An image of the Imperial College London skyline

The Henry Royce Institute has sponsored seven Undergraduate student placements. If you are interested in completing a UROP, please visit the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Programme webpage

Royce Summer Interns 2020

The Henry Royce Institute sponsored four Undergraduate students to complete a 10-week internship as Royce Interns over Summer 2020. All students were supervised by staff in Materials and the student's research focused around the Atoms to Devices theme, ranging from investigating copper nanoparticles to Monte Carlo simulations of DNA origami. The students presented their research posters at the Royce Interns mini-conference, which was attended by members of Royce, partner universities and other Royce Interns. 

The students discuss their projects in the profiles below.

If you would like to know more about the Royce Summer Interns 2020, please visit @Royce_Interns on Twitter. 

Accordion Widget

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

An image of Qian ChengQian Cheng is a third-year MEng student in the Department of Materials. Dr Stella Pedrazzini supervised her summer placement. 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.

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

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. 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 literature. This was a time-consuming process and required a large amount of reading. However, by reading those papers, I obtained a 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 a better understanding of engineering alloys and the different mechanisms involved.  

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. 

During the UROP, it is important to keep a 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 short-period research; it would be more useful and satisfying if you work efficiently.

Final Research poster:

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. Dr Johannes Lischner supervised his summer placement. Due to COVID-19 all placements this year were virtual. 

Project title: Copper nanoparticles: A tight-binding approach.

 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 from 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. 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. 

Final research poster:

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. Dr Stefano Angioletti-Uberti supervised his summer placementDue to COVID-19 all placements this year were virtual. 

Project: Monte Carlo Simulations of DNA Origami Self-Assembly

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. I aim 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 the 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 by filing a brief application.

UROP gave me the freedom and obligations of working on a solo project. 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.

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 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 poster: 

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. Professor Peter Haynes supervised his summer placement. Due to COVID-19 all placements this year were virtual. 

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

 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.

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 human society, and material simulations offer an ideal starting point for taking the full advantage of the processing power of quantum computers.

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. 

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 not to 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 worked on classical material simulations last summer and the potential and breadth that quantum computing brings into the field are extremely exciting and, in my opinion, very much worth exploring.

Final research poster: 

View a copy of Peter's final research poster.

The 'Lab in a box' project

Three of our Undergradute students were sponsored by the Henry Royce Institute to lead the design and validation of a toolkit for ‘at home’ material property characterisation. The 'lab in the box' toolkit was sent to first-year Undergraduates studying at home due to the pandemic. 

The placement students also supported Outreach objectives by creating a resource that could be shared with schools, to carry out experiments on materials science outside of a university context. The placement students share their experiences below. 

Accordion Widget 1

Abhinav Rajendran

An image of Abhinav RajendranCan you summarise your project?

Given that the current world situation has shut off lab access for the majority of students at both schools and university alike, my project was to assist in developing simple arduino experiments to test out materials properties in a home setting. I initially assembled an automated density sensor in order to demonstrate the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic materials properties.

This consisted of two main sensors, first a strain gauge to determine the mass of the object and secondly a capacitive water level sensor to determine the change in water level. In addition to this I designed an experiment to demonstrate how the nanostructure of a material can influence its behaviour on the macro scale. 

What did you learn from the project?

An image of one of the new experimentsI learned how many of the Arduino sensors actually measure physical properties and convert this to a digital or analog reading. These can then be plotted in real time to see how various properties in a system are changing as the experiment takes place right in front of you.

The most interesting thing I realised while designing and assembling the projects was that students do not need to necessarily be tied to a lab to perform scientific experiments. The leaps in technology and affordability of sensors makes equipment so accessible and easy to use with a small amount of Arduino and programming knowledge. The ability to 3D print relatively cheaply also helps in designing custom pieces of apparatus to mount various sensors in new creative setups.

What did you enjoy about the project?

The freedom to tinker and design my own experiments was one of the most enjoyable aspects of this project. The sheer number of sensors that were included in the kit enabled a plethora of experiments to be made, ranging from proving the wave nature of light to measuring the rheological properties of household fluids.

It was interesting to test out many combinations of sensors and although some experiments died in the planning stage, the ones that did eventually materialise made this such a rewarding process. It was fascinating to push the boundaries of what can be achieved at home with an Arduino, some sensors and a little bit of imagination. 

Meryem Lamari

An image of Meryem LamariCan you summarise your project? 

I was working on electrical conductivity towards achieving a multi-meter kit that measures the output voltages of circuits as well as resistances. From the resistance, the electrical conductivity of the samples tested is deduced. The multimeter is adapted to measure a wide range of resistances to be able to test the different classes of conducting materials.

By learning how to create and implement these characterization tools into their applications, the material property worked on, and therefore the whole laboratory is a lot more understood.


What did you learn from the project?

An image of one of the new experimentsThe project deepened my knowledge of concepts I had previously learned throughout my course. I learned more about circuits, hardware, and programming of a microcontroller-based device such as Arduino and its applications.

I have also acquired hands-on experience as my laboratory was mainly practical hands-on work.

What did you enjoy about the project?

I enjoyed working on such a resourceful project and making it possible to condense complex experiments into a compact form that still delivers the wanted results.

I liked the element of flexibility introduced, allowing us to adapt the labs to our visions. I enjoyed working with the other interns and project supervisors who were really nice and always receptive to the ideas, it made the whole project a lot more enjoyable.

Satvik Agarwal

An image of Satvik AgarwalCan you summarise your project? 

As a consequence of this pandemic, efforts were being made to find a suitable alternative to the current set of materials characterisation labs for first-year undergraduates that could be carried out safely at home. Our task was to produce the initial lab scripts for each of these labs.

We carried out beta testing and tried to do all the labs ourselves to investigate any potential issues that students may experience and subsequently streamline the lab scripts to solve these issues. Further, we tried to gear our scripts to serve Outreach purposes as well by adding helpful tips in the lab scripts as well as creating a supplementary video walkthrough for the experimental setup for each lab. Finally, we put together a PPT that could be used to introduce materials engineering to high school students and design their own experiment to attempt materials characterisation using arduino kits.

An image of one of the new experiments

What did you learn from the project?

During this internship, I was able to understand the teaching principles that underpin every lab that engineering students do. This first-principles thinking approach will help me in the future as well.

I learnt so much about writing and presenting scientific ideas in a clear and concise manner from my supervisors. I was able to brush up on my Arduino skills which will come in handy later this year when I do my Design Study project.

What did you enjoy about the project?

I enjoyed working in a team with my peers and supervisors. I think we really hit it off and it will surely be a friendship that lasts beyond this job. My supervisors were extremely encouraging and helpful. I also enjoyed building interesting arduino projects at home.