The UROP students at the Whittle Laboratory

This year was the Aviation Impact Accelerator’s third year of bringing in undergraduates from the University of Cambridge for our summer sprint – the period over summer where we focus on advancing much of the AIA’s underlying research and modelling. The students worked alongside the AIA team investigating key parts of the aviation system, speaking to industry technical experts and policy makers and presenting their work to our network of academic experts. This year, the students have written about their experiences and the projects they worked on. Their contributions are listed below (bottom left to top right in the photo).

Anastasia Kreslavskaia, first year Engineering student:

During my time at the AIA, which focused on statistical analysis for biofuels availability, I had the privilege of working closely with a team of skilled professionals. Their support throughout this experience was invaluable, allowing me to contribute effectively. This collaborative environment not only improved my research, presentation, and soft skills but also left me with a deep sense of appreciation for the meaningful experience we shared.

Elena Merican, second year Engineering student:

I focused on science communications and data visualisation during my UROP, translating the AIA’s work to a broader audience. To this end, I worked on short videos about key areas of opportunity for sustainable aviation, including hydrogen planes, contrails, aircraft operations and sustainable aviation fuels (SAFs). These aimed to balance factual correctness, optimism, and accessibility. Alongside creating media, I also contributed to a presentation of research on global biomass availability for the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), gaining insight into the challenges of communicating complex research in an impactful way. During my eight weeks in the Lab, I developed an appreciation for the importance of effectively communicating the AIA’s work to facilitate change.

Vidhi Sharma, third year Engineering student:

This summer, I have been working on producing a prototype version of a web-based tool that is capable of computing airport emissions and modelling the liquid hydrogen transition at airports to enable net zero aviation. This experience was extremely rewarding in that I got to work on first-order systems modelling as well as further developing proficiency in software programming and web design. I was supervised and mentored by academics throughout this time, allowing me to gain some extremely valuable insights from their expertise. Overall, the AIA was a very positive work environment, and I gained a lot of knowledge and experience working as part of such a multi-disciplinary team.

Sherry Fu, second year Engineering student:

My two months working with the AIA was pleasant and productive. Being a member of the non-CO2 emissions team, I felt like my work was valued and meaningful. I focused on contrails dataset exploration, aiming at current model modification. Since the AIA has a great goal to bring all aspects of aviation manufacture onto the same table and talk with common language, my work with databases was one of the fundamental things to fill in the gap of information barriers. The project enhanced my research and data analysis skills. It was a rewarding internship for my career.

Yuchi Guo, second year natural sciences student:

My UROP project worked to try to understand the future potential of hydrogen produced from renewable electricity (‘green hydrogen’), which presently has a negligible role in current hydrogen end uses. Green hydrogen is particularly important for the aviation industry, as it is one of only a few sustainable alternatives for this hard-to-abate sector. However, the future potential of green hydrogen is a complex issue, and is driven by factors like demand, supply, policy, amongst others. Apart from the interesting content of my project and helpful guidance from my academic supervisor Prof David Reiner, the friendly AIA team and fellow AIA students have also made the experience enjoyable.

Stephen Ma, second year Engineering student:

The AIA summer UROP project has been an amazing experience. I worked on aircraft fuel consumption modelling, and looked into contrail avoidance fuel penalties, applying previous research results. The work environment was excellent, and I felt well-integrated with the AIA team members and my fellow UROP students, and I’ve strongly developed my knowledge of aircraft and the wider aviation industry as a result of this placement.

James Leong, third year Mechanical Engineering student:

Doing a UROP with the AIA was a great experience for me. I worked with the Airport Team to develop a tool that can give insights into an airport’s emissions and how that airport may transition to accommodate hydrogen aircraft in future. It was a challenging project which pushed me to learn new skills in system modelling and software development, and I was fortunate to have kind and helpful mentors who provided me with invaluable guidance. They were also supportive and made me feel like an important part of the team despite being a summer intern. I really enjoyed my time with the AIA and look forward to seeing what the future holds for this amazing team!

Callum Harries, third year Engineering student:

During the summer, I began the development of an experimental rig that will be used to form contrails in the lab. This was a really exciting project that gave me a stronger understanding of the underlying thermodynamics and the opportunity to develop new skills. It involved developing a design that matched the theoretical conditions for contrail formation, and consideration of the design’s practical feasibility.

The AIA are involved in many interesting projects and, through presentations and group discussions, I learned much more outside the scope of my project. The team are all very friendly, helpful, and passionate about their work, making the AIA an enjoyable and rewarding place to work. I would highly recommend spending the summer on an AIA UROP for the chance to collaborate within a leading research group working towards solutions to very important, challenging and current issues.

Jack Swerdlow, Chemical Engineering Tripos IIB (Fourth Year):

During my time at the AIA I worked as part of the fuels team, specifically working on SAF production routes and biomass availability. I learned lots of invaluable skills such as collaborative coding and professional presenting, all while working alongside a brilliant group of people who couldn’t have made me feel more welcome. Whilst originally, I wasn’t looking forward to working for most of my summer holidays, I’d gladly do it all over again, as it has not only given a big boost to my CV but was also enjoyable throughout.

Thanks to all our 2023 summer students who made a huge contribution to the AIA! If you’re a University of Cambridge student, next year’s UROP application process will open in Spring/Summer 2024.