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Enhanced training elements

Enhanced training elements of the 4-year CDT Programme

The practical focus of our Centre is predominantly on complex, multi-physics, multi-scale problems arising in science and technology. Training is provided on the development of new mathematical models, algorithms, coding, and on the expert use of computational methods for materials modelling at the atomic, mesoscopic and continuum length scales.

In addition, the full CDT training programme incorporates elements of responsible research and innovation, entrepreneurship, leadership, innovation, and management. Mandatory, short-duration (4-8 weeks) industrial internships provide students with a wider training experience not otherwise available in the Centre (or, indeed, via an ordinary MPhil+PhD/EngD), whilst training opportunities more specifically targeted at computational and data-driven research activities such as those within the CDT, are also incorporated. These enhanced training elements of the CDT programme are an integral part of the CDT’s strategy for accelerating and maximising the impact of the research work undertaken by our students and their supervisors.

The programme of enhanced training elements can include, but is not limited to, the following:
  1. New student icebreaker events and team building exercises. 
  2. Student-led seminar series. The seminar series is valuable as a cross-cohort-building and cross-cohort-training activity. Current attendance at these events is >20 students per session and the post-talk debates are lively and interactive. The seminars also give the students experience of presenting their work, which is a valuable transferable skill.
  3. Annual poster presentation day. Coinciding with the CDT Annual General Meeting, the students have to prepare and present a poster on their research work following the guidance available to them from links on the CDT website on effective communication via scientific posters, and from feedback from project supervisors. The activity is a cross-cohort-building one as it brings the students together from their host departments. It is also a cohort-training activity as poster creation and presentation are important skills to attain. The students also learn how to network at these events.
  4. Industrial visits. Two industrial visits are included in the programme – one group visit to Schlumberger and one to an industrial company of relevance to the individual students and their individual projects The objective of these visits is to demonstrate to the students the importance of the work that they are doing and how the outcomes can be used (and are used) in genuine commercial operations.
  5. Industrial consultancy masterclass. This cross-cohort activity is composed of a series of lectures on industrial and engineering consultancy from consultants from Frazer-Nash Consultancy, followed by a group exercise incorporating elements of the “Translation Guide” from the European Materials Modelling Council (EMMC). Lectures will cover tendering and proposal writing, pricing strategies, project management, and the successful delivery of technical work – all supported with industrial case studies. The students will then be assigned a group project of their own, that requires consideration of several of the “Translation Steps” identified by the EMMC, before presenting their work to each other and to a panel of people with consultancy experience. This activity will be opened up to appropriate CDTs in Cambridge as a cross-CDT activity.
  6. University-sourced Cross CDT Training Courses. The University is compiling a series of cross-CDT training events delivered at a rate of one per year, covering personal professional development, equality, diversity and inclusion, and responsible innovation.
  7. Commercial scientific software programme. A programme of training in the use and application of some of the most common commercial software packages used in industry is under construction (this activity will be opened up to appropriate CDTs in Cambridge as well as to aligned PhD students studying in the partner departments, to reflect the broad utility of these tools in the science and technology fields). The programme will involve yearly, intensive training courses (2-3 days in duration) on ABAQUS, COMSOL, MATLAB and ScanIP from Synopsys. The training courses will culminate in group projects, ensuring close collaboration that will strengthen student relationships within and between the CDTs. These activities are also industrially impactful, since the skills acquired in industrial software usage are transferable and highly coveted amongst employers.
  8. Industrial internship programme. The students participate in the mandatory industrial internship programme in the second year of their PhD. Placements are currently on offer at BIOVIA, Mathworks, COMSOL and Synopsys. These activities are highly valuable, since they give the students an opportunity to experience a commercial operating environment, the opportunity to develop some of their own industrial contacts, and the opportunity to secure immediate employment post-PhD. 
  9. Entrepreneurship programme. The bespoke Entrepreneurship Programme includes an optional entrepreneurship programme with the Judge Business School (EnterpriseTECH scheme), a compulsory entrepreneurship seminar day with BP, and a series of compulsory lectures and classes on commercialisation, start-up funding, intellectual property, licencing, technology transfer, and management. These are delivered by personnel from Cambridge Enterprise (the commercialisation arm of the University) and industry figures with experience in these areas such as Neil Crabb, the Chief Executive of Frontier IP, Angela Bradbury – the founder of Chime Advisors, and Dr. Jos Martin from Mathworks. Recent talks in this series have included “Learning to Commercialise Deep Learning”, “Funding Scientific Software Start-ups”, and “The Differences between Lab-based Code Development and Commercial Code Development”. Students are also encouraged to attend the monthly lectures that are delivered as part of the Innovation Seminar Series within the Maxwell Centre.
  10. Scientific seminar series. These mandatory lectures on topics of scientific computing are designed to encourage the students to interact with established scientists in their fields, to discuss new ideas, to debate results, and to inspire new research directions. Many of the lectures are delivered as part of the Lennard-Jones seminar series, which has included contributions from eminent scientists and from newly established academics. Talks have included “Simulating bio-molecular and soft-matter systems at multiple length and time scales” and “Exploration and learning of free energy landscapes of molecular crystals and oligopeptides”. A recent addition to our speaker list is Dr. Richard Green (Engineering Manager at Solar Turbines in San Diego), who will deliver an invited talk on the “Application of digital twin technologies in the gas turbine industry by integrating physics-based models with analytics, to provide comprehensive solutions for high value asset management”.
  11. Conference attendance. The students are encouraged to attend international conferences to present their work, particularly in Years 3 and 4 of the 4-year training programme, to improve their presentation skills, and to network with international colleagues. To date, more than 40 conferences have been attended by Cohorts 1 to 5 of the existing CDT.
  12. Responsible Research and Innovation (RI). It is of value for the students to appreciate how science and innovation can have transformative effects on the lives of citizens. To support RI in the Centre two lectures are delivered during Year 1 of the programme. In addition to this, the students are now required to review their Year 1 and Years 2-4 research projects for RI implications and to present their findings to each other and to the CDT management team with a ten-minute presentation. This is in addition to university-provided training in RI, namely a one-day training course on “Introduction to responsible innovation”, a one-day course on “Research Integrity”, and a hands-on responsible innovation workshop.
  13. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training. We are committed within the CDT to having an environment where diversity is celebrated and where everyone is treated equally. As part of an updated programme of ED&I activities, students will participate in lectures and workshops on ED&I issues that have been developed in consultation with the University’s ED&I consultants. These events are valuable for ensuring that the students’ ideas on ED&I are aligned with those of the CDT, and for ensuring that the students are conscious of ED&I issues, aware of their origins, clear about how the management team intend to address those issues where needed, and fully engaged in the ED&I initiatives of the CDT. 
  14. Outreach. A scientific software demonstration that is under development for the “Physics at Work” initiative will be modified as part of an updated outreach activity. It involves usage of the recently released, Lattice-Boltzmann-based, ANSYS Discovery Live platform to perform real-time, GPU-enabled CFD simulations with accompanying fluid flow experiments. This will be supported with GPU-based simulations using code developed in the CDT for simulating multiphase flows. The CDT students will support this initiative by participating in roadshow events at schools and colleges, gaining experience in science communication along the way. CDT students will also participate in The Dissemination of IT for the Promotion of Materials Science initiative, which is an online collection of interactive teaching and learning resources covering many aspects of materials science. The site attracts ~2000 unique visits per day.
  15. Creativity@home. At the beginning of Year 2, students will also participate in a one-day creativity and communication workshop, enabled by the EPSRC Creativity@home scheme.  They will be given training in how to communicate their research to non-specialists in a jargon-free and engaging way, which is a necessary skill for successful outreach activities such as the one described above. As with previous sessions, this activity will be used to prepare for the Roadshow and Physics at Work outreach initiatives that are run in the latter half of Year 2 and in Year 3.
  16. CECAM Workshops. The CDT has a long-term vision for international cooperation in software development, based on an Open Innovation model. This vision has been utilised by CECAM which, since 2015, has run extended workshops based on this model. These workshops provide an excellent training resource for any students working in the chosen research field, and workshop participation will be funded by the CDT.
  17. Coding competition and hackathon. Students will engage with those in other computational-related CDTs (subject to funding) in a friendly but competitive environment to create novel code that targets a particular commercial or academic need – for example the development of mobile Apps to promote their research and spread awareness of materials modelling.
  18. Mini Careers Fair. An annual mini Careers Fair will be organised for June of each year and opened up to students in the third and fourth year of their integrated training programmes.