Laura Lain Rodriguez
Maths, Further Maths, Chemistry and Physics
Why did you choose a career in Materials Science and Engineering (MSE)?
During my A-levels, I really enjoyed all the sciences, and I wanted to pursue a degree that would combine them. Materials is a field where you can get to explore many different aspects of science and engineering, ranging from biology to chemistry, physics and even computer modelling. I believed it would give me a wide variety of options to specialise in, and I liked the diversity of topics within the degree.
What did you enjoy most about your MSE course? (If you didn’t do a MSE course which course did you do and what led to you MSE?)
I have really enjoyed some of the group coursework projects, such as a case study where we took apart a fryer and analysed each of the components to understand how they were manufactured and what materials they are made of. It was interesting seeing how even something as simple as a fryer can involve more complex science and engineering concepts. I have also found the lecture courses in the later years of the degree particularly interesting, because you get to choose subjects that align more closely with what you like, and often what is taught is novel and recent research that the lecturers are involved in.
What is your research about?
I am currently doing a master’s project in graphene-based biosensors. This is a field of research with huge potential, as these devices are extremely sensitive and could detect biomarkers for diseases such as cancer in their earlier stages, potentially improving patients’ outcomes significantly. However, there are a few challenges to overcome before these devices can be used widely, so my project involves studying one of the ways of enhancing them through surface coatings.
What is the coolest thing you have done in your career so far?
Literally speaking, pouring liquid nitrogen into a bucket for cold tensile tests to evaluate the strength of samples at lower temperatures.
Besides that, one of the coolest projects I have done was a design study, where students worked together to produce a production line for resin-impregnated carbon fibre. We got to design, 3d-print our parts and put the machine together, which was a very enjoyable experience.
What do you see yourself doing in the future?
I have decided to pursue a PhD for the next 4 years in applied superconductivity. After that, I would like to work in a physics-related field in the future, possibly at a research centre such as a particle accelerator or in fusion energy research, where materials science is extremely important.
What is your favourite material (and why)?
After doing my master’s project on graphene, I have come to appreciate how interesting of a material this is. It’s fascinating how a two-dimensional structure can have properties that are so different from its bulk equivalent and that are so unique, such as its transparency and extremely high conductivity and stiffness. There is also a lot of interesting physics that explains why these properties happen in graphene, which is why this is my favourite material.
What advice would you give your 16 year old self?
To watch a couple of freely available lectures on YouTube from universities specialising in materials science and engineering. I think this is a great way to get a taste of what a degree in this field is like, and what things you might enjoy from it.
I would also tell myself to try to enjoy the time at university as much as possible, there are a lot of things you can do, and I think joining a club/society at your university is a good way of meeting people and relaxing from your studies.
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