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Summer Bursary Report: Diana-Gabriela Oprea

Written by Diana-Gabriela Oprea, posted on Friday, June 24, 2022

Over the coming weeks we'll be showcasing some of the experiences of students who have taken advantage of Christ Church's summer bursary programme. Summer bursaries give students funding to take part in educational and career development opportunities over the long vacation. Applications are now open for 2022. To see the eligibility criteria and to apply visit the Summer Bursary page


Photo of Diana-Gabriela OpreaThis summer, I was able to get a head start on my Part II project by working together with Professor Michael Burt and his group on a project on Theoretical Chemistry, gaining valuable experience on skills that are needed in my Part II project.

Professor Burt’s research focuses on understanding Coulomb explosions (the fragmentation of molecules after being hit by a laser and losing electrons) of various molecules - a phenomenon very little discussed and researched - via the use of covariance. While his research is mostly experimental, my role was to simulate these explosions on a computer in order to compare experimental and simulated data and gain insight into the forces at play in Coulomb explosions.

This allowed me to improve my knowledge of Gaussian, a software used in chemical simulations, and also to write code, which is an absolute requirement in Theoretical Chemistry. I started my project by using code previously written by a Part II student in the Burt group, but ultimately had to change some of it in order to eliminate some simplifications that made the code unusable for most molecules.

During the 8 weeks of my internship, not only did I improve my research skills in Theoretical Chemistry, but I also gained insight into what life and work as an academic would look like. Despite working remotely, I attended every weekly meeting the group had, and was exposed to the research of the other members of the group, as well as to the fruitful discussions that give rise to new ideas and explanations. I have always wanted to do research in academia, and taking part in the life of a research group confirmed that it is indeed the environment where my ideas and eagerness to discover and understand the world can thrive.

This internship has been an amazing opportunity; it has helped me improve my technical and research skills as well as adding to my motivation to become a researcher in Theoretical Chemistry.