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Over the summer, the Henry Royce Institute sponsored a number of U.K students to complete a 10-week internship as Royce Interns. Four students from the Department of Materials and Department of Physics completed the virtual placement and they were supervised by staff in Materials. Their research focused around the Atoms to Devices theme, ranging from investigating copper nanoparticles to Monte Carlo simulations of DNA origami. 

The students then presented their research posters at the Royce Interns mini-conference, which was attended by members of Royce, partner universities and other Royce Interns. 

In the profiles below, the students discuss their projects, highlights of their placement and advice for future UROP applicants.

If you are interested in completing a UROP, please visit the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Programme webpage. If you would like to know more about the Royce Summer Interns 2020, please visit @Royce_Interns on Twitter. 

 

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Qian Cheng - Modelling of Solute Segregation in Ti-6Al-4V (Ti64) produced by selective laser melting

An image of Qian ChengQian Cheng is an third year MEng student in the Department of Materials. Her summer placement was supervised by Dr Stella Pedrazzini. Due to COVID-19 all placements this year were virtual.

Project title: Modelling of Solute Segregation in Ti-6Al-4V (Ti64) produced by selective laser melting.

Duration: 10 weeks

Twitter: @QianChe31879261

Undertaking this UROP was a great opportunity for me to hone my knowledge learnt from my degree courses and to build up theoretical foundation"

 

 

 

 

Can you summarise your research project?

My research focused on additively manufactured Ti-6Al-4V (Ti64) alloys. Segregation at dislocations was observed in Ti64 made by Selective Laser Melting (SLM) technique. This segregation and dislocation behaviour was not explained yet. The project focused on studying the causes of this behaviour via modelling. Several approaches were attempted: firstly, the dislocation velocity was calculated and compared with the diffusion rates of solute atoms at specific temperatures. If they match each other, solute atoms can move with the dislocations.

Then, models of nucleation and growth of beta phase from alpha matrix were built to examine the conditions required for the solute segregation at dislocations to form beta phase. Ti64 alloys are widely used in aerospace industry and as bioimplants. Additive manufacturing allows the production of near-net shaped products. By understanding the mechanisms of the segregation and dislocation behaviour, we can improve the technique to improve the microstructure of the SLM Ti64 alloys, and thus improve the mechanical properties of the final products. This would give great industrial potential.

Why did you apply for a UROP and what have you learned?

I applied for this UROP because of my strong interest in engineering alloys and their applications. Through my three years’ study, I was fascinated by the effect of microstructure on the mechanical properties of alloys. I wanted to take a related UROP to get better understanding of engineering alloys and their properties. Also, I would like to pursue a research career in the future. Undertaking this UROP funded by the Henry Royce Institute was a great opportunity for me to hone my knowledge learnt from my degree courses and to build up theoretical foundation. I knew about the UROP from the emails sent by the department. To apply for this UROP, I searched for our lecturers’ research area in our College website and kept eyes on the placement opportunities. 

The best part of my UROP is that I got to know more students who are interested in materials research. During our weekly group meeting, we could present our projects to the group so that everyone got to know what projects other people were working on, ask questions and give suggestions to help improve the results. By doing a UROP with the Henry Royce Institute, I had the chance to know students from six different universities working on different projects.

Completing a placement virtually was very different from doing an experimental project. Since I was not able to do experiments, I needed to look for the data required for modelling from literatures. This was a time-consuming process and required a large amount of reading. However, by reading those papers, I obtained better understanding of some of the theories learnt during lectures and gained knowledge even beyond the requirement of my project. 

The placement provided me with a chance to apply the knowledge learnt during lectures and helped me gain better understanding of engineering alloys and the different mechanisms involved. Also, my project required a huge amount of readings of papers and books, which deepen and broaden my learning beyond the lectures. My modelling skills were improved by doing this ten-week UROP. Moreover, the bursary awarded by Henry Royce Institute supported my life in London during the UROP. 

What advice would you give to future applicants?

I would suggest students do some research and self-reading before applying. By doing this, students will know what kind of projects they are interested in and the best supervisors to approach. Also, it would be good to have a look at the Henry Royce Institute website to know what the main focuses and mission of Royce are and whether projects are in line with these. During the UROP, it is important to keep record of your progress, take good notes of the papers you have read and the results you have achieved. These will be helpful when writing the final project report and preparing for the presentation. If you are stuck with some problems, don’t be afraid to ask your supervisors and friends for help. This is a short-period research, it would be more useful and satisfying if you work efficiently.

Final Research

View a copy of Qian's final research poster

Vivek Gogtay - Copper nanoparticles: A tight binding approach

An image of Vivek GogtayVivek Gogtay is an MSc student in the Department of Physics. His summer placement was supervised by Dr Johannes Lischner. Due to COVID-19 all placements this year were virtual. 

Project title: Copper nanoparticles: A tight binding approach.

Duration: 10 weeks

Twitter: @VGogtay

As someone who enjoys maths and doesn’t like to get his hands dirty, being able to have this experience with just a pen, paper and a computer is great"

 

 

 

  

Can you summarise your research project?

My research is broadly in the field of Condensed Matter Theory, under the supervision of Dr. Johannes Lischner in the Materials Department. Nanoparticles are particles of matter that are between 1 to 100 nanometres in diameter. Their size causes them to have a large proportion of atoms on the surface of the particle because of which their properties are usually very different to that of larger particles of the same substance. They are smaller than the wavelength of visible light, so they can only be observed under an electron microscope. The study of nanoparticles is a relatively new and exciting field. The goal is to assist in the development of a new modelling approach for calculating the properties of electrons in silver and gold nanoparticles and their interaction with light. A better analytic understanding of nanoparticles can have great use in the fields of material science, biology etc.

Why did you apply for a UROP and what have you learned?

I applied for a UROP bursary through Imperial’s UROP bursary scheme and was awarded the Henry Royce Institute bursary because I was associated with the Materials Department. A UROP gives me a taste of original research and an idea of what a life in academia is like. It enabled me to study in-depth about particular topics in Condensed Matter Theory from academic literature and be up to date with the latest research. It is also in theoretical physics. As someone who enjoys maths and doesn’t like to get his hands dirty, being able to have this experience with just a pen, paper and a computer is great for me.

The placement has enabled me to understand physics I’ve studied previously a lot better, and also be able to apply it to real world problems at the forefront of research in this topic. It has also enabled me to learn new physics that is especially relevant to my future career. I’ve learnt that studying is often done best when the learning of theoretical concepts is accompanied by reading about applications, and relevant research in the literature and understanding how the maths is applied in the real world.

What advice would you give to future applicants? 

My advice would be to make the most of this opportunity, whether your goal is to do a PhD or not, and try your best to immerse yourself in the ‘culture’ of your research group; interact with them and get to know them. The people you talk to are likely to be very nice and humble; but at the same time, exceptionally clever and high achieving in their field. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this hard to do because everything is online, but there are still regular group meetings, ‘tea-time’ meetings etc. The Henry Royce Institute is generous with their bursary and this supported my living expenses during my UROP. 

Final research

View a copy of Vivek's final research poster.

 

Jakub Lala - Monte Carlo Simulations of DNA Origami Self-Assembly

An image of Jakub LalaJakub Lala is a second year Undergraduate student in the Department of Materials. His summer placement was supervised by Dr Stefano Angioletti-UbertiDue to COVID-19 all placements this year were virtual. 

Project: Monte Carlo Simulations of DNA Origami Self-Assembly

Duration: 10 weeks

Twitter: @JakubLala
I have improved my knowledge in key areas of Statistical Mechanics and Monte Carlo Simulations. Not only will these gains transfer over to my regular studies but possibly a potential future career"

 

 

 

 

 

Can you summarise your research project?

My research topic focuses on self-assembly of DNA origami. These are nanoscale structures made of DNA strands folding on each other with the use of various staples that bind with a scaffold DNA strand through the complementary base pair interactions. My aim is to take advantage of a developed DNA origami simulation model and use it to study the stability of these structures. The key application is then the detection of viruses in blood by observing folding of specific gene sequences and thus identifying a potential virus.

Why did you apply for a UROP and what have you learned?

UROP presented itself to me as a great way to explore the key aspects of research, whilst still not fully committing myself to a career path. Moreover, as I want to keep my career options open, I knew there are only a few specific areas of Materials Science that I would like to pursue. Therefore, I purposely looked for Professors in the Department of Materials that concern themselves with Modelling and Simulation. After contacting Dr. Stefano Angioletti-Uberti, I chose one of two projects he suggested and the UROP was settled. Finally, the last part was to apply for the funding through filing a brief application.

UROP gave me the freedom and obligations of working on a solo project. Although Stefano is extremely helpful in promoting the development of my skills and intuition in key aspects of modelling, I must often depend on my personal abilities, which allows me to fully appreciate the difficulty and complexity of today’s state of science. Studying phenomena that penetrate the envelope of human knowledge is also quite thrilling, giving one a sense of importance and responsibility. 

I have mainly improved my knowledge in key areas of Statistical Mechanics and Monte Carlo Simulations. Not only will these gains transfer over to my regular studies but possibly also to any potential future career. More importantly, I have been exposed to lot of textbooks and advanced academic papers. I thus hope my UROP has helped me cultivate my skill in tackling texts of similar difficulty in the future.

What advice would you give to future applicants?

First of all, I would stress the importance of finding the topic that interests you, whilst also having a clear idea of what the Professors, you want to approach, contribute to the field.

Secondly, it would be helpful if you not only develop a certain interest in the topic you want to research, but also strengthen your understanding and intuition in that given topic. These two things are the key ingredients in securing a UROP that will enrich you and most importantly entertain you. As the UROP placement still differs from an actual research experience on the most professional level, I have gained some great insights into how pursuing an academic or a research career might look like. I know that simulations and coding in general are definitely things that will keep me occupied in the future, although I am unsure whether it will be in academia.

Final research

View a copy of Jakub's final research poster

Peter Mlkvik - How to stimulate real materials with quantum computers

An image of Peter Mlkvik Peter Mlkvik is a third year Undergraduate student in the Department of Physics. His summer placement was supervised by Professor Peter Haynes. Due to COVID-19 all placements this year were virtual. 

Project title: How to stimulate real materials with quantum computers.

Duration: 10 weeks

Twitter: @petermlkvik

I have the exciting opportunity to apply my knowledge in practice, allowing me to grasp new concepts better, especially when they are as abstract as quantum algorithms can be."

 

 

 

 

Can you summarise your research project?

I am researching the simulation of polyacetylene chains both from a theoretical and computational standpoint with Professor Peter Haynes. The simulations consist mainly of standard first-principles density-functional theory using CASTEP code. The results from these simulations would be used to parameterise a simplified model of polyacetylene that is suitable for hybrid quantum/classical algorithms such as the variational quantum eigensolver that run on Noisy Intermediate-Scale Quantum (NISQ) devices. If the project is successful, I hope to be able to simulate the results that would be obtained on a real NISQ device, using the facilities available to the host group from IBM Q. I was very fortunate my placement was even possible to proceed virtually since I did not need access to laboratory equipment and hence could work fully remotely. 

Why did you apply for a UROP and what have you learned?

As a third-year student, I am very passionate to pursue a PhD after finishing my degree since I enjoy research a lot. However, the correct choice of a project or even area is a very difficult one, and I felt that a UROP would be an ideal opportunity for cementing my choice. The topic I am researching during the UROP is also a fascinating one, with a huge amount of potential. The ability to effectively use quantum computers could be revolutionary for the human society, and material simulations offer an ideal starting point for taking the full advantage of the processing power of quantum computers.

Besides being a very intellectually stimulating and interesting research experience, I really enjoy the multidisciplinary aspect of the project – it is a combination of material science, scientific programming, and physics – and I feel it is an ideal match for me. During the day I get to do all these things, for example when waiting for a simulation to finish, I read up on new papers, and hence the work never gets tedious.

During my studies I chose all the possible computational options, and I like applying these onto tangible problems, which material simulations certainly are. The project hence builds very well on the modules I have already undertaken this year while also complementing my preferred modules for the last year of studies. I also have the exciting opportunity to apply my knowledge in practice, allowing me to grasp new concepts better, especially when they are as abstract as quantum algorithms can be. All of this is also further boosted by the fact that I am working alongside the experts in the field. 

The virtual experience has taught me a lot about time management, since organising time when you are at home is very different to the standard 9-to-5 workdays.

What advice would you give to future applicants? 

I think one of the most important things is to start looking early. I have agreed on my UROP at the end of January, just in time for applying for the UROP bursary in February, so almost half a year in advance. Another recommendation would be to not be afraid of approaching research staff to talk to them about their research or possible opportunities in their group. It often happens that there is something interesting to do available!

I think that this UROP has helped me a lot in deciding to pursue a PhD in the future. I have worked on classical material simulations last summer, but the potential and breadth that quantum computing bring into the field is extremely exciting and, in my opinion, very much worth exploring.

Final research

View a copy of Peter's final research poster.