Additional Summer Undergraduate Research Experiences available

Thanks to support from the Institute for Space, we are re-opening applications for the Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE2024) scheme for 2nd, 3rd and 4th year Leicester undergraduates.

The SURE programme provides paid opportunities for capable undergraduates to get a flavour of what it is like to work at the cutting-edge of research in the School of Physics and Astronomy. 

We will host 8-10 Leicester undergraduates (2nd, 3rd or 4th year students studying in the College of Science and Engineering) for paid internships, working on Central Campus or at Space Park Leicester. Internships will be for a maximum of six weeks (35 hrs/week) and can be undertaken at any point between June 1st and July 31st, subject to negotiation with the proposed supervision team. You will be expected to present the results of your internship to the School at the end of August and to provide reports to your supervisors, as appropriate. 

We particularly encourage applications from students who have not benefited from an internship in the past and are yet to secure a graduate position, for whom an internship will likely be of greatest benefit for their long-term career ambitions. 

Application Process

To make an application, please send an email to with the following two attachments: 

  • A one-page curriculum vitae as a PDF. This should summarise your qualifications, employment history, and any relevant experience or achievements. 
  • A completed application form as a PDF (you must be logged in to view the page). Your application must include, 
    • a selection of three projects from the list below; 
    • any dates between June 1st and August 31st on which you are unavailable (you may also, optionally, specify the dates during that period on which you would prefer to undertake your project); 
    • A nominated referee (this person will only be contacted for a standard Unitemps reference if you are shortlisted for a post); and 
    • a personal statement (no more than one side of A4) explaining how your existing skills and experience make you well suited to excel at your three selected projects. 

Applications will be accepted at any time before 2pm on Monday April 8th. Please do not leave it to the last minute. 

Selections will be made by a panel consisting of the SURE supervisors below, with announcements by late April 2023. The criteria for selection include: 

  • Progress and grades during your degree to date. 
  • Suitability for the chosen research project, including appropriate computational or experimental skills. 
  • Context of the application such as how this may benefit future career ambitions, improving access to underrepresented groups, or topical decisions for PhD research or further employment. 

Please address any queries to

Project Descriptions

Please continue to check back as more projects may be added to the list below. 

BRI24: New Analytical Microscopy Techniques at the University of Leicester 
MCM24: Understanding the Milky Way’s warp using simulations of galaxy collisions 
PAR24: Developing an environmental Digital Twin demonstrator for outreach applications
POV24: Are Clouds Fractal? 

BRI24: New Analytical Microscopy Techniques at the University of Leicester 

Supervisor team: Prof John Bridges, Dr Leon Hicks 
Categories: Experimental 
Location: Space Park Leicester 

Planetary materials research at the University of Leicester involves analysis, with a wide range of microscopy-based analytical techniques, of meteorites and material returned from missions to asteroids and comets, the Moon, and ultimately Mars. Every year we hold an RAS-funded planetary materials internship to help develop some aspect of our research.  

This year the student will be trained in the use of electron microscopes and in particular aspects of a newly installed Zeiss microscope system (housed in the Advanced Microscopy Facility) which allows correlated Computer Tomography, focused ion beam, femtosecond laser and high-resolution electron microscopy. This ‘Hercules’ system can provide highly accurate compositional and textural analyses of planetary materials, combining datasets in a unique way. The femtosecond laser and ion beam can also potentially be used to mill and extract microscopic components for space instrumentation. 

This internship will involve understanding the theory and analyses of selected planetary materials and other material to help build our capability with this instrumental technique – which is unique in the UK and Europe. It is suitable for a student interested in an interdisciplinary, experimental space science project. 

MCM24: Understanding the Milky Way’s warp using simulations of galaxy collisions 

Supervisor team: Dr Paul McMillan, Prof Sergei Nayakshin
Categories: Data Analysis, Computational, Theoretical 
Location: Campus 

The Milky Way is a disc galaxy, but we can now see that the outer part of the disc is warped. Because the galaxy is so big, and changes so slowly, we cannot directly see how this warp is changing over time. Theoretical models lead us to expect that the warp is a long-lasting, stable structure in the galaxy, and is only moving very slowly. However, we can now measure the velocities of large numbers of stars in the warp, and these are not consistent with a warp having a stable shape. The warp appears to precess around the galaxy as fast as the stars themselves are moving! We need to understand why this is happening. One possibility is that the warp is not long lasting but is instead the response to a recent interaction with another Galaxy.

This project will look at computer simulations of these interactions and investigate whether the warp created in them has the same behaviour that we see in the Milky Way. The student will take existing Python code and simulation results and use and adapt them to analyse this data and understand the Milky Way’s warp.

PAR24: Developing an environmental Digital Twin demonstrator for outreach 

Supervisor team: Dr Rob Parker, Dr Cristina Ruiz Villena, Dr Josh Vande Hey, Ms Rose Meadows
Categories: Computational, Data Analysis, Experimental
Location: Space Park Leicester

Digital Twins (DTs) of the environment are an emerging field of research and have become the next frontier in the translation of data into actionable information. A Digital Twin is a digital copy of a physical system that can be used to explore ‘what-if’ scenarios and plan interventions, leading to better decision making. In this project, the student will develop a demonstrator that helps us communicate how DTs work, as well as their purpose and wider societal impact. The demonstrator will consist of:

  • A physical component (the ‘Physical Twin’), which will involve small sensors. For example, it could be a small enclosure with sensors monitoring variables such as CO2, temperature, humidity, etc.
  • A digital component (the ‘Digital Twin’), which would involve creating a simple model, potentially using machine learning, that takes in observations and allows the user to make changes and explore the outcomes through an interactive dashboard. The DT would serve two purposes: provide predictions to help make decisions; and the ability to effect changes in the physical component and explore the result.

The resulting demonstrator will be used in future science communication and outreach activities to showcase the concept of Digital Twins, which is confusing to many people.

POV24: Are Clouds Fractal? 

Supervisor Team: Dr Adam Povey, Dr Kamil Mroz 
Categories: Data Analysis 
Location: Space Park Leicester 

Clouds are ubiquitous on the Earth, covering about two-thirds of the planet at any given moment. They have numerous and conflicting impacts on climate by reflecting or absorbing solar and thermal radiation. Changes in the behaviour of clouds due to human activity is a major source of uncertainty in predictions of future climate. A cloud is smaller than the typical length scale of a pixel in a climate model, such that they must be represented by approximations rather than explicit physics. Climate models, therefore, make various assumptions about the shape, size, and evolution of clouds. 

This student will use laser and radio ranging data from satellites and ground-sites to identify the vertical extent of clouds in a variety of environments. From that mask, the fractal dimension clouds will be estimated and compared to previous results. This may be used to assess the accuracy of recent climate modelling. Data analysis will be performed in Python and, though no prior coding experience is necessary, it would be beneficial. 


  • Why are you restricting to 2nd to 4th years? The SURE programme used to be open to 3rd year students from across the UK, but the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic meant that many missed out on the opportunity, so we wanted to give them another shot. We will endeavour to find a good balance of year groups, as described on our assessment criteria above. Our 1st year students will hopefully have the opportunity to apply to the programme in the years to come. 
  • Why only Leicester undergraduates? Following successful pilot programmes in 2021 and 2022, and to focus on supporting Leicester students, we have chosen to keep the programme to internal applicants only. 
  • Will I be required to be in Leicester over the summer? Yes, projects will be conducted in person in Summer 2024, although hybrid working arrangements are possible in consultation with the supervisor team. You would therefore be expected to be near Leicester for the 6-week duration of your internship. 
  • How will I be paid? Students will receive an allowance from which they are expected to fund their accommodation, cost of living and travel expenses. We will use the Unitemps system of temporary staff hires. You will be paid monthly in arrears, meaning that your final payment will likely be made in September. Proof of right-to-work in the UK will be required before the internship begins. 
  • Do I have to do all six weeks consecutively? No, you are able to charge a maximum of 6*35 = 210 hours for your internship via timesheets submitted to Unitemps. You can agree with your supervisors the best way to organise those hours. 
  • How much will I be paid? In previous years students have been paid using Grade 2 Spine Point 5, which was about 5% greater than the 2023 National Minimum Wage. 
  • Do you offer unpaid internships? Unpaid roles are inaccessible and unavailable to low-income students and families, and we discourage students from taking on such positions. Your work and time are valuable, so you should be reimbursed. 
  • Are there other opportunities? Possibly – contact individual tutors, advisors, and staff to see if funds are available to support internships outside of the SURE programme (e.g. through fellowships). We will advertise any opportunities as soon as we are aware of them. 

Share this page:

Share this page:

Leave a Reply

Network-wide options by YD - Freelance Wordpress Developer