This summer I was fortunate enough to spend 8 weeks carrying out research at MIT as part of a group of 8 students from Imperial, all from different departments. I represented Geophysics and the experience has been enjoyable and enriching in so many ways. After studying Geophysics for 3 years at Imperial, there have been countless hours spent on fieldwork and practical work, but lab work is not introduced until the 4th year. Spending this summer gaining lab experience in such a high quality environment will be excellent preparation for my final undergraduate year.
I was placed in a research group in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. I have recently completed 2 modules in this area and so had a background understanding of most of the concepts being researched. My project involved working alongside a PhD student to use laboratory experiments to test theories previously introduced by another member of the research group. In the first week I mostly shadowed the PhD student, learning the rules, regulations and set up of the lab, but after this we worked side by side to complete the work as efficiently as possible.
Before arriving in Boston I was a little apprehensive about how much I’d enjoy the experience, but after only a week there I was excited for the next 7 weeks. The focus on lab work meant I was learning a lot of new skills that I knew would help me in my final year. The halls of residence were situated on the picturesque Charles River, and we were allocated a single room each (even if the room was actually a double). From here we could easily explore Cambridge and the MIT campus, or cross the river into the heart of Boston. On the weekends we would plan day trips to nearby beaches or tourist spots, and even managed to visit New York and Maine for a weekend each.
Given the similarities between England and America I didn’t experience any kind of culture shock, but you soon learn that tax and tips make splitting a restaurant bill a mathematical challenge. Due to tourism and the concentration of universities in Boston, there seems to be a large international presence (much like London), again lessening the culture shock – less than half the members of my research group were American!
Spending this summer gaining lab experience in such a high quality environment will be excellent preparation for my final undergraduate year."