Optimising Planting Choices for Domestic Gardens & Green Roofs
My 6-week research placement was with both the Maths and Agriculture departments. The main goal was to develop a mathematical method by which to calculate the best combination of plant species to achieve the optimum combination of ecosystem services. For example, if one wanted to cool the air of a domestic garden, but was limited by how much they could spend on plants, what is the best they can do with the money they have?
Investigation of learning capture
Kirsten Hawkins and Nicola D’Alessandro
This UROP project was a little bit different, this project required two students myself and Nicola to carry it out it was only a short project initially 4 weeks but extended to 5. The project was running alongside the GRASS project and was looking into learning capture techniques used across the whole of the campus. Learning capture is a very broad term to describe different e-learning and teaching methods such as podcasts, screencasts, videofeed back and pen casts.
Monsters and Mythical Beasts
This summer, I’ve been researching monsters and mythical beasts, looking at dragons and sea serpents and long-forgotten creatures. The more research I did on the topic, the wider it became, and I ended up looking at not only mythical creatures but other ‘natural wonders’; hurricanes and fires, freak shows, and monstrous infants and animals, who were often seen as symbols of divine punishment.
Spatial patterns of grassroots innovation for sustainability in Great Britain and Italy
Grassroots innovations (GI) are “networks of activists and organizations generating novel bottom-up solutions for sustainable development” (Seyfang and Smith, 2007). Such innovations are progressive movements encouraging practices towards widespread sustainability. In light of the deepening environmental and financial crisis primarily climate change, shrinking supplies of cheap fossil fuels (Peak oil), unsustainable endless economic expansion, and the apparent downfalls of the current economic model made visible by the 2008 financial crisis, GIs have attracted much attention.
This summer I undertook a 10 week EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) funded project within the School of Chemistry under the supervision of Professor Wayne Hayes and Dr Andy Russell. The project helped me significantly in improving my laboratory skills and was a great insight into life as a research chemist. I also hope it will improve my chances when applying for jobs in the near future as it can be difficult to gain relevant work experience within chemistry prior to graduating.
My project looked in to the “Synthesis and Evaluation of Self-Immolative Molecules for Toxic Chemical Detection.” Self Immolative molecules are ones which, under certain conditions, are triggered to break apart in order to release part of the molecule. In this instance the molecule I was trying to synthesise was designed to be triggered by the presence of toxic chemicals and release a portion of the molecule, which, on its own is brightly coloured to indicate the presence of the toxic chemicals and warn of the apparent danger. One of the challenges I had to overcome during synthesis was to create molecules which were stable so that they only reacted with the toxic chemicals and not with, for example, moisture in the atmosphere. Over the 10 weeks I had to search the literature to find appropriate reaction procedures to follow and carry out a series of reactions as the product I was trying to make was made via a multi-step synthesis. On some occasions I found reactions to be unsuccessful and needed to find alternative routes to synthesis. To work out whether I had made the correct products, I analysed my samples using the machinery available within the Chemical Analysis Facility. Usually this was the NMR Spectrometer.
Overall I found the project to be very rewarding. It was enjoyable, interesting and insightful and I would thoroughly recommend doing a summer placement to anyone who wants to gain more experience in their chosen field and to further their interest in their subject.