Blog posts

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…)

How do you take a field trip to South Africa and make it accessible for students studying remotely?

An image showing and example of the Google Earth virtual tour

Third year undergraduates in the Department of Life Sciences can opt for an African Biology Field Trip module as part of their degree. Normally, this means that they get the opportunity to visit South Africa for two weeks, to learn more about the practicalities of biological research in some of the Earth’s most spectacular biodiversity hotspots. COVID-19, however, meant that in 2020 students haven’t been able to physically travel abroad for this first term module. Professor Vincent Savolainen, who has organised the course over the past decade, guided efforts to adapt it into a remote offering. He wanted to ensure that students not only to met their learning objectives, but also experienced as much of the nature of the field course as possible via a virtual tour.

In this blog post Kiran Gawali and Lynn Danzig, from the FoNS Ed Tech team, share insights into how they supported Professor Savolainen in rethinking the field trip. As well as working closely with Life Sciences teaching staff, the team hosted six undergraduate student interns over the summer, and keenly emphasise the value of including students in the educational design process.

Pieces of a puzzle

In previous years, students on this course travelled to South Africa and visited a variety of different areas, from a fynbos vegetation in Klipbokkop Mountain Reserve, to wildlife havens like Botlierskop Game Reserve. Technology has played a key role in enabling this course to be run virtually, but in addition to making the most of multimedia, contributions from a range of people across the Faculty have been absolutely vital in piecing bits of the puzzle together. (more…)

EDI in Life Sciences: a Department perspective

Illustration showing lots of different people's profiles in multi-colours in a collage

By Dr Kenji Okuse, Chair of EDI Committee, Department of Life Sciences

I came to the UK from Japan in 1995, and as a non-White member of society, had my own perspective on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) issues, but to be honest I hadn’t thought about them seriously until I had the opportunity to get involved with the Department of Life Sciences (DoLS) EDI Committee in May 2019. I first took on the role of interim Chair, and now act as the Chair of the Committee. There are many complex and evolving issues in EDI, and my aim as Chair is to make our Department a fairer and friendlier place for everyone no matter, who they are or what role they have. (more…)