The First Few Weeks of My UROP

After a year of remote learning, it feels weird that the first time I am conducting any physical activities in college is during the summer break. Earlier in the year, I decided that for this summer break, I want to venture into research and development, to be able to gain more technical knowledge while ensuring that my summer break remains fruitful while I stay in London. Therefore, I have decided to sign up for a UROP.

A UROP stands for Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme. Through this programme, undergraduates get to work on different research projects with different professors focusing on different areas of research. I have thus decided to sign up for a UROP in the Tribology department. I won’t go too much into detail about the specifics of my research as it might be too technical, but in a nutshell, the research I’m undergoing focuses on determining the friction between different rubbing contacts in various conditions.

Due to the pandemic, there has been a lot of uncertainty on whether I could carry out my research in person. Even though more and more people are being vaccinated every day, the positive cases in the UK have been increasing exponentially too. Because of that, I spent the first week of my UROP focusing on two separate projects. I was busy reading more research papers about the project mentioned before, but was also learning about using a different simulation software in case my UROP has to be moved to a remote setting.

It wasn’t until last week that I got confirmation that I could physically attend lab sessions, thus allowing me to head back to college to work on my initial project! It was a surreal feeling being able to conduct experiments on campus again, and I didn’t even know how much I missed this feeling until I stepped into labs again. Being able to conduct experiments on my own and verifying results by myself is definitely a completely different feeling than watching other people conducting experiments.

Everyone I have met through these two weeks have been amazing as well. Every Tuesday, we will have group meetings with my supervisor and her other PhD students. Everyone will take turns presenting about their research every week, while the others can ask questions and learn more about various topics outside of their own research too. Even though I am the only undergraduate student, everyone was very patient with the questions I was asking and were all really encouraging too. I was able to blend into the environment easily and felt comfortable with this group of people immediately.

In my first week of labs, a GTA also took some time off to teach me how to use various equipment in the labs. I had such a lovely time working through different trial projects with him, while at the same time conversing about our different experiences as undergraduate and postgraduate students respectively. He was so patient with me even though he wasn’t getting any extra credits for helping me out with my project, and it reminded me of how lucky I am that I am surrounded with so many passionate and down to earth people while in Imperial.

For the next few weeks, I will be able to conduct my own experiments in the lab and analyse the results gathered. Although I will be getting less supervision and have to be more independent in conducting my own experiments, I am very much looking forward to heading back to labs again. Will keep you guys updated in my progress soon and how the next few weeks go!

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