The UROP programme I undertook at Massachusetts Institute of Technology was based in the Condensed Matter Theory group in the Department of Physics, and was both an engaging academic learning experience, and a vital piece of my professional development. I had never been across the Atlantic before, and was worried about how different the academic environment would be. I was pleasantly surprised to find that adjusting to work at MIT fit neatly into the intercultural experience.
The facilities and the department were brand new and well organised, being the central working environment to a myriad of immensely intelligent academics in various stages of their careers. After meeting my senior supervisor and his post-docs to discuss the exact nature of the project and the plan for my work over the summer I was ready to begin immediately with the research. My research group comprised of American, Chinese and Dutch researchers, instructing me in a wonderfully diverse spectrum of problem-solving methods.
Throughout the placement I developed useful skills in research which can only be practically obtained, and interacted with some of the most accomplished minds in the specialisation of Physics I aspire to work in. The guidance received by academics who have already been through a great deal of their career is priceless, and by working in a foreign environment, your adaptability both tested and improved. Furthermore, the most satisfying element of my placement was to see the Physics that I had learned in lectures, and the Physics I had yet to learn, manifest itself in real-life research.
On top of the research, I had ample time to explore the historical and diverse cities of Boston and Cambridge. As I expected, there were plenty of American burger houses and diners to sink my teeth into, but alternatively Chinatown in Boston had much to offer. I also found many Irish-themed pubs and sports bars where I could grab a beer at the end of the week. During the placement I had chance to spend a weekend in New York and be unmistakably blinded by the mammoth lifestyle and about ten million lights per square metre, but also seeing the mesmerising view of the entire city from the top of the Rockafella building. Conversely, visiting the quiet town of Cape Cod the subsequent weekend revealed a more relaxed and liberal side of the United States. Throughout my stay in the United States, I had chance to try all types of food and drink, in enormous portions, as well as talk to the amiable inhabitants and find out a lot about life there. For example, Boston was a renowned seafood spot, and proffered many chances to eat lobster and oysters.
Overall I could not have asked for a more productive, insightful and satisfying gaze into the world of Physics research and life in America, and was unquestionably worth applying for. I would recommend this to anyone who is considering a career in research and wants to get first-hand experience working alongside professionals who are passionate about their chosen fields. Also a great chance to be exposed to a different culture and see all the marvellous sites as well as bolstering my academic career, the MIT-Imperial UROP Exchange program has been a brilliant and unforgettable life experience.
I would recommend this to anyone who is considering a career in research and wants to get first-hand experience working alongside professionals who are passionate about their chosen fields"