"My interest in the theory of relativity, developed during the third year of my degree, led me to apply for a six-week project in the field"

Headshot of Elizabeth Sheppeck
Elizabeth Sheppeck
Undergraduate student
Mathematics MMath
Elizabeth spent six weeks over summer studyng the theory of relativity with Dr Sam Dolan as she took part in the Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) programme.

My interest in the theory of relativity developed during the third year of my MMath degree, which led me to apply for a six-week SURE project in the field. This involved working under the supervision of Dr Sam Dolan on research related to the gravitational lensing of starlight, which is a key consequence of Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Light rays are bent by the curvature of spacetime, which is generated by the distribution of galaxies and matter. Thus, distant astronomical sources such as quasars can appear with multiple images and Einstein rings in our observations.

During my project, I developed a theoretical image highlighting the elliptical distortion of light rays due to deflection in the gravitational field of a rotating black hole. It helps us to understand how the elliptical cross sections of the rays appear in relation to a black hole shadow. I used equations developed by my supervisor, as well as information from various academic sources to create the image.

I have formed lasting friendships with my colleagues in the research group.

Elizabeth Sheppeck

Undergraduate student

Working in a very active field of research and collaborating the academic staff and postgraduate students provided valuable insight into postgraduate research. The skills I gained are transferable not only to academic research, but also to a variety of careers, particularly those using evidence-based methods to develop long-term strategies.

I benefited from a friendly and academically stimulating environment, and I have formed lasting friendships with my colleagues in the research group. The experience was both challenging and fulfilling, and by the end of the six weeks I had learned to use Wolfram Mathematica – a technical computing system – and developed my knowledge of general relativity through extensive reading.

My enjoyment of the project also led me to choose a masters project in the relevant research area for my fourth year.

I would recommend SURE to anyone who may be considering a career in academia, or just looking to further your knowledge in a particular academic field that you enjoy. The skills that you will gain can be applied to a breadth of careers, whilst also providing fantastic insight into academic research.

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