Shortly before the lockdown triggered by the COVID-19 crisis, our new Teaching Fellow Dr Monika Szumilo started at the Department of Aeronautics. Unfortunately, many in the Aero community will not have had the chance to meet her, so we have profiled Monika by way of introduction. She talks about her background, her passion for teaching, the exciting new course she’s developing and her tips for working at home. 

Can you explain a little about your background prior to joining Imperial? 

"My background is in Physics, although my MPhil and PhD research at the University of Cambridge cut across a few disciplines, including materials science, chemistry and a bit of Engineering. My research has involved researching organic semiconductors in application to optoelectronic devices, with a focus on photon recycling in hybrid organic-inorganic perovskite solar cells."

"Throughout my time in Cambridge, I was a senior laboratory demonstrator and a supervisor, and I took every opportunity to teach. Since then, I have been teaching and designing courses as a Director of Curriculum at a private Cambridge company, and have lectured in Maths and Physics at INTO City, University of London." 


What inspires you to teach and what do you feel you’ll bring to the role of Teaching Fellow? 

"During my PhD, I made the decision to pursue a career in teaching. I always enjoyed conveying my passion for science and teaching the Natural Sciences Tripos to undergraduates only confirmed that it was something I want to do full time. It was such a pleasure to work with enthusiastic and hardworking students. I especially enjoyed answering unexpected, difficult questions – their interest and curiosity pushed me out of my comfort zone and prompted me to look at problems from new perspectives. I know I can count on Imperial students to be passionate about what they are studying, and I cannot wait to assist them in discovering their chosen topics in Science and Engineering."  

" I know I can count on Imperial students to be passionate about what they are studying, and I cannot wait to assist them in discovering their chosen topics in Science and Engineering. "

"My main task at the moment is designing a brand new course in Machine Learning for Applications in Aeronautics, which I am sure will be an amazing adventure and a great addition to Aero curriculum, giving our alumni an extra advantage in the job market. The course is still in its early stages of development, but it will give students both theoretical and practical knowledge of various Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence algorithms best suited for problems met in the Aero world."

What has drawn you to the Department of Aeronautics? 

"The Department of Aeronautics is a unique institution with an established reputation and ground-breaking research. But what has drawn me to become a Teaching Fellow here was the people. From the first meeting I knew the staff truly care about their students here, and they are as excited and dedicated as I am to help them achieve excellence. Although I have only been here a short time, I have already seen proof of that dedication, especially in the face of the current difficulties posed by the Coronavirus outbreak. It is an honour to work with such an amazing team."

You’ve started at a very unfortunate time with the College closing shortly after your induction.  How are you adjusting to working from home? Do you have any tips? 

"I feel so fortunate to count myself amongst those able to work in the current situation. Thankfully, I can carry on with my tasks and duties without much hindrance. I try to deal with the added pressure from isolation by sticking to my routine as much as possible, making sure I exercise or meditate every day and keep in touch with my new and old colleagues as well as my local community. There are so many brilliant opportunities for helping others now!"

"My top tip for working from home would be to isolate some space in your home that you treat as your workplace. It can be small – just a chair and a small table - something that you will mentally associate with working. Don’t do anything not work-related there and don’t work anywhere else in your home. This trick helps me to focus on my tasks during the workday and makes it easier to relax and ‘go home’ when I move away from it in the evening."