Every student gets the chance to take part in cutting-edge research by undertaking a major project in their final year. Projects are often supervised across departments and may even include contributions from industry. Whilst there can be a lot of supervision from tutors, projects are largely self-motivated. The final year project is an excellent opportunity to put into practice skills learnt during the rest of the degree course. Moreover it is a creative and highly enjoyable experience, and gives students a wide range of skills for their future careers.
“My project focused on whooping cough which is responsible for many deaths worldwide. Vaccine production is hindered by the pathogen’s metabolism, making it difficult to estimate optimum growth conditions. By building, refining and exploring computational models of the pathogen’s metabolism, my aim was to make predictions about which conditions might make the cultures grow faster and cheaper. Using techniques from bioinformatics, network theory and biological modelling, my model replicated the two distinct growth phases of the organism, giving us a model that can be taken further to experimental testing. The project was a extremely enjoyable part of the course: taking the theory learned over four years and applying it to a relevant problem chosen from a wide variety of options. Independently researching and making progress towards an objective was rewarding, as well as valuable experience in managing a long term technical project.
The project formed the groundwork for my current PhD. It inspired me to take my work beyond the progress I made during the Engineering Mathematics degree. I was part of the international Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition team that won a Gold medal, Best Food or Energy Project and overall Third Place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Roz Sandwell, PhD student