I began my research project at the beginning of the summer eager to achieve all of the objectives I set out for myself and more. My project is based on studying the decoherence behaviour of spin-spin interactions using computer simulation software designed by my supervisor.
I approached the project hoping that everything would work out as I hoped it would, but also under no illusion that it was impossible for a problem to arise. I understood that even if something did go wrong there would be a chance to learn from it and it could be a lesson which I could take from the project and use going forward.
Due to the pandemic I had to complete my project remotely, which meant a problem arose right at the start. In any other year I would have had space in an office with others in the research group but for this year I was at home which meant I had to compile the software I needed on my laptop. This ended up using up the first two days of the project but after that everything went smoothly. Going forward working remotely didn’t present any other major problems and I managed to communicate effectively with my supervisor and properly discuss the progress of the project.
My project was centred entirely on running different computer simulations and producing graphs and in some cases numerical values for some parameters as well. Working and analysing data in this way was something I had done at times throughout my course but to do it in this way and this consistently was something I really enjoyed and I feel like it improved my skills in those areas. To do all of this I had to do some study to understand the physics behind what I was doing. My supervisor recommended that I read a few chapters of a postgraduate textbook which sounded like quite a challenge but turned out to be fine. Having learnt this background information it will now help me to complete future modules in my course which is also a benefit.
During the course of my project I had the opportunity to take part in some key elements of the research experience. One of the biggest opportunities to come from this was that I was able to attend a virtual international conference where research talks from the field that I was working in were been given by lots of different leading academics from around the world. This was a brilliant experience for me since I had the chance to better understand how my project fit in the bigger picture of research going on in the field as a whole and how I can potentially build on it in the future. This conference also gave me the chance to see how much I have learnt in doing my course and this project but also gave me the chance to see how far I still have to go and motivated me to get to that level which is an extra push for me to work even harder.
Another part of the research experience which I really enjoyed was the chance to present my project in its entirety to the other members of the research group. This allowed me to take absolute responsibility for my own work and improve my understanding of it along with how to communicate it as well. This was great since I was confident that the results I had got were correct and I would be able to draw the necessary conclusions from them. This helped since the results were then easier to understand and explain to the other members of the group who were not too familiar with my project.
Overall, my research experience this summer was as good as it could have been given the circumstances it was under. It allowed me to improve both my academic and leadership skills along with some surprise opportunities such as being able to attend the conference. Going into next year I hope I can put these skills to the test and improve even further.