This summer, UCL Engineering staff and research teams opened their laboratories and departments to students, offering 36 research placements – more research placements than any other year – giving them the opportunity to work alongside researchers, professional engineers and industry in cutting-edge research projects in areas including chemical engineering, biochemical engineering, computer science and human-computer interaction, electronic and electrical engineering and biomedical engineering among others. The research placements in partnership with In2Science, the Nuffield Foundation, and other organisations were offered to students with a true commitment and passion for engineering that wanted to experience research first hand. Students were placed two to four weeks and in some cases even for six weeks within a research team in one of the engineering departments at UCL during the summer holiday. During their placement students worked on cutting edge research with top research scientists and engineers. They learned a number of skills, techniques, experimented with a wide range of materials, tools and technologies and meet experts from different areas of engineering in academia and industry that collaborate with UCL Engineering research teams. At the end of the placement students were asked to write a short report about their research placement project.
Case Study 1: Department of Chemical Engineering, UCL
Shantona Shahid, a student from Eltham High School, undertook at two-week project in the Department of Chemical Engineering at UCL under supervision of Prof Marc-Olivier Coppens’ lab. During her placement she worked on a number of experiments including one to identify pulse frequency effect on pattern formation in pulsed fluidised beds as well as reading articles on packing biological cargoes in mesoporous materials to identify new opportunities for drug delivery and learned how to use a computational analysis programme and created a visual representation of 1 ubq to name but a few activities.
‘Before undergoing this experience I truly believed that engineering was an industry filled with males. After completing a week of experience at the centre for nature inspired engineering in UCL I understand that this is not necessarily the truth as I shadowed many female PhD students. The experience has given me an amazing insight into what the career could involve and how there are many different pathways which can be taken to reach the end goal, I found this as many of the scientists I spoke to didn’t have a degree in chemical engineering but in many different fields such as chemistry, computer science, physics and many more. I have learnt a lot of methods and analytical techniques, exposure to this is something which wouldn’t have been available without this programme as school and sixth form only give you basic understanding. This experience was very inspiring and led me to finalise my choice to pursue a career in science and it was truly unforgettable, I am very grateful for the opportunity I have and advise many to do the same.” Shantona Shahid, In2Science student
“When I heard about the In2ScienceUK programme I immediately accepted to host a student in the EPSRC Centre for Nature Inspired Engineering (CNIE) and the Department of Chemical Engineering, as encouraging young talent and sharing the joys of research and engineering is close to my heart. It is through such placements that students who would otherwise not have access to what a career in chemical engineering could be like, or what research means, could explore this first-hand. Not only do I believe that it is our responsibility as academics to engage with young people and the general public, giving them an insight into what we do, but it is fun for us as well. Another reason is that I firmly believe in the importance of diversity in the workplace and we absolutely need more women and other underrepresented groups in engineering, because diversity increases creativity. In fact, this legacy that our university is so famous for was an important factor in my own decision to work at UCL. I wish Shantona all the best for the future, and hope that the placement in our lab may encourage her to develop her talent in science and engineering further. It was also a great experience for our PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, including our CNIE postdoc, Dr Kasia Maksimiak, who mentored her, to share their research with an In2Science student, and everyone felt Shantona was a delight to have around. We have been very impressed with how much she learnt and her presentation during our research group meeting” Professor Marc-Olivier Coppens, Head of Department, UCL Chemical Engineering
Case Study 2: Department of Biochemical Engineering, UCL
Andalucia Evans Theodore from Valentines High School and Nada Mansoor from Acton High Sixth Form undertook a two week placement at UCL’s Department of Biochemical Engineering, where they completed a project on the administration of therapeutic proteins, with a focus on the issue of high viscosity preventing self-administration from occurring. Dr Barata, Dr Iris Luke and Dr Darryl Kong hosted the two students at the department. Dr Barata’s work involves computational and experimental formulation of therapeutic proteins to provide manufacturability indices at the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Emergent Macromolecular Therapies.
“I would like to thank the in2scienceUK scheme for giving me this placement. I found it to be really beneficial because it was informative and allowed me to gain practical experience in a lab. I really enjoyed the poster presentation because it allowed us to review and showcase the work we did. I also enjoyed meeting all the different people in the department and learning about the range of careers within science. I would recommend doing a placement because it is such a rare opportunity and you will enjoy it as well as gain much needed experience.” Nada Mansoor, In2Science student
“I enjoyed my placement as I was able to gain an insight into Biochemical engineering by not only observing but also participating in lab research. I found my placement useful as it allowed me to learn more about the subject and this helped me to decide whether I wanted to study it at university. I particularly enjoyed improving my technical skills within the lab and learning about the process by which a new medicine is developed.” Andalucia Evans Theodore, In2Science student
“Overall, the In2science scheme was a valuable experience for both students and supervising scientists. For the students, it provided an opportunity to further develop their knowledge in science as well as their soft skills. For supervisors, it was wonderful to see how much the students had learnt over the past two weeks, especially when they had the chance to present their work to the department. This experience was an exciting opportunity to give A-level students an insight into academia. I thoroughly enjoyed this journey and would definitely recommend it to all researchers.” Dr Darryl Kong, Department of Biochemical Engineering
“We were very grateful for the assistance and support given to in2science by UCL Engineering this summer. In previous years in2science has organised predominantly Life Sciences-based placements, and to see an increasingly diverse coverage of STEM subjects this year has been a major boost. Engineering placements are of particular value as its various disciplines are not generally covered at school. These placements are not just of great value to the students undertaking them, but to the whole cohort who get to hear about them via our Evening Event and blog posts.” Miss Rebecca McKelvey, In2Science Manager
This news story was originally published on the UCL Engineering Schools Engagement webpages http://www.engineering.ucl.ac.uk/schools-engagement/news/staff-at-ucl-engineering-offer-record-student-research-placements-over-the-summer/