at (under expert guidance by my PhD student Lewis Conway) how methane and water mix under conditions found inside icy planets; not a place we can go and study in situ, so accurate computational modelling is indispensable.

Lewis Conway, Project Advisor said:

It was great having Grace working with us over the summer. She did some great work collecting large data sets and writing Python scripts to analyse them. Thanks to Grace, the research project has a firm grounding on which we hope to develop.

I think these summer projects are incredibly useful. I did a summer project when I was an undergraduate and it definitely influenced my decision to pursue a PhD. I hope that Grace has found it equally as enlightening!