What I did with my summer #1 My Physics research internship

physics blogLast summer we asked students to write a blog post about what they did with their summer.   This is the first of our stories – we hope they give you some ideas for the types of things you can do next summer.

This is Utkarsh’s story…

I am a fourth year student studying for an MPhys (Hons) in physics and this summer I did a project
at Manchester Centre for Nonlinear Dynamics (MCND).

How did you find out about the opportunity?

I want to stay in research and do a PhD after my degree so I decided to get a research internship. My field of interest is nonlinear physics so I spoke to academics in the nonlinear physics group at the physics department. I then had a chat (or
an interview) with my supervisors who encouraged me to apply through a competitive scheme for funding organised by the department. In the end the internship was funded for 10 weeks jointly by Maths and Physics departments.

What did you do on your internship (here’s the physics bit…)

My internship involved performing numerical studies on how a rubber holey column deforms under compression. It leads to very interesting pattern transformations of the column (for example as shown in the picture). The complete understanding of this phenomenon will help us to control such pattern transformations. This has applications such as making ‘programmable metamaterials’ to controlling structural transformations in DNA and even making structures that can diverge earthquake shockwaves. ( D. Pihler-Puzovic, A. Hazel, and T. Mullin. Buckling of a holey column. Physical Review Letters, 2015 (submitted).)

What did you learn or gain from the internship?

Initially the learning curve was steep but the project soon became very enjoyable. The internship gave me a chance to work within an actual research group and learn how real research problems are formulated and projects driven to produce meaningful results. I also participated in weekly group meetings where I learnt about projects that other academics and research students were working on. The meetings improved my communication abilities, taught me how to think about scientific results deeply and present them in informal settings.

I was also given the opportunity to present the results of my project at a conference. This was a great opportunity as I was able to attend talks by leading researchers in the field, make contacts and learn about groundbreaking research being done by other top groups in this field.

The experience was invaluable at this stage as I have just started my final year. I am now a lot more confident in doing science, communicating results and feel that my writing abilities have been tested (and stretched) to a great extent. For my final year research project I have continued working within the same research group. I have really enjoyed this brief research experience and it has made me confident about doing a PhD.

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