Envision supporting inter-disciplinary research via summer internships for undergraduates

As part of the Envision Doctoral training partnership funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, two paid research experience placements were offered to Electronic Engineering undergraduates over the summer to apply their engineering knowledge by working alongside environmental scientists in Bangor University. The placements were awarded to Ashley Beynon and Cai Williams.

Cai Williams, a 4th year student, worked in the School of Natural Sciences, supervised by Professor Davey Jones. Cai reflected on the experience “I undertook many tasks of an engineering nature. The largest portion of my time was dedicated to helping the development of real-time in-situ nitrate sensors. I helped to improve these sensors in many ways, by applying techniques which I had learned during my time at Bangor. I applied quality control techniques, in order to determine whether the sensors were manufactured to a reasonable tolerance of each other. Signal processing was carried out, on the signal from the sensors, to filter out an unwanted diurnal component and in order to correct the signal for changes in temperature.

"Other than assisting in the development of sensors, I developed python scripts for the group so they could analyse data more effectively. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in being an intern at the School of Natural Sciences. It has been a valuable experience for me as someone who at start of the internship was seeking a PhD, to see how a research group works. Seeing what it is like to be a part of a research group was valuable and this experience may have helped myself in securing a PhD. I also enjoyed being part of a multidisciplinary team, and have learned a lot more about soil than I had ever previously thought was necessary, yet I found it to be rather interesting.”

Ashley Beynon, a 2nd year Electronic Engineering student spent 8 weeks working with Dr Andy Smith of the School of Natural Sciences on a project titled “Visualising sheep behaviour around shelter in the landscape”. The project was to gain a better understanding of sheep shelters. Ashley explains “During my 8-week internship, I collected weather monitoring using advanced electronic equipment. I spent some time repairing GPS equipment with support from Dean Street staff, and I used the data collected from those devices (17,000 data points) to monitor the behaviour of sheep. I learned a lot over the course of the internship, improving my practical skills like soldering, programming skills as well as my time management as most of my work was independent.”

The Envision Doctoral Training Partnership brings together a consortium of Universities and research centres. Envision is led by Lancaster University in partnership with Bangor University and Nottingham University, the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, the British Geological Survey and Rothamsted Research to develop next generation leaders in environmental science, with the skills, knowledge and experience they need to take on the challenges of a changing world. It funds 16 PhDs per year across a wide range of environmental projects. The Natural Environment Research Council places a high priority on attracting students from physical sciences, mathematics, computer science and engineering to develop their research careers in the environmental sciences through the Doctoral Training Partnership programme.

Publication date: 2 October 2019