UCL Department of Chemical Engineering


UCell Summer School 2019

1 August 2019

Work experience students in the EIL lab

Our summer school in the Department of Chemical Engineering at University College London is designed to give students a flavour for studying STEM subjects at a university level. This was the first year launching the summer school (August 2019) and it was held as a three-day experience for A-level student Adnan. Adnan got in touch via email to find out more about the electrochemical systems he had heard about after attending a Chemical Engineering open day at UCL. We were more than pleased to offer him an opportunity to work with some of the top researchers in the field and get a first-hand experience of the research we carried out.

Equipped with some of UCell’s demonstration kits, we were able to demonstrate one-to-one how fuel cells and batteries work and the materials that make them up. We were able to show him how the fuel cell stack is used to power stages at festivals and popcorn machines and he even had a chance to sit inside the Toyota Mirai driver’s seat! By the end of the three days, Adnan had made his very own working lithium-ion battery using a glove box, learnt how to make and spray a catalyst for a fuel cell, looked inside a jelly-roll battery using X-rays and printed his findings using a 3D printer. He presented his experience in a short presentation to some of the top researchers in the field from the Electrochemical Innovation Lab and received some excellent reviews!

Adnan left not only with his 3D model but with a better understanding of some of the futures’ leading energy systems. He understood the inner workings of the lithium battery that he sees and uses every day and understood the importance of the work that goes into finding the alternative fuels that will power our cars in the future. There were plenty of opportunities to practice his research and communication skills too. He was particularly thrilled to be able to talk directly to Ph.D. students about their journeys from A-level’s into their respective fields and used this as inspiration for his own trajectory into STEM.

How likely is Adnan to pursue a career in STEM after this? Very!

We’re so pleased with how our first summer school went (and would like to thank Adnan the pioneer for being an excellent student!). We’d like to continue offering summer school placements for students between the ages of 14 – 19 ranging between 2-day to 1 week-long experiences in the future. Although we aren’t currently offering accommodation, we are looking into finding ways to make this programme more accessible. We’d like to encourage students who are the first generation in their family to attend university, or who are from a lower socio-economic background to apply with their interest via email or through any other of our social media platforms.

Due to Covid-19, Ucell is not offering a summer school in 2020, however, we are offering interactive virtual outreach sessions led by some of the same researchers. Please get in touch if you would like to know more about what’s on offer.

UCell would also like to thank the following researchers for their inputs:

Zahra Rana – Catalysis
Alice Llewellyn – SEM of battery electrodes
Drasti Patel – Coin cell building and X-ray CT
Keenan Smith and Emanuele Magliocca – Catalyst spray coating
Aaron Wade – Laser machining samples
Theo Suter – 3D printing