As an undergraduate with no set life plan, I decided to apply for a summer project to see what the world of experimental research was like – and it was the best decision of my life.
The project, lasting ten weeks, allowed me to primarily work on preparing terrestrial minerals and mineral mixtures similar to those found on the Moon, performing infrared spectral measurements on these mixtures, and writing several programs to help with the analysis of the data. My work centred on taking diffuse infrared measurements with an infrared spectrometer, and emission measurements using the Simulated Lunar Environment Chamber (more fondly known as the ‘Moon Box’). The Moon Box is a piece of equipment which simulates the lunar environment by putting the sample under very low pressures and temperatures, then heats the sample from underneath to allow analysis of its emission spectrum.
In addition to this I was also able to handle some actual Moon rock – which was incredibly exciting, though it only looks like normal dirt!
The project was an absolutely fantastic opportunity to experience what the world of real experimental research is like, and I had the most amazing time. My supervisor and the rest of the team were welcoming and helpful, and we still keep in contact – even sometimes meeting up for lunch. This incredible opportunity opened up a new world of research to me, and I now hope to pursue a PhD in experimental physics after my degree.