Author: FoNS News

Reflections on life as a PhD student and a Geoffrey Wilkinson Prize Scholar

A photograph of FilipChemistry PhD student, Filip Aniés, was awarded a Geoffrey Wilkinson Prize Studentship in 2018 to pursue postgraduate research under the joint supervision of Professors Martin Heeney and John de Mello. To mark the centenary of Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson’s birth this year, Filip has written reflections on his PhD experiences so far, and on the impact that the studentship has had on his research and career. He also gives some tips on applying for PhD study.

Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson, born on 14 July 1921, completed his PhD at Imperial in 1946, was Professor of Inorganic Chemistry at Imperial from 1956-96, and was awarded the 1973 Chemistry Nobel Prize. The Wilkinson Charitable Foundation generously supports an Imperial PhD studentship in his memory.

By Filip Aniés

My journey to PhD study at Imperial

In a way, my journey to becoming a chemistry researcher started in October 2014, as I arrived from Sweden to undertake undergraduate studies in Chemistry at Imperial. With no personal contacts at Imperial – or at all in the UK – it was a big step to take, but I was excited about the idea of studying abroad, as well as the opportunity to join a university with a great reputation for research quality, and a department with a solid history as a contributor to chemical science. Throughout my undergraduate studies, I always found it particularly inspiring to come across facts and examples in various lecture courses or textbooks which had been discovered in the very department that I was part of! Not the least, of course, Sir Geoffrey Wilkinson’s discoveries, which popped up on multiple occasions, such as in the context of organometallic chemistry. (more…)

Don’t Pan(dem)ic! A personal reflection on STEM teaching in higher education during COVID-19

Dr Charlotte Sutherell
Dr Charlotte Sutherell

Dr Charlotte Sutherell is a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of Chemistry, and recently won a President’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching. In this blog post she shares her perspectives on higher education teaching over the past year and a half: from the very sudden and unexpected shift to remote learning at the start of the COVID-19 crisis, to broader reflections on how remote teaching has impacted the HE landscape in both positive and negative ways, and why she loves her role in STEM education.

By Dr Charlotte Sutherell

Reaching the end of an academic year always triggers a real mixture of emotions for me, as one pauses and reflects. There’s relief as the pace eases a (small!) notch; satisfaction in what our student and staff community has accomplished; sadness at farewells to graduates despite excitement for their futures; anticipation for the year ahead. Those emotions are even more intense after the extraordinary months of activity we’ve all experienced thanks to the pandemic and the Curriculum Review. I am sure I’m not alone in finding myself reflecting on how my ideas about what we teach, how to do it and what matters most for learning have been shaken up! (more…)

Mentors and mentees: the value of student-led engagement activities

Accelerate, a student-led STEM initiative (profiled on Imperial News back in January 2021), has recently been highly commended for the Student Award for Excellence in Societal Engagement at Imperial’s recent President’s Awards.

In this blog post, co-founders Jasneet (Physics) and Simran (Chemical Engineering) tell us more about their engagement and entrepreneurial activities, and reflect on what it was like to win the award only a year after launching.

Jasneet Kaur Taak and Simran Sangla
Jasneet Kaur Taak and Simran Sangla

By Simran Sangla and Jasneet Kaur Taak

During the peak of the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020 we realised more than ever the importance of creating opportunities for people, regardless of their socio-economic background or the colour of their skin. Accelerate was the outcome of this realisation, created as a platform that provides students and graduates with equal opportunity. Drawing on our own experiences, and coming from BAME backgrounds ourselves, we rarely saw initiatives focused on helping BAME students attain top university offers or high positioned job roles. Thus, we started Accelerate in the hope of bridging the diversity gap for ethnic minorities through mentoring and support, aiming to build a supportive community of mentors and mentees that helps students gain access to resources and opportunities that we wish someone had told us about when starting our own academic and career journeys. (more…)

PyProblems for undergraduate physics

Plasma physics PhD student Lloyd James teamed up with Dr Yasmin Andrew to run a postgraduate student project developing Python-based simulation problems rooted in the undergraduate physics curriculum. In this blog post the duo tell us more about the project.

By Dr Yasmin Andrew and Lloyd James

In 2019 we recognised that many physics students’ second year laboratory courses, final year research projects, and summer UROP projects would directly benefit from more opportunities to develop their coding skills. Students start their undergraduate physics studies with a very wide range of abilities, experiences and backgrounds in coding. Most students have no programming experience at the beginning of their first year. Python, and coding more generally, is not only an increasingly relied-upon tool in physics research, but also a hugely transferrable skill that opens up doors to other exciting fields such as tech and data science. This was the motivation behind the PyProblems project. (more…)

The teamwork behind Teams for teaching

In this blog post Helen Walkey, Education Insight and Evaluation Analyst from the FoNS Ed Tech team, reflects on how Microsoft Teams has not only become an integral part of staff collaboration, but also the ways in which it has underpinned Imperial’s teaching activities over the past year.

By Helen Walkey

With the shift to multi-modal delivery of teaching and learning, interactions that would have taken place in lecture theatres, tutorial rooms and physical groupwork spaces needed to be recreated online. Into the spotlight came MS Teams, used previously in College as a tool for collaboration, but new to the suite of supported tools for teaching and learning. (more…)

Presenting to parliamentarians at the STEM for Britain poster competition

A profile photo of Ben LewisFive early-career researchers from Imperial recently presented their research at the annual STEM for Britain parliamentary poster competition.

Ben Lewis, who works in the Vilar and Kuimova research groups in the Department of Chemistry, and the Vannier group at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences, won the Gold Award in the Chemistry category for his research: ‘G-Quadruplexes: Unravelling the next knot in the DNA story’.

In this blog post he reflects on what it was like to present his work to MPs and Lords at the Palace of Westminster.

By Ben Lewis

As PhD students, we often get opportunities to present our work to other researchers – whether within Imperial or beyond. It is very unusual, though, for us to have the chance to present to MPs and Lords. That’s one of the unique features of the STEM for Britain poster competition, held annually for early-career researchers by the Parliamentary and Scientific committee. (more…)

Redesigning Blackett: A student’s experience

Anthea MacIntosh-LaRocqueIn this blog post, undergraduate Physics student, Anthea MacIntosh-LaRocque, reflects on her involvement in a StudentShapers project that focused on redesigning the two main foyer areas of the Blackett Building. The team included Student Liaison Officer, Dr Yasmin Andrew and postgraduate student Max Hart. Each member was keen to transform these spaces – not only in order to improve students’ opinions about their educational environment, but also to encourage a better sense of belonging and community.

Mixed feelings

Walking around Blackett Laboratory during my first year always left me with a mixed bag of feelings. On the one hand, I was walking through halls bursting with innovative research and discovery. On the other hand, the building was outdated and disconnected from the very people who make the Department tick. (more…)

The value of volunteering

Kitty FroggatPostgraduate student, Kitty Froggatt, is currently studying an MSc in Environmental Technology at Imperial’s Centre for Environmental Policy.

In addition to her studies, she is also the group leader for Operation Wallacea expeditions at Imperial.

In this blog post she reflects on her own experience as an Operation Wallacea volunteer, and how it has impacted both her choice of further study and future career aspirations.

Value, versatility, and wonder

Throughout my life, I have consistently been made aware of the undeniable value, versatility, and wonder of the natural world. This all started from my experience growing up on a farm in Staffordshire, where values of environmental stewardship, and the vast natural capacity of even the smallest areas of land has been endlessly affirmed. (more…)

Self-belief and a life-changing Fellowship: the summer I spent as a pseudo PhD student

Katherine Holmes
Katherine Holmes

The Mary Lister McCammon Summer Research (MLMC) Fellowship gives female university students a funded opportunity to spend the summer before their final year at university working on a ten-week research project with a leading mathematician or statistician. Participants get the chance to spend time with current PhD students to find out what studying a PhD is actually like, plus briefings on how to apply for a PhD and the kinds of programmes and funding streams which are available.

Katherine Holmes was a participant on the programme in summer 2019, and is now studying a PhD in Quantum Dynamics in the Department of Mathematics. In this blog post she reflects on how the Fellowship influenced her – both academically, and also on much more personal level.

A little about me

Hello, my name is Katherine and I am a first year PhD student studying Quantum Dynamics with my supervisor Dr Eva-Maria Graefe.

Before Imperial, I studied on the MMath (Maths with Masters) course at the University of Nottingham (UoN). My undergraduate degree there was very positive – it was, after all, where I discovered my passion for Quantum Mechanics. I feel very thankful that UoN provided many opportunities to study the different branches of Quantum, and also thankful to be able to continue learning about the field as part of a PhD at Imperial. I’ve been doing the PhD for about four months now,  and am genuinely loving it. (more…)

Field trip to Lundy Island: a ray of sunshine during lockdown

In autumn term 2020, during the second UK lockdown, thirty students from the MSc Ecology, Evolution and Conservation programme were granted permission to go on a residential to Lundy Island, a 1×3 mile rocky outcrop off the Devon coast. During their time on the Island they learned essential field skills, and explored its natural history, behavioural ecology and the evolution of its resident house sparrows. So how was this expedition able to go ahead, and what measures were put in place to ensure everyone’s safety? In this blog, Course Director, Dr Julia Schroeder, and student, Fahmida Nitu, reflect on their experiences during the trip, and the planning that went into getting it off the ground.

Video diary

You can watch the group’s video diary here!

Travel during lockdown

By Dr Julia Schroeder – Course Director, MSc Ecology, Evolution and Conservation

As it took place during lockdown, the trip required meticulous organisation to ensure social distancing was maintained and that no government rules were broken. I had excellent support from the Faculty’s head of Health and Safety, Stefan Hoyle, and the Departmental Management Team – together we sorted out all the logistics to make the trip possible. This included, among other precautions, the testing of all participants for COVID-19 (all negative) and subsequent isolation before embarking on the journey, and the distribution of students among accommodation being matched with pre-trip household groups. (more…)