Can you tell us about yourself? An image of Aigerim Omirkhan

Aigerim Omirkhan, final year Materials Research PhD student at the Department of Materials. 

My alma mater is Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan, where I graduated with BEng in Chemical Engineering as one of the first alumni. I was always keen to do a research degree.  Having looked at ongoing research at chemical engineering departments across the globe, it occurred to me that most of the forefront research was related to material science. That is why I decided to pursue MSc in Advanced Materials Science and Engineering at Imperial College London. While doing my MSc research project, I was advised to apply for a PhD, and was accepted to do research with Prof Mary Ryan and Prof Jason Riley at the Department of Materials.

Can you provide a summary of your research? 

My research focuses on developing mechanistic understanding of erosion-corrosion in metal pipelines. It is a part of ongoing research at Shell-Imperial Advanced Interfacial Materials Science (AIMS) Centre. Typical of materials science, my research is interdisciplinary and involves a range of activities including electrochemistry, electron microscopy, mechanical testing and a bit of metallurgy. Carrying out applied research has been quite a rewarding experience and it provided me with avenues for active collaboration with industry in form of research, site visits and internship. 

Why you chose to study at Imperial and has your experience been so far? 

During my undergraduate degree, I was selected to do a summer school in one of London’s universities. I distinctly remember the day me and my friends were walking to Hyde Park via Exhibition Road. As we passed Imperial College, I imagined how amazing it would be to study at one of the best universities in the world. Fast forward a few years, I can now call Albertopolis my second home. I really enjoy living in London due to the exposure to the cutting-edge research, culture and travel opportunities.     

What is the current highlight of your PhD? 

Back in the 2nd year of my PhD I had an amazing opportunity to participate in Imperial-Tokyo Tech Global Fellows programme in Japan, organised by the Graduate School. The program was built around the core theme of "Innovation to Eradicate Poverty", followed by a research stay in the Tokyo Tech lab. It was one of a kind experience that allowed me to step outside my daily research routine and connect with talented researchers from all over the world. 

Another highlight of my PhD was founding a student chapter of the Electrochemical Society at Imperial College London. Last year, we co-organized SE-lectrochem 2019 conference for early career researchers of South East England. I had a blast putting together such a large-scale event, and gained leadership, team working, and project management skills along the way.   

What are your top tips for completing a PhD at Imperial?

Remember why you decided to do a PhD in the first place and go back to that thought when struggling to find motivation. Sometimes it might be easy to lose track of the bigger picture.

Keep an eye on your mental health, find (or create) your community, and connect with other PhD students outside the area of your study. I am grateful for having access to yoga classes at Ethos, being able to do belly dancing with Imperial Belly Dancing Society and having London’s parks and trails to go for long runs.

Also take advantage of the numerous opportunities available at Imperial, including Career Centre resources, Graduate School courses and Imperial Evening Classes. Networking is a key. Maybe get involved in teaching and societies, and remember to write down all notes in your lab book, however insignificant they may seem…