An image of Xiaodong Hu1)    Can you tell us about yourself? 

I got my bachelor’s degree in Materials Science from the University of British Columbia, Canada. At the time I was crazy about skiing as a part-time ski coach in Canadian Ski Instructor Alliance, and I was astounded by the fact that ski equipment, made by novel materials, can be light, hard but ductile simultaneously. With the curiosity of how these magical materials can be made and how their properties can be predicted, I chose to continue my study in the same area.

2)    Why did you choose Imperial Materials?

Knowing well that it is those who excel at solving real-world problems who thrive in the field of materials science, Imperial Material was my first choice because it not only provides a solid theoretical foundation of innovative technologies in the area of materials, but also gives us the opportunity to have a glimpse about how these technologies are applied

3)    How do you find the course? Any highlights so far?

Desiring to understand the applications of novel materials and the theories underneath them, I chose a wide range of courses including biomaterials, ceramic, thin-film technology, and material modelling. This short half-year enabled me to see the connection of different materials and mechanisms by which different materials have various properties: How ductile materials become brittle by changing the geometry; How insulators become semiconductors by adding few atoms, etc.

I found the most interesting course was DFT, i.e. density functional theory. It is an application of quantum mechanics as a tool for predicting the properties of materials even if they are yet to be made in a lab. Without any knowledge of quantum mechanics, I have never imagined that in such a short time, I can use my small MacBook to construct materials at the atomic scale, not to mention simulating materials that may never be made in real world.

4)    What is your typical day like? 

Studying in such a prestigious school with all the talented people was indeed a challenging task. However, all we need to focus on was the learning. The goal of Imperial College London and our department is to take care of all the other things: Central library is open for 24 hours and filled with desktops for students and will purchase the latest version of literature once requested; Labs in our department with all type of expensive devices (AFM, SEM, and even TEM) are open to students if needed for their projects; Professors who may just publish articles on Nature or Science are more than willing to answer any questions about his/her course from students in the office.

My time at Imperial College London was definitely not all about studying. The College is located in central London and just 30 minutes’ walk from downing street and Buckingham Palace, we have our own gym and even a pool just for imperial students. When tired of dealing dry data and theories at the central library at night, one deserves some ‘refreshing’ liquor which can be found in the basement of the same building. Also if your fed up with the lunch combos in canteens then you can visit  the farmers’ market held on campus every Tuesday and try all kinds of traditional European food!

For me, this busy but amply rewarded period is not only a precious memory, but also a big step in my life. Like most of my friends at Imperial, I can easily pass the resume screening part and have recieved many offers from various career sectors, including consulting, manufacturing, and even auditing. I’ll never regret being an alumnus of Imperial.