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Chemistry Undergraduate Vocational Internships

Read about our undergraduates' experiences of internships in our research groups
Overview of Finlay Clark's research

Four fully-funded Chemistry Undergraduate Vacation Internships sponsored by Afton Chemical were offered at the School of Chemistry for the duration of eight weeks over the Summer 2019.

The Internships were very competitive this year, we had a large number of applicants. The awards were offered via application followed by the interview process. Successful students completed individual projects of their choice in the following research groups:

  1. Juliet Barklay (Brechin research group),
  2. Finlay Clark (Johansson research group),
  3. Euan Jenkinson (Alexander research group),
  4. Vesela Zarkina (Cockroft research group).

You can read about each project and students experiences below

The awards are intended to help students develop academically, make informed career choices and strengthen their career prospects.

Finlay Clark

  • Supervisor: Dr J Olof Johansson

Technologies based on magnetism have revolutionised life. Smart phones, computers, and the internet all rely on magnetic information storage, and therefore much research concerns the development of new magnetic materials and methods to control them.

A useful technique for studying magnetic behaviour is magneto-optical spectroscopy, which involves shining light through materials in the presence of a magnetic field. The light which is shone through these materials is “linearly polarised” which means that all the waves which make up the light oscillate in the same direction. The light waves which come out of the material all oscillate in a different direction, and this change in direction can provide information about the magnetic properties of the material.

During the project, I constructed and programmed a machine to carry out these experiments and tested it using well-understood materials. The project involved:

  • Learning the use of LabVIEW software and writing programs to control the spectrometer
  • Physically assembling the light source, mirrors, lenses, polarisers, electromagnet, and light detector into a working system
  • Testing the set-up on well-understood materials

The results of the tests were mostly consistent with previous measurements and the literature, indicating that the spectrometer functioned correctly and was suitable for testing new materials in future.


I would like to thank Dr Olof Johansson for the opportunity to complete this project.

I thank Dr Debi Pattnaik, Hal Lewis, Florian Liedy, Luke Hedley, and Minas Stefanou for providing a welcoming work environment, and for their help and patience.

In addition, I would like to thank Afton Chemical and the School of Chemistry for funding the project.

Euan Jenkinson

Some fish have a transparent layer of tissue covering their eyes and the area behind their eyes. This tissue is known as an adipose eyelid. Its main use is thought to be protecting the eyes from harmful ultraviolet light rays, but it also has an interesting effect on light passing through it.

In this study, laser beams were passed through Atlantic mackerel adipose eyelids. The direction of the vibration – the polarisation – of light rotates as it is shone through. The amount it rotates depends on the colour of the light. We measured the degree of rotation for different colours of lasers to understand this dependency. This could allow us to create new ways to interact with the polarisation of light in future experiments. It also tells us more about the composition and purpose of the adipose eyelid for the mackerel.

Juliet Barklay

My project aimed to investigate whether any changes could be made to a molecule known as Fe13. This molecule contains one central iron atom surrounded by 12 other ion atoms linked by oxygen and fluorine atoms. The molecule overall is negatively charged, and so when it forms, it requires molecules with positive charges to surround it, known as counter ions, so that the species is neutral overall. Although the counter ion in Fe13 is very weak, it was not possible to replace it with any other counter ion. It was also not possible to change any other aspects of the molecule. Although the molecule and counter ion could not be changed, it was discovered that the preparation of the molecule could be improved by changing the conditions of the reaction, leading to more product which is more suitable for analysis.

My only experience of lab work before undertaking this project was in undergraduate teaching lab. As I am just starting my fourth year of my degree and looking to apply to placements for my final year, the experience offered by being able to undertake this project has been invaluable. My confidence in the lab has improved greatly since the beginning of my project, as has my ability to work independently. This opportunity has given me valuable insight into the day to day of a research lab and what a PhD and a career in chemistry could be like. I feel much more ready for my placement and my future career having undertaken this placement.

Friday, November 15, 2019