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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Sarah Martin: Research project in Edinburgh

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    01 Oct

    In the summer between second and third year, I spent six weeks at Edinburgh Napier University (ENU) funded by Gateway Challenges Funding and a grant from the Posen Fund. This opportunity allowed me to explore both my chosen Part II subject, Materials Science, and research in an academic environment.

    I was working in the Advanced Materials group of the School of Engineering on a project to incorporate nanocellulose, a nanocrystal derived from wood, into nickel-based coatings. Researchers at ENU had recently developed a low cost, low energy patented process for nanocellulose production. The new affordability of nanocellulose production and its impressive mechanical properties meant it is an attractive candidate to attempt to incorporate into advanced coatings.

    My project involved attempting to incorporate varying amounts of nanocellulose into nickel-based coatings and testing the resulting samples to determine the properties compared to ‘plain’ samples with the ordinary nickel-based coating. No one at ENU had attempted to do this before, so there was a degree of uncertainty of whether it would work! Once I’d prepared my samples I had to use a variety of techniques to prove that there was nanocellulose in the coatings I’d produced. I then went on to test my samples to see if adding nanocellulose improved the properties of the coatings.

    I spent evenings and weekends exploring Edinburgh itself and places further afield in Scotland. I went for lunch at Stockbridge market one Sunday, tried several cafes in Morningside and went for several runs and walks in the nearby Braid Hills with stunning views across the city. As a keen member of the university Hillwalking Club I was eager to get out and make the most of my proximity to the Scottish countryside. One weekend I went on a trip up to the Cairngorms National Park and stayed in a bothy during a thunderstorm and on another weekend I walked across the Southern Uplands from Peebles to Moffat.

    My six weeks were interesting, enlightening and have provided opportunities I wouldn’t have otherwise had. I very much enjoyed my time in Edinburgh and have gained a useful insight into a potential path beyond my degree.

    Sarah Martin
    Natural Sciences (Physical)