We speak to Allison Arber recipient of the Dr Theo George Wilson Scholarship for the Molecular Engineering MRes about how this has helped her studies.
Allison Arber is the recipient of the 2021 Dr Theo George Wilson Scholarship for the Molecular Engineering MRes, provided by IMSE. This scholarship provides finical aid to help academically excellent students continue with their studies, and supports equality, diversity and inclusion.
Allison, originally from North Carolina, studied a theoretical chemistry masters at the University of Oxford before coming to Imperial. She was drawn to the IMSE MRes because of its interdisciplinary nature as she was looking to gain skills and exposure into new fields in science and engineering.
Read the full interview here:
“The MRes is a good opportunity to expand my horizons and gain exposure to fields that otherwise I wouldn’t have any contact with.” Allison Arber MRes Student
Why did you choose to study at Imperial?
It was very much programme-dependent, and I liked that at Imperial they gave academics freedom to set up Institutes like IMSE which you wouldn't find at other universities. So, when I was looking at graduate programs, what really excited me about this institute was the fact that it is interdisciplinary, and I felt like it was a good opportunity for me to expand my horizon and gain insight into different types of backgrounds, skills and gain exposure to fields that otherwise I wouldn't have any contact with.
What was your background before you came to Imperial?
I did undergrad chemistry at Oxford and part of that was the theoretical chemistry masters. Before that I grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina.
What were you worried about before you applied / arrived??
I think the biggest change was moving to London. I'm not from a big city and Oxford was bigger and more urban than where I grew up, but still not even comparable to London. I think that was city life was the biggest concern for me
What’s your favourite part of the IMSE course?
Coming into the program, I had a general idea of what I wanted to do moving forward, but I didn't have any specifics. The course has touched on so many different areas, it's been really helpful to fill in some of the blanks of areas where I have a general idea but I don't know who does this type of research or what's going on in that field, and that's been very helpful for me.
Are you working on any projects at the moment that you find particularly interesting? What are you working on and why is it important? Is it something you would want to pursue further in your career?
So my project is working with BASF. We're studying the crystallization of paracetamol and it is definitely very interesting. While working with Jerry (Professor Jerry Heng) and Nic’s (Professor Nic Harrison) groups, Jerry observed some strange regrowth behaviour that no one can explain. I'm working part in the lab growing crystals and using computational models to both describe what it's doing and if we can we observe this and come up with some type of theoretical basis of understanding what's going on. Long term, the goal is to find a way to link this to manufacturing procedures and that BASF use.
I do hope I can continue doing something similar in a PhD, but I don't want to make any promises!
"The scholarship gave me more freedom to choose what I thought was right for me." Allison Arber MRes Student
How has the pandemic affected your studies?
This year we have been doing some remote, some in-person. I do feel like I'm missing some of the Imperial culture just because I haven't had many opportunities to meet anyone outside the group or outside of my research.
Do you have any ideas at the moment about what you may want to do after you finish your degree?
I am looking at PhDs and I'm generally interested in a materials or process design where I can combine some theory with some experiments. My background is in theoretical chemistry, however I wanted to get out of that because I wanted to be able to put that theory into use. So ideally some type of project where I can make a model of a system and then use it to either optimise a material or some type of process.
How has the IMSE scholarship helped you with your studies?
I guess I was debating between a PhD and this course. Having a scholarship made me feel more confident choosing the program. Choosing the MRes was a bigger risk because the PhD was in pretty much the same field I had already been in, and I wasn't thrilled with it, but it was also safe, and I knew I'd get funding. The scholarship gave me more freedom to choose what I thought was right for me.
Find out more about the IMSE MRes Scholarships and how to apply. The closing date for applications is 31st March.
The taught modules are followed by a 6-month long research project in collaboration with industry, including an industrial research placement.
The Molecular Engineering MRes programme is intrinsically cross-disciplinary, providing students with the skills to work in research across the science/engineering boundary, in academia or industry. The taught component starts with an introduction to molecular science and engineering (designing at the molecular level to create better materials, systems and processes). Students then learn about the design, modelling, synthesis, characterisation and manufacturing of molecules and materials, including aspects of machine learning, process modelling, and business. The taught modules are followed by a 6-month long research project in collaboration with industry, including an industrial research placement. Students on the course come from a wide range of backgrounds: chemists and chemical engineers, materials scientists, physicists, bioengineers – even some with first degrees in mechanical or electrical engineering. This Masters course is delivered by the Institute for Molecular Science and Engineering (IMSE), and hosted by the Department of Chemical Engineering.
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