Our ‘Undergraduate Research’ section will provide an insight into research conducted at an undergraduate level and feature case studies of undergraduate researchers at the University of Manchester.
Hi, my name is Rhys Archer and I graduated from the
University of Manchester in 2013. I studied Materials Science and specialised
in Textile Science and Technology, and had to undertake around 4 research
projects a year based on lab work or industry examples. My 20,000 word final
year project was in the form of an extended lab report and looked at the UV
degradation of sail cloth material.
I became interested in Textile Science and Technology (TST)
as I have always had an interest in both Textile manufacture and Maths and
Physics. I decided to study TST at university as I had worked at the government
Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) in the materials engineering department as
part of my work experience and had used laboratory methods to find faults in
materials that had caused fatal accidents. These reports were then used in
court as evidence for neglectful practice. I enjoyed the practical side to
science, as well applying scientific knowledge to real world situations.
Before my final year
project, I undertook research in areas such as carbon fibre braiding, the use
of Kevlar and other specialised materials in space material engineering, the
structure and construction of body armour and the use of carbon fibre for the
new Airbus design. I decided to concentrate on sail cloth material for my final
project as I enjoy sailing, and have always been interested in the materials
used for sails and sailing equipment and their resilience to natural factors
such as wind abrasion or water damage.
The purpose of the project was to compare 3 different types
of sail, subject them to different amounts of UV and then test their strength,
tear and colour properties to see if there was any difference, and if so, if
there was any trend in what type of material was the most susceptible.
In sailing, UV damage is the biggest commercial issue that
affects everyday sailors as well as yacht racers, and so finding a UV resistant
material would be ground breaking.
As I had decided to pursue my own research project, I found
an industrial sponsor who supplied the material I tested and the specifications
to test by. This was a great way to focus my research project, and meant that
my research had commercial value. I used the equipment in the labs at The
University of Manchester, including a light fastness machine, a tensile testing
machine, a spectrophotometer and a scanning electron microscope.
Since completing my final year research project, my interest
has been focussed more on the colour properties of materials and how these can
be measured accurately. This field of study is referred to as Colour Physics or
Colour Chemistry, and looks at what colour is, how it is measured, and the
chemistry and math behind it. I enjoy it as there is a creative element with
colour and textiles, which relates to design and photography, but with some
complex math, chemistry and physics to understand.
Find out more about studying Materials Science at The
University of Manchester here.
Materials at Manchester – Graphene! Click here for more information.
Link to my final year project proposal presentation can be found here.
Click here for information on carbon fibre.
An interesting journal on textile composites used for space
exploration can be found here.
A look at historic sailcloth can be found here.
For more information on modern sailcloth created by my sponsors, click here.
The Health and Safety Laboratory.
As part of our series on undergraduate research, Jack Mollart-Solity shares his experience of completing his final year History dissertation.
Hi, my name is Jack
Mollart-Solity, and I graduated from The University of Manchester with an
undergraduate degree in History. In my final year at university, I did a 12,000
word dissertation with my research focusing on Hungarian Refugees in Britain
following the failed Hungarian Revolution in 1956; however, it also explored
other immigrant and refugee groups who had come to Britain throughout the 20th
I chose to focus on
this topic for a number of reasons. Partly, the history of Hungarian Refugees
had been overlook by historians, so my research was part of uncovering their
experiences in Britain and how they adapted to their new surroundings. More
broadly though, I wanted to examine the factors that influence both governmental
and societal responses to refugees and immigrants, both positive and negative. I
believe this is important to investigate these issues as it is extremely
relevant to modern society as much political debate is focused on immigration,
and its benefits and drawbacks.
In order to
investigate these issues, I used a variety of sources. For much of my research,
I had to be in the National Archives in London. While there, I examined old
government files trying to find the reasons why the government chose to admit
Hungarian Refugees. As well as this, I looked through newspaper reports from
The Manchester Guardian and The Times between the years of 1955 to 1960; this
helped to show me what influenced the public’s response to the incoming
The most difficult
aspect of my project was trying to uncover how Hungarian Refugees themselves
felt about their experience in Britain: most sources completely overlooked the
opinions of Hungarians. However, I was able to build up a limited picture
through looking at government files and newspapers. Ideally, I would have liked
to have interviewed Hungarian refugees and their decedents but this did not
It was hard to draw
conclusions about the experience of Hungarian Refugees in Britain from the
limited evidence available, particularly as it is likely to be highly
individualised for each refugee. However, it appeared that many felt they had
been lied to in order to get them to come to Britain, and this cost them a
chance to go to America, a location which was for many their preferred
My findings suggested
that the government’s principle motivation to admitting Hungarian refugees was
both to win favour with and help their potential new ally Austria, the country
which the Hungarians had immediately escaped to, as well as filling vacancies
in Britain’s labour market.
Finally, the public’s
reaction was influenced by ideas of ethnicity; the white Hungarians received a
warmer welcome due to their perceived ethnic similarities with the British.
Equally, the refugees’ flight from communism enhanced their reputation in
I really enjoyed doing
my dissertation: it gave me a chance to research a topic I was particularly
interested in and gave me a lot of control over the work that I did.
For more information about
the History course at the University of Manchester, click here.
Click here for information from the
London School of Economics on why it is beneficial to study History.
The Guardian recently ran a feature about how to plan and write a dissertation.Search the National
Archives website for different documents you can look up: it is free to use the
Access to Archives:
search archives located near you.