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Student View - Studying Physics at University

by YPU Admin on May 29, 2020, Comments. Tags: Physics, science, STEM, student view, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Yulia Yancheva and I am currently a third-year MPhys Physics student at the University of Manchester. The Physics course at UoM is a combination of theoretical and mathematics subjects, programming, and experimental laboratories.

How is Physics Different at Uni?

One of the main differences between university and high school is that at university, the degree is focused mainly on one topic, in my case Physics. This allows students to gain a lot of subject-specific knowledge in significant depth. For example, in Physics, we do not only learn different subjects, but we also learn how to think like physicists. This allows us to often know the answer to questions that we have not seen before just because we have enough knowledge of the basic physics laws in the world that surrounds us.

Another major difference between high school and university is that in university, students are mainly independent. This means that it is a personal choice for each student how to organise their time and make sure they are up to date with all new material. There are lectures, tutorials and workshops that help us to organise our time but we do not have a teacher who makes sure we have attended and learned the new material – it is our responsibility to do that! Everybody tries to keep up with all the new lessons because at the end of each semester we have exams where we can show what we have learned during the semester.

Physics at Manchester

I have studied a very diverse range of subjects during my university degree in Physics. For example, in my first year, I had a module on astrophysics and cosmology during which I learned about stars, planets, telescopes and the Universe in general. I also had a module on quantum physics and relativity, which was taught by Prof Brian Cox. During this module, I learned about time and space as scientific concepts as well as about black holes and even various scientific paradoxes.

Apart from the theoretical subjects, I also spend a lot of time in the experimental laboratory. For example, in my third year, I was working with graphene – this is a material that was discovered by Professor Sir Andre Geim and Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov at The University of Manchester for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. I spent four weeks in which I was investigating the electrical properties of graphene and I found the work very interesting and engaging – it felt like real research. Here is a photo of myself doing a task that was required for this experiment – I was handling ammonia and hence the safety goggles and the face mask.

At the University of Manchester, Physics students work in pairs in the laboratory. We also have lab demonstrators who introduce us to the experiments and help us if we get stuck. However, in third and fourth year, most of the time students work with their lab partners without the demonstrators being there all the time. This makes the lab experience unique – there is a lot of brainstorming going on between lab partners and it almost feels like solving a puzzle.

Going Further...


 

Student View – What is it Like to Study Mechanical Engineering?

by YPU Admin on May 27, 2020, Comments. Tags: careers, Engineering, mechanical engineering, Research, STEM, student view, and UoM

Introduction

Hi, my name is Abdullah. I am 21 years old and currently in my second year studying at the University of Manchester. I study Mechanical Engineering which I find exciting, inventive and fun! So, what is it like and what can you do with an engineering degree?

Why I Chose Mechanical Engineering

First, let’s see the many reasons for studying it. I chose the course so I could become an engineer primarily because I enjoy STEM subjects. Studying engineering has enabled me to use the topics I liked the most in one course: Maths, Physics and Chemistry. Furthermore, being an engineer provides the opportunity to apply your knowledge to real-world situations and be creative every day, solving real-world problems. Additionally, the rapid and constant developments mean the subject will only become more interesting and engineers will be more and more sought after. There are always plenty of jobs and you will never be bored with what you do.

A Day in the Life of a Mechanical Engineering Student

On a typical day, I wake up at around 7.30 am and travel by bus to the university which starts at 9 am most of the time. With around 6 or 7 hours at university, the day is made up of a mix of lectures and tutorials spread over 2 campuses: Main Campus and North Campus (where engineers are mainly based). On North Campus, lectures are always in the Renold Building. Also, there is the George Begg Building with exceptional computer facilities. This is where I prefer to work with friends; 2-3 hours of study is required each day. Finally, to research for assignments, I go to North Campus’s Sackville Street Building library for books. 

In terms of work outside classes, this contains coursework, reports based on previous lab sessions or rewatching lectures once uploaded online to further grasp the concepts. In addition, there are tutorial sheets that I need to attempt before the tutorial class. These are questions based on lectures in the past week of that module then the class tutor goes through the solutions. While this seems like a lot, there is still plenty of free time if you chose to study Mechanical Engineering!

What Can You Do With a Mechanical Engineering Degree?

Using the Careers Service and career fairs at the university, I have learnt about options you have after you finish the course in lots of detail. The obvious one is to become a mechanical engineer which most students do. Mechanical engineers are mostly hired by the aerospace, automotive and manufacturing industries. After the course, you can also do a Master’s degree which is another 1-year degree. With this, engineers are able to become chartered engineers in the future which means faster career progression and increased pay. 

Surprisingly, there is considerable demand for engineering students in investment banking too. Generally, it is working as an analyst to predict market trends because students are taught the numerical and analytical skills applicable to the role. Alternatively, I learnt at a university career fair that there is also scientific research in engineering as an option but this requires an extra degree.

Overall, I would conclude that studying Mechanical Engineering has a lot of benefits and an extensive range of excellent career prospects that it leads to. To learn more, details can be found on the university website in the links below:


 

Working on a smarter future

by YPU Admin on September 7, 2017, Comments. Tags: Computer Science, PhD, Research, science, sensors, STEM, and UoM

Introduction

My name is Hashir Kiani and I am a PhD researcher at the School of Computer Science. My research is titled “Wireless Sensor Networks in Smart Grids”. I work on designing algorithms which can be used to make an electrical grid smarter by analysing the data collected from the grid through wireless sensors. These algorithms are used to detect faults in the grid and then employ appropriate measures to prevent those faults. The end goal of my research is to develop methods for a more efficient and smart electricity network.


Hashir

In Depth

I did my Bachelors in Electrical Engineering from National University of Sciences and Technology in Pakistan. After my bachelor’s degree I was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to study for a Master’s degree in Communications Engineering and Networks from the UK. The main motivation behind going for a PhD after the completion of my Master’s course was the worsening situation with respect to electricity generation and distribution in my home country, Pakistan. Pakistan is facing a huge shortage of electricity and people have to go without electricity for multiple hours each day. The situation worsens in the summers as demand for electricity peaks due to cooling requirements as temperatures soar above 40 degrees Celsius. According to a report by USAID, Pakistan has suffered a loss of 10% of its GDP due to power shortage. The long power outages have caused great distress to the public with people resorting to rioting on a number of occasions. The distribution losses are above 20% which is more than double the global average. Therefore if distribution losses are brought down close to the global average Pakistan can solve its energy crisis.

The main objective of my research on smart grid systems is to find ways to make the electrical grid more efficient and thus considerably reduce the distribution losses. My research is focused on using wireless sensor networks in order to monitor the electrical grid so that timely decisions can be made to increase the efficiency, reliability and robustness of the grid network. Therefore my research will be very helpful in solving the energy crisis Pakistan is currently facing. 

After completion of my PhD I have plans to work at a reputable engineering university of Pakistan as an academic and a researcher. One of my objectives would be to introduce a course on smart grid technologies at the MS level and develop interest among the students in this area. I will use the knowledge I gained during my research to form a research group responsible for doing high quality research in the field of smart grid systems. The research group would strive to work in partnership with national bodies and distribution companies to facilitate the transition towards a smart electrical grid which will not only be efficient but also cost effective as it will be able to detect electricity theft and thus prevent losses of millions of dollars each year. 

Going Further…

Further information about smart grid technologies can be found at the following links:

https://www.smartgrid.gov/  : A good resource on information about smart grid technologies

http://www.smartgrids.eu/ : Details the smart grid initiatives taken by the European Union

https://www.smartenergygb.org/en/smart-future/britains-smart-grid : A cool video showing Britain’s future version of smart grids

http://www.cs.manchester.ac.uk/mlo/ : A link to my research group (Machine learning) at the University of Manchester.


 

Mimicking Nature to Create a Chemical Sensor

by YPU Admin on June 14, 2017, Comments. Tags: Electronic, Engineering, PhD, Polymers, Research, STEM, and UoM

Introduction

Hi! My name is Chris Storer, I’m a fourth (and final) year PhD student here at the University of Manchester. I’m originally from Warrington, in the North of England, and I came to Manchester to study an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Materials Science.

I find the interaction between nature and science to be fascinating, especially the way that new, cutting edge technologies take inspiration from biology. Evolution has already provided ingenious solutions to challenges that engineers face every day.

This led me to pursue my PhD in polymer sensors, where I try to understand how the sense of smell and taste work in nature. The aim is to use this knowledge to create a portable chemical sensor – just like the hand-held sensors you see scientists using to scan things in Sci-Fi movies!

How I got here




At school, I studied biology, chemistry, physics and geography at A-level. I really enjoyed all the different aspects of the sciences and didn’t want to specialise too much early on.

This led me to studying Biomedical Materials Engineering at university – an interdisciplinary science that gave me a lot of freedom to study a range of topics and keep my options open.

Following this I started my PhD in Polymer Sensors, in the School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering here at Manchester. It really does go to show that you’re never stuck in one area of science – quite the opposite!

In Depth

My research takes inspiration from the binding sites found in the olfactory cells of the human nose. These very specialised receptors allow us to detect chemicals in the air and give us the sense of smell.

I recreate these receptors by imprinting the chemical molecule that I want to detect into a plastic material, called a polymer. You can imagine this is a bit like pressing a piece of a jigsaw puzzle into a piece of play dough, but on a microscopic level. When I take the chemical molecule out, only that unique shape will fit back in place. And hey-presto, you’ve got a chemical receptor!


The tricky part is how you then turn this into an electrical signal to send to a computer to measure – like how a nerve cell sends information to your brain. For this I use a capacitor to measure the build-up of charged molecules on my sensor. This acts as a transducer – changing the chemical information into electrical information for measuring the chemicals in the environment.

Going Further

A great video clip by Brian Cox on how animals use chemical sensors to navigate their environment through sight, smell and taste (BBC, “Wonders of Life” documentary):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rGcBaXobEh4&list=PL50KW6aT4Ugy7sAKZGa4o4J39Os5L5tTl&index=3

A link to some of our research here at the University of Manchester involving chemical sensors for use in Agriculture:

http://www.eee.manchester.ac.uk/our-research/research-themes/newe-agri/

http://www.eee.manchester.ac.uk/our-research/research-themes/newe-agri/people/

 

Researching into Asthma and Rhinitis

by YPU Admin on May 18, 2017, Comments. Tags: Asthma, Health, medicine, Research, Rhinitis, and UoM

Introduction

Hi! My name is Junaid and I am a medical student at the University of Manchester. I have taken a year out of my medical studies to spend some time doing a research masters in Medical Sciences. This means that I will be spending six years at university instead of the five normally required for medical school. I am currently conducting research into the treatment of asthma and rhinitis. I am hoping that this research will lead to permanent improvements in how we treat people with asthma. The reason I wanted to conduct research in this area is that I would like to become an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon in the future. One of the challenges of an ENT surgeon is managing patients who suffer from rhinitis and the effects it has on their asthma. Alongside this, I wanted gain an understanding about how research is conducted in hospitals. Since the way which doctors care for patients is evolving so quickly, research is an enormous aspect of our careers.


In Depth

Rhinitis is a very common problem that affects a large number of people who suffer from asthma. It is described as the inflammation of the nose and can lead to symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and irritated eyes. These problems can affect people all year round and if you suffer from asthma you are more at risk of suffering from allergic rhinitis. This is a type of rhinitis that can be caused by allergies. From research in the past, it has been found that people who suffer from both allergic rhinitis and asthma at the same time experience a very poor quality of life. For this reason, I am investigating patients who attend asthma clinic for allergic rhinitis symptoms. This will help us understand the link between asthma and allergic rhinitis and how much of an impact both diseases make on people. Omalizumab is a medication that improves asthma symptoms which leads to people have a better quality of life. We do not know how this treatment affects people who suffer from both allergic rhinitis and asthma. By using questionnaires to find out how many people suffer from asthma and rhinitis and how well Omalizumab treats patients, we will be able to fine tune the treatments we give to people to make sure we are giving the right drugs to help them improve their asthma and allergic rhinitis symptoms.


Going Further

To provide some further background on the conditions that I am studying you can visit the NHS choices websites for asthma and rhinitis.

Allergic Rhinits  : http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rhinitis---allergic/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Asthma: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/asthma/Pages/Introduction.aspx

World Allergy has provided a good overview about why asthma and rhinitis are linked and how they can affect people: http://www.worldallergy.org/public/allergic_diseases_center/caras/

Inflammation (swelling and redness) of the airways which connect the nasal passage and the mouth to the lungs is an important mechanism which causes people to suffer from asthma and rhinitis. The asthma centre provides a good overview on “What is Inflammation?” http://www.asthma.partners.org/NewFiles/Inflammation.html

The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided an information leaflet on Omalizumab and the main facts about how it works and the evidence behind its use: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2003/omalgen062003LB.pdf