13 October 2020

Sheffield students take full advantage of Royce summer internship programme

Four University of Sheffield undergraduates have benefited from a new summer internship programme offered by the Henry Royce Institute for advanced materials.

A poster by Lauren Levine from the Royce Internship

The scheme offered materials science-related research projects to more than 20 students who were about to enter their final year of study. The (predominantly remote) projects, which covered a variety of areas including characterisation, machine learning and modelling for a variety of materials applications, all ran over the summer break.

University of Sheffield students Lucy Ellwood, Lauren Levine, Karol Murgrabia and Joshua Peters all welcomed the opportunity to carry out the research, which culminated in a virtual mini conference and poster presentation session attended by their fellow interns, supervisors and Royce staff.

Royce supported the interns to set up their own academic Twitter accounts and use the social media platform to share their own posters, and ask questions and comment on others. The full discussion around the Twitter poster session can be found under the Twitter hashtag #RoyceSummerInternPosters.

Lucy Ellwood’s project aimed to create a model that could predict the stable equilibrium phases that would form during the oxidation of niobium-silicide based alloys, which are of interest as possible replacements for nickel-based superalloys in jet turbine engines.


A poster by Lucy Ellwood from the Royce summer internship programme

She investigated a number of alloy systems with metal additions such as tin, chromium and titanium. The model that was created can be used to predict phases, identify layering and confirm various experimental findings, helping to improve understanding of Nb-Si based alloys’ oxidation behaviour.

Lucy said: “I found the Royce internship to be a great experience which provided an interesting insight into the world of research. Working independently from home was sometimes challenging but, with the helpful directions from my supervisors, I was able to overcome any major problems. The opportunities for networking, presentation and the development of other skills will certainly be valuable to me in the future.”

Karol Murgrabia investigated the effects of the plutonium decay in the barium titanate and found that the coordination of oxygen around the Ti changed from six to around five after irradiation.

He said: “The subject was interesting and engaging, despite the fact that it was a new experience for me to do this type of work. I think that this experience will help me when applying to participate in future research projects.”


A poster by Karol Murgrabia from the Royce summer internship programme

Lauren Levine’s project looked at analysing the mixing behaviour of sodium and potassium Nitrate using GULP (General Utility Lattice Program) simulations to provide data on the enthalpies and entropies involved in mixing these two compounds together. Using a 4x4x4 super cell within the GULP program, Lauren wrote a program to automate the random mixing process of different ratios of KNO3 and NaNO3. It was discovered that, upon mixing, there is a positive enthalpy of mixing, which is suggestive of a greater entropic nature of the simulation.

Lauren commented: “The University of Sheffield has been delightful in every sense; from the attentiveness of the world-leading department to the community spirit of the Turner Museum to the wonder of the peaks to city life itself. The Royce internship has given me a taste of what research is like, even in the most novel of circumstances. It has taught me about a new way of working, which I would have never experienced otherwise.”

Joshua Peters’ research focused on modelling Field Assisted Sintering Technology (FAST) of titanium powders. There is currently much interest in FAST as it offers a much cheaper, quicker and lower energy alternative forging route for titanium versus the current hot isostatic pressing process.


A poster by Joshua Peters from the Royce summer internship

Josh said: “It was great to work on a project in which Sheffield is a global innovation leader with both the ongoing research at STAR (Sheffield Titanium Alloy Research) as well as the Royce Discovery Centre now housing a new large-scale FAST machine. 

“This internship gave me an insight into what research in industry looks like and enabled me to learn about finite element modelling and improve my practical engineering skills such as time management, project timeline planning, independent academic literature research, presenting academic work and producing academic posters. I would like to thank Royce and the Department of Materials for this brilliant opportunity and also my supervisor Dr Ben Thomas for helping and guiding me this summer.”

At the Zoom-based internship mini-conference, each intern had the opportunity to deliver a five-minute presentation based on their research poster, and to take questions from the audience. Royce CEO Prof. David Knowles introduced the conference and delivered a presentation on ‘The Role of Materials and Materials Science in a Sustainable Future’.

In addition, a guest panel of materials science graduates discussed their career paths and opened the floor to questions from the interns. Quotes and highlights from the Zoom conference were live-tweeted on Royce’s main Twitter account, and can be found under the hashtag #RoyceSummerInternConference.

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