Summer research placement
Our summer research placement students
Between 2020 and 2022 the CDT in Nuclear Energy Futures ran a summer undergraduate placement scheme. Hosted across the partner institutions, these placements gave aspiring nuclear professionals the opportunity to learn more about academic research and the real-world challenges and opportunities in the nuclear sector.
You can read more about the experiences of students within the three cohorts below.
I completed a summer research placement to gain an insight into the life of a researcher and to complement my studies in Mechanical Engineering.
During my project I investigated computational modelling for thermal fracture of nuclear fuel using an emerging fracture methodology. Over the summer I was provided with access to high performance computing resources, exposed to novel research and worked closely with high-profile academic groups.
Following my placement, I have continued to model nuclear fuel fracture for my masters thesis. I have found that many companies are interested in and highly value students with research experience. I will be graduating in 2021 and am pursuing a career in the energy sector.
The summer placement put me in a research setting working closely with academics over a period of time much longer than most university projects, so I think it gave a really good taste of what masters or PhD work or even industry projects are like. I was very unsure of what I wanted to do right up until the end of my degree, so I found summer placements really useful for this reason.
During my placement with the University of Bristol's Interface Analysis Centre I looked at the kinetics of the hydriding of uranium with respect to tritium storage for nuclear fusion. Due to Covid the project was turned into a literature review, but this was actually really informative for me since it showed me that a really good literature review doesn't just summarise what's been studied before, but it can bring together data from different sources to reveal wholly new scientific findings.
I've recently started the Jacobs' Physics Graduate Scheme working on new advanced nuclear reactor designs. In particular, the U-Battery Small Modular Reactor project whose design offers autonomous operation with passive safety systems to provide ~10MW of locally generated nuclear energy. The Nuclear Energy Futures CDT Summer Placement undoubtedly helped me make it through the thorough application process successfully.
Having seen research in other contexts before, I wanted to experience real research in a university setting, and to see how academics work with each other day to day.
During the placement I worked on a new phase field model for stress corrosion cracking, with the aim of using the model to demonstrate how a phase field approach can recreate crack initiation – specifically the cracking of long term nuclear waste storage vessels. The internship took place during the first COVID-19 lockdown and so was by remote working, but that didn’t stop the Wenman Group from welcoming me and including me in the weekly catch-up meetings – which were probably my favourite experiences of the internship.
Following the placement I’m about to start a nanoscience PhD in Cambridge, where I hope to continue to work on energy materials.
I completed a Nuclear Energy Futures Placement in the Summer of 2021. I wanted to gauge how an R&D career within the nuclear industry would look like.
The project involved looking at the presence of stress corrosion cracking and the formation of oxide layers within 304 austenitic stainless steel by varying the salts found near seawater in Sizewell B. By completing this placement, I was able to independently use high-quality research equipment and design an experiment around a project I oversaw, something that I had not completed at university at the time.
The placement encouraged me to pursue another metallurgy internship, this time in industry, where I am completing parameter development for nickel superalloy additive manufacturing.
I was considering a career in the nuclear industry during my second year as a materials undergraduate, and switched to materials with nuclear with the intention of learning more about nuclear engineering. The summer research placement was an opportunity to experience research in the nuclear industry first hand.
During my placement, I helped develop corrosion models which will be used as part of the materials selection process for the Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production (STEP) programme. I had never done modelling before, so I was fortunate that I received a lot of help and directions to facilitate bringing me up to speed. Even so, much of the work required independent learning and research. This definitely helped prepare me for my masters project as well as my future studies.
This year, I plan to continue the work done during my research project in the form of a PhD, and in a few days will be working at NUS as a research assistant for the Singapore Nuclear Research and Safety Initiative research group. I hope to continue working on the development of new fission and fusion reactors and an exciting future for energy production.
Published in summer 2023.