Applying Final Year Physics Project during Lincolnshire SCITT Internship

Recently two of our Physics with Philosophy BSc students Jodie and Olivia have completed a teacher trainings internship in a Lincolnshire school, where she delivered a lesson based around an experiment from her third year undergraduate dissertation project. Read more about their experience (written by Jodie) below.


When the Lincolnshire SCITT (School centred initial teacher training) came to talk about their internship, I didn’t expect to be able to use my final year physics project during the internship to take a lesson in a school.

The internship allows undergraduate students to see what teaching would be like in their chosen subject, in my case Physics. Consisting of three weeks in a school, the internship provided opportunities to observe lessons, act as an informal teaching assistant and the chance to take a lesson. I was placed with fellow student Olivia at William Farr C of E school in Welton. The staff in the science department were eager to provide as many experiences and insights into the teaching life as possible, which without their open support and encouragement, we would never have had such an immersive and rewarding experience.

Returning to the subject of university however, my final year project was called “Visualising Acoustic resonance with lasers”. The brief was to design an outreach activity for A-Level students to teach them about the physics concepts involved in a particular experiment, linking elements of the A-Level curriculum to the activity in order for students to apply the knowledge attained in the classroom to a fun alternative experiment. The experiment in question consisted of a small mirror adhered to an elastic membrane to which reflected a laser onto a nearby wall. A speaker was placed under the elastic membrane so that when frequencies were played the membrane would vibrate and cause the laser to create visual patterns on the wall.

With the opportunity to take a lesson during the internship, it was the perfect moment to put the project to the test.

Ultimately the project wasn’t used with A-Level students and instead with a lively Year 7 class. They provided Olivia with the opportunity to introduce the basic concepts and terminology of waves before handing over to me to take them through the outreach activity I had amended in line with a KS3 Science textbook borrowed from one of the Physics teachers.

The students were very enthusiastic and had lots of questions to ask. At the end of the lesson, the students filled out feedback sheets which asked them if they enjoyed the activity, what they had learnt and what they would improve. I’m pleased to say that all students selected yes for the first question (thankfully) and they were all able to state something they had learnt, so we must have done something right! As for their suggestions for improvements they were all very kind and creative in their ideas and provided lots of food for thought going forward.

My Life Experience at UCLan


I was 17 years old when I first heard the word UCLan. I was told by an Astrophysicist, friend of my father, that British universities were quite good. Moreover, since the language of Science is nowadays English I said to myself “why not trying?”.

The truth was that I had no clue what to expect nor I really knew where Preston was.

I then left Paris to go to Preston and for four years people kept asking me: “why did you come to Preston?” I have only found an answer to this question at the end of this special experience, after my fourth year.

For those who do not know it, France is a very elitist country. Only those who excel can stay in the system, otherwise you get kicked out. In the UK this is totally different: England is the country that gives an opportunity to everyone and allows people to improve and discover what they are good at.

My uncle used to say “students are like a bunch of grapes: some grapes mature more quickly than others, but at the end of the day all of them are good to make wine”.

To some extent I was a slow grape, which eventually matured.

Professors at UCLan were all very kind and gentle with all the students. They would always ask whether we were happy or not about the course and they would also be ready to discuss about our personal issues if needed. This was a total change for me.

My first interest was actually astrophysics, even though I decided to follow the course of Physics instead of the one in Astrophysics, that was also offered by the university. I actually believed (and still believe) that a general preparation would have been better, rather than to specialize since the start.

During the first year I had to face the cultural and language barrier, as well as learning how to live alone abroad for the first time in my life. In the end it wasn’t as hard as many people say it is.

Nevertheless it took me some time to adapt and to learn how to express myself clearly at a university level. I still remember my very first uni exam, which was about mechanics, as there was an exercise which involved lots of calculations about forces due to objects in motion on a vessel. The problem was that I was not familiar with all the terminology used to describe the different parts of a ship and unfortunately it had a bad impact on the mark I obtained in the end. Luckily my second exam, which was on electromagnetism, was a lot better, as I managed to get the second best mark in the class.

When I got the exam back, I remember Prof. A. V. Zvelindovsky complimenting me for the solution I gave in one of the exercises, which involved the application of Kirchhoff’s law. Apparently it wasn’t an easy one. I think that this was a key moment of my uni life: I felt somehow an admiration for this professor who appreciated the outcome of my work.

During my second year I did a small project with Dr. Daniel Brown. The rest of the students did an experimental project, while I had the chance to do a theoretical one, which involved lots of hand written calculations and finally the numerical solution of a differential equation, which was used as a simple model to describe the Earth climate. I wrote this program in C, which back then seemed so difficult, using a Runge-Kutta method of fourth order. I could then see how the heat of the planet might change in order to freeze or unfreeze completely our beloved Earth, changing simply a few input parameters.

This was the moment where I understood that theoretical and computational physics were my fields of interest. I used to hate all the lab sessions.

It was along my third year that I started building some interest in Nanoscience and Nanotechnologies in general. We were supposed to write a small dissertation in a group, choosing from a list of topics. Depending on the topic, a lecturer would have helped us to conduct our work. However, since I really wanted to work with Prof. A. V. Zvelindovsky, I remember pushing all the people in my group to suggest to Dr. B. Hassal a new topic which would have involved Nanoscience, a field in which Prof. A. V. Zvelindovsky is an expert. At the end of that year I asked Prof. A. V. Zvelindovsky if I could do my final year project with him, but unfortunately he replied that he wouldn’t be able to supervise me as he was going to take a sabbatical year. Nevertheless he said that he could follow my work if I accepted to work with Dr. M. Pinna, which I then did.

The most amazing experience I had in Physics was during my fourth year. In the first semester I discovered theoretical fluid dynamics thanks to Prof. A. V. Zvelindovsky. He taught me how to solve complex theoretical problems using a very mathematical approach. We were using the well-known book written by Landau and Lifshitz on Fuid Mechanics. I felt like I was living again: I always wanted to study Physics because of the elegance that nature has. Sometimes, along the previous year, I felt that elegance was a bit forgotten, as we were focusing on the main results in order to produce the desired experiments, without actually thinking about how we got such results and what we can do with them. The Russian approach of Landau is totally different. I would then carry out pertinent results, in accordance with the experimental ones, with the simple use of a pen, a paper and beautiful mathematical tools. This became my apparatus, which I believe it is the most beautiful one.

Dr. M. Pinna had prepared a project to work on, during the second semester, which involved the use of GROMACS, which is a molecular dynamics package designed for biomolecular systems. However, for some reason, Prof. A. V. Zvelindovsky thought that I could do more than that, and decided that I could carry on the work that Dr. M. Pinna had started during his PhD. I then had to modify the original code that he wrote, in order to carry out simulations of a diblock copolymer with colloidal particles with two different distinct sizes. By doing this, I also had the opportunity to work on this project with Prof. I. Pagonabarraga, in the Universitat de Barcelona. Apart from the fact that I had the chance to work on an extremely interesting topic, as a real researcher, this experience helped me to develop a lot of skills, which are fundamental for whoever is interested in doing research, as well as building more self-confidence. On top of that, I learnt a lot from Dr. M. Pinna and built a very strong bond with him and Prof. A. V. Zvelindovsky, who became something more than merely professors to my eyes.

Therefore they helped me to realise that my initial interest has changed. I have much clearer ideas about my future and I am now doing a MSc in Applied Mathematics at the University of Bath, hoping to do a PhD in Theoretical Physics next year. Overall UCLan was certainly an amazing experience, which made me meet wonderful people, helped me to grow a lot and become an adult person capable to handle this exciting yet complicated world we live in. Adelchi

My Journey to Barcelona

Centre for Computational Physics


My journey starts in the famous John Lennon’s airport the 19th of May 2013. I walk along the corridors of this airport, where some pieces of Lennon’s lyrics are written against the walls. I see so many tourists eating their subway sandwich, right in front of Lennon’s and McCartney suits, with no concern or whatsoever. I wonder if they had imagined that this could one day happen.

Leaving Liverpool on a sunny and unusually bright day, I finally arrive in Barcelona welcomed by this strong heavy Mediterranean rain. This journey starts taking a metaphorical scale.

I take a cab, as I do not know where my accommodation exactly is. I then decide to start experimenting my Spanish language skills with the driver. Surprisingly I do not encounter any difficulty. I finally arrive at the university of Barcelona, where a nice lady gives me my room keys.

The following day is…

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My experience as an Undergraduate Physics Student at UCLan

I am Christine Stokes, and I graduated from UCLan with July 2011 with an MPhys in Physics. During my time at UCLan I learned a lot through the lectures provided but probably more so from the many opportunities I was provided whilst a part of the computational physics group.

The lectures provided me with a fundamental understanding of many topics in Physics, such as electricity and magnetism, quantum and statistical mechanics and derivation of theoretical equations. As the classes were small, the class dynamic was more group discussions which for me personally was a good way to learn. The lectures were always helpful whenever any area was of difficult to understand and were always happy to arrange to see me outside of class to go over things again.

As mentioned above a lot more of experience came from joining the computational physics group. I was awarded an internship within the group in the summer following my second year of study. During this time I got to work on a really research project which the work done was subsequently published in Soft matter journal and I am a coauthor. In addition to being awarded the initial internship, I was awarded two more internships in the following two years and I also worked within the group alongside my lectures during the academic period.

Further to working on research within UCLan, I was also given the opportunity to do a research project at Leiden University after being awarded funding through the travel bursary scheme. The project gave me the experience of working both in another institution and at international University. Moreover, I was also given the opportunity to present my research at many conferences. Some of the conferences I was involved in are UCLan’s Annual research conference, URIS poster presentations, The 24th and 25th National Conference on Undergraduate Research (which were held at Montana University, Montana, USA and Ithaca College, New York State, USA respectively) and the 1st British Conference on Undergraduate Research.

Following my experience of research at UCLan and having seen the benefits to learning through research I started up UCLan’s Undergraduate Research Society along with other students who had a keen interest in research. I was the chair of this society for its first year and as part of that I increased the membership and helped in the organisation of the 1st British Conference on Undergraduate Research.

I have now left UCLan and have recently started my PhD project at the University of Manchester under the supervision of Dr Sven Schroeder. I was awarded a place on the NoWNANO Doctoral Training Centre which involved a six month taught period followed by a three and a half year PhD project. The objective of my project is to develop an iterative interface for Near Edge X-Ray Absorption Fine Structure spectroscopy to allow quantitative structural information around an absorbing atom during cluster formation to be determined.


Photo of me presenting my poster at the NoWNANO DTC conference held at Cranage Hall, Cheshire from the 11th to the 14th of June 2012. The poster title was “Towards the determination of cluster structures through iterative analysis of experimental NEXAFS”.

Although I have now left UCLan, I will always remember my experience there. I try to visit often to keep contact with the people who I feel I lead me to where I am today. My experience at UCLan can be experienced by many other people if they get involved and show interest. In my future, I would like to get into acedemia were I will be able to both be involved in research but also have the opportunity to provide other people with the experience and support I was provided.

International adventure to the Netherlands

Centre for Computational Physics

Our student, Christine Stokes, went on a research trip to Holland.  Read here UCLan’s news story:

UCLan bursary contributes to outstanding student experience

Chrissystk - View my 'Leiden trip' set on Flickriver

A third year undergraduate physics student recently undertook a research trip of a lifetime having been awarded one of UCLan’s sector-leading internationalisation bursaries worth £700.

Christine Stokes, from Walton-Le-Dale, travelled across the Channel to the renowned Leiden University in the Netherlands where she undertook a one-month research project within the University’s department of Soft Matter Chemistry.

Here is her story:

“When the day came for me to leave England I was filled with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. It was the first time I’d travelled alone and the longest I’d been separated from my family but I was excited at entering a new phase in my personal development and future career path.

“On Tuesday, 18 May 2010 I took a one hour twenty minute flight to…

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