It may sound like a cliché these days to hear people describe some new piece of technology as ‘next generation’. But here at IMSE, we’re working on the convergent science that underpins those kinds of technologies. And on our Master’s course, we’re training the people who will invent and develop these next generation technologies, and the manufacturing processes for them too. On 23rd June this year, we got to hear from our current cohort of 12 MRes students about progress on their research projects. It’s a great day for IMSE every year to see our students putting the IMSE approach into practice!
Next generation people
IMSE runs an internationally unique Master’s programme: the MRes in Molecular Engineering. Students complete a 6-month research project, including a 3-month placement with an industrial partner. 60% of the assessment for this course depends on this research project, so it’s important.
At the mid-point of the projects, IMSE holds a half-day event for students to present progress so far. At this point in the research, students should have a clear idea about what they are doing and why. They should also have some preliminary results to share.
I was excited to attend, because all these students joined IMSE before I did! It was interesting to meet them, mostly for the first time. I got a real sense for the next generation of people that IMSE are training, the next generation of tech they’re working on, and what the practical challenges of the research are.
Some of our students are doing experimental work in the laboratory, and some are carrying out modelling projects. They shared their progress in several ways: with graphs, videos and by handing round physical samples of the materials they’re working with. As usual, this year’s students are working on projects across the spectrum of IMSE’s research themes. For example, they are developing wearable health devices, optimising sustainable packaging, or modelling solvent behaviour.
Next generation skills
This is an opportunity for our students to practice giving a research presentation, including getting feedback from their peers and supervisors. Some people get really nervous about presentations! And some people really like giving presentations (like me! Probably in a minority here…). Either way, being able to present slides and talk about your current project is a core skill for a scientist, whether you’re in research or in industry. Competently handling questions about it is also crucial. These skills are just as important as being able to carry out the research project itself!
And because it’s 2022, this was a hybrid meeting. Some supervisors attended in person, and some joined via MS Teams to support their student. Hybrid meetings demand extra skills, like remembering to repeat a question from the back of the room for the mike so that remote attendees can hear it. (This is a skill that more experienced presenters are also having to learn, and I note that some of our academic staff are not too good at it… yet!)
This is one of the fun days for IMSE in the year. It’s great to hear how much our students have learnt since joining the course, and what they are discovering and creating in their research projects. MRes co-director Niall Mac Dowell congratulated the students for a very supportive atmosphere, with constructive feedback questions. These are also great skills to learn and practice! I was also very impressed with both the quality of the science and the quality of the questions. These young people will go far.