Luke Jenkins, Earth Science and Engineering
I was given a placement in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Although Imperial College undergraduate geophysicists do get opportunities to complete fieldwork, lab-scale experiments are particularly infrequent. I was therefore delighted with my placement, which combined both laboratory experiments with numerical simulations.
The project was incredibly useful for a multitude of reasons. I was introduced to a new experimental technique, I learnt new programming languages and computer skills (e.g. image processing in MATLAB) which will prove invaluable for future academic work. But most importantly the project provided an insight into a new field of research which I am now considering studying for a PhD.
But most importantly the project provided an insight into a new field of research which I am now considering studying for a PhD."
The research exchange placement, above anything else, is perhaps the best way for undergraduate students to test the suitability of foreign research institutions for future study (especially for PhD's). The whole experience has been a resounding confirmation that I wish to study for a PhD and without this exchange I highly doubt I would have considered applying to US universities for postgraduate
studies. Furthermore, conversing with European and American post-docs has proved useful for deciding where to study in the future.
The trip was also very enjoyable for a number of non-academic reasons. The placement allowed myself to experience new societies and clubs that I would not have otherwise experienced. I joined MIT's excellent sailing club, where I learnt to sail with absolutely zero prior experience. A packed working week often led into a fast-paced weekend, as we attempted to cram in as many different attractions and places as possible. The highlight of our weekend excursions was a three day trip to New York, which coincided with my 21st birthday -cue numerous jazz and blues bars. During my short stay, I managed to visit 3 states (Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island) and drove through Connecticut. Although this represents only a small portion of the US, I still feel that I managed to experience enough of the US outside of the lab.