URSS Diaries #8
After eight weeks of work, my undergraduate research project is now at an end! It’s been an enormous learning curve and an exciting chance to immerse myself into a research topic.
I was based in the Astrophysics group investigating a triple star system named KIC2856960. As my research progressed, I realised more and more just what a tricky system this is and how hard it is to accurately model. After briefly looking into the triple model, I started to model the system as a quadruple star system. This is horrendously difficult – my supervisor wrote the code – with lots of unknown parameters.
Although I wasn’t ultimately successful in finding a definitive solution, I still feel like my hard work has been worthwhile. The work both my supervisor and I did hopefully should improve our overall understanding of the system and enable others to build on our research in the future.
Alongside learning about my actual project, I was surprised how many transferable, “soft” skills I developed.
- Organisation and self-motivation were important ones, since I was completely free to organise my time as I wished. I chose to work a rough 9-5 day, then relax in the evening. That way I made the most of my time to run models and write code whilst maintaining a good work-life balance.
- Perseverance was also key when it got particularly tough. Especially when my supervisor was away, I had to think creatively about the problems I faced; I couldn’t just Google the answer! The emphasis on individual work and insight was something I really enjoyed and has motivated me to think about doing a PhD.
- One of the conditions of undergoing the URSS is to complete some online Moodle activities. The activities included reflections, tasks to improve communication and target setting to focus our skills development. I really enjoyed them as they helped me to learn more about myself as a researcher. Since I completed my project in the Physics department, I also had to give a short talk about my research, which gave me experience in public speaking.
Despite the loneliness and hard work, I have thoroughly enjoyed completing my URSS project! I think I’m going to miss sitting at my computer trying to discover the secrets of KIC2856960.
I would whole-heartedly recommend doing an undergraduate research project to anyone curious about an academic area or considering doing a PhD. If you have any other questions about what it’s like, please comment below!