From black holes to medieval poetry: College funds 17 student summer projects

Every year the College offers funding to support undergraduates who wish to undertake a research project during the Long Vacation. The scheme is competitive and students must submit a research proposal to the Warden and Tutors’ Committee, who judge the applications.

This year, 17 students were successful:

  • Catherine Felce (Year 3, Physics)
  • Daniel Felfoldi (Year 1, Biochemistry)
  • Georgia Acton (Year 3, Physics)
  • Julia Stadlmann (Year 3, Mathematics)
  • Katrina Gadsby (Year 2, Medicine)
  • Leonie Woodland (Year 3, Physics)
  • Mate Kovacs Deak (Year 4, Maths and Computer Science
  • Richard Chatterjee (Year 2, Physics)
  • Rowan Wilson (Year 2, English)
  • Stephanie Bruce-Smith (Year 2, Law)
  • Ton Yeh (Year 2, Maths and Philosophy)
  • Willow Rolls (Year 1, Biochemistry)
  • Wojciech Gruchot (Year 3, Chemistry)
  • Isadora Janssen (Year 2, Law)
  • Vratko Himič (Year 2, Medicine)
  • Zhiwei Dai (Year 2, Physics)
  • Jules Desai (Year 3, Physics and Philosophy)

The projects have been extremely varied, from Rowan Wilson’s work on medieval lyric poetry to Catherine Felce’s research into the weight of supermassive black holes. Some students worked with established research groups on a defined project, while others used the time to design their own independent study using Oxford’s library and archival resources. A selection of reports from those who took part in the scheme are available to read here.

The students who took part were enthusiastic about the benefits they had gained from taking part in the scheme:

“Undertaking my own independent study taught me how to structure my research and the importance of ensuring I was staying on topic. Initially, I spent a lot of time allowing my investigation to meander in loosely related fields simply because it was interesting. […] Quickly I became a lot better at staying focused and researching within a framework and for a purpose. These skills became incredibly useful later in the summer, when I was doing independent research for my final Jurisprudence essay as part of my course. In short, the summer project has been a wonderful experience, and I am incredibly grateful for Merton
College’s support which allowed me to undertake this study.”
Isadora Janssen

“My summer project also opened my eyes to how varied the approaches to a single question can be. Many papers I read had an algebraic flavour, but others were entirely combinatorial or used geometry, and some even involved differential equations. It was interesting to study all these different methods, to develop my own ideas based on them and to try proving something myself. There were many ups and downs, and only few of my proofs worked in the end, but each failure helped further my understanding of the subject and was valuable in some way.”
Julia Stadlmann

“I thoroughly enjoyed my summer project. As an undergraduate who hopes to continue on to graduate work, the freedom to structure my own research and timetable was an invaluable experience, and has left me eager to continue exploring medieval literature—and especially medieval manuscripts—in greater depth.”
Rowan Wilson

“Throughout the project I have gained experience in a variety of molecular biological techniques and traditional cloning mechanisms. I found it interesting to be able to practice many of the techniques that have been learnt about theoretically in the lecture courses of my first year and to be able to see them in practice and understand their use.”
Willow Rolls

Applications for next year’s Summer Projects scheme open in February 2020.