Jonathan Hedley (Department of Chemistry), MIT Summer 2019
My time at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been one my most memorable experiences during my time at university. Having spent seven weeks working on a research project with leading experts in the field, as well as meeting many new people from both MIT and Imperial, I can certainly say this has been a summer I will never forget!
My project involved a computational study of exciton dynamics in disordered systems with spatially inhomogeneous decay rates using kinetic Monte Carlo methods. From developing the model and writing the simulation code from scratch with guidance from my supervisors, this project has given me a valuable insight into the life of a graduate student in the field of Theoretical and Computational Chemistry. My supervisors had a very balanced approach in their guidance – enough to make sure I didn’t get lost, but also not too much, allowing me to develop confidence in my ability to steer the direction of my research. I was especially fortunate in that the results from my research were publishable, and so I was able to learn how to consolidate my seven weeks of work into a paper, as well as how to write in the style required for a scientific journal, skills that I was not expecting to develop there.
From working at MIT, and from the many PhDs and post-docs in the group, I was able to learn a lot about the US graduate system, something I had not considered applying to previously. I also received very helpful advice about applications to graduate programmes, both in the UK and the US, all of which strengthened my decision to apply for a PhD the next year.
I didn’t spend all my time just working! Evenings and weekends were spent with the other IROP students. From watching films and playing boardgames in the lounge to walking around Boston and Cambridge, we bonded over complaining how hot and humid the city was in July. We were also very fortunate to witness 4th July celebrations in our first week – having hundreds of Americans around you, singing the Star-Spangled Banner, then watching an uninterrupted 20 minutes of fireworks was certainly a unique way to experience the culture!
Being enrolled as a student at MIT comes with many benefits. We had free access to the gym and sporting facilities around the campus, which proved to be nice breaks from the sedentary lifestyle in the office. In our free time, we were also able to explore many of the brilliant museums in Cambridge and Boston for free, for example, the Science and Fine Arts Museums.
The weekends became great opportunities to take the very affordable commuter rail to the outskirts of Boston, where we saw the witches in Salem, the beaches in Rockport, and much more! We were also able to spend a weekend in New York, where we roamed Central Park, filled ourselves up with $1 pizza, and got harassed in Times Square by artists trying to sell us their latest album. One of my best memories of visiting New York was the Metropolitan Art Museum, a building so large it would take around two whole days to explore fully!
Overall, I would wholeheartedly recommend anyone interested in this programme to apply – it’s given me an opportunity to experience life in a research group at a world leading university and has assured me of the path I want to take after my degree at Imperial finishes. As well as this, the programme has allowed me to immerse myself in American culture, while making some great friends and long-lasting memories along the way.
" Having spent seven weeks working on a research project with leading experts in the field, as well as meeting many new people from both MIT and Imperial, I can certainly say this has been a summer I will never forget!"