Arturo Mendoza Meinhardt

Arturo Mendoza Meinhardt
2nd Year Materials Science and Engineering

A Student’s Perspective: The 2014 British Conference for Undergraduate Research

Attending this was the most fun I have had in years. It was better than going on holiday. In December I applied online to present my findings from a summer research project – and in April, Queen Mary sent me to Nottingham so that I would be the QMUL delegate at the 2014 British Conference for Undergraduate Research (BCUR). Science is fascinating to me and as I want to be a scientific researcher. My experience at the BCUR only reinforced this goal.

Travelling to a new place on your own is exciting, and it was quite a journey for me to get to the BCUR. On the train I even played poker with the stranger sat across from me while revising for an exam. After arriving at Nottingham, I met a myriad of people on my way to the conference, all of whom were happy to help me get where I was going.

An image from the BCUR website showing researchers discussing poster presentations.

An image from the BCUR website showing researchers discussing poster presentations.

I did not expect what happened then. Everywhere I went I met people who were welcoming, spontaneous, and just overall awesome. I had dinner with groups of delegates from different universities each day, and would then go to the hall bar with them afterwards. I met Swedish young scientist superstar Ulrika Frising and even a former Miss Wales. It was surprising to me how friendly everyone was, and how eager everyone was to spend time together and get to know each other. I mean: we were complete strangers.

The delegates gave talks or presented posters about their research during the day. It was fantastic to meet so many people with the same passion for science as me. On the second day I presented my poster, which detailed the procedure for synthesizing a novel bioplastic that I designed during the summer before I started university. This plastic is made up of corn starch molecules cross-linked with tartaric acid – a prevalent winemaking waste product. Its biodegradability makes it eco-friendly. Furthermore, it was designed such that it would be edible, opening up a world of possible applications. A research article I wrote exploring the synthesis of this bioplastic is currently under review for publication by the Canadian Young Scientist Journal. To learn more about the BCUR or how to apply to attend next year’s conference, you can visit www.bcur.org for information.

 

 

Opportunity

Let me introduce myself. My name is Arturo Mendoza and I am a scientist at heart; the only thing is that I don’t have as much as a bachelor’s degree yet. Nevertheless, one of the things that bring me the most joy in life is carrying out scientific research and being involved in the UK academic community. I don’t know why, my brain must be hard-wired in some such way that these pursuits just make me happy.

Before finishing my A-levels I knew that I liked science, and material science was a field that seemed interesting to me, but I certainly wasn’t as enthusiastic as I feel now – not until I had a crack at carrying out a piece of research over the summer before starting Uni. I remember my mom told me about a school girl in Turkey who won £ 50 000 for presenting her “Science Fair Project” to Google. It intrigued me so after reading a few news reports on it online, I found the research paper she wrote describing her investigation:

I could have written that…

     The only thought going through my mind was that I could’ve easily done that, and perhaps even better in many ways. Something seriously clicked inside me and I was determined from that point onwards to do a piece of research in my own time, out of my own money (It only cost me £30.00) and get it published in a research journal. I planned and carried out the investigation over summer and wrote a research paper about it when I got here. (Well, after the first four weeks of the semester had passed)

Then I opened my eyes and saw what was here: Opportunity. I’ve been going to a wonderful research seminar series organized by two lecturers of SEMS (The School of Engineering and Material Science) where I met a range of people actively involved in cutting-edge research and innovation. Some of them have been kind enough to critique my paper so that I may improve it. A few even extended invitations to work with them in their on-going projects, one of which I accepted.

Now it’s January, and while a friend finishes reviewing my paper, I’m working in a team research project with academics and PhD students all of whom I admire, and hope to learn from. At the same time, I’ve started planning a second personal research project. This time I won’t be working alone, but instead will be teaming up with the smartest girl in my class.  She’s very talented in this research stuff.

Somehow, I still manage to have time to go out twice or thrice a week at night and enjoy past-midnight London at its finest. I love this place. Let’s see where we go from here.

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