Mike Aspinall's bursary placement

During Summer 2008, Mike Aspinall and Emma Taylor spent four weeks working at Unilever Research & Development in Wirral on a project entitled Low cost water heaters to suit developing world markets. Emma and Mike presented their work at the Big Bang Fair in March, and were awarded a Research Councils UK Lab Prize in recognition of their achievements. We talked to Mike to find out what taking part in the Nuffield bursary project was like.

Mike Aspinall


Why did you want to take part in a bursary project?
I thought it would be a really good way to spend the summer, since it would give me some very useful work experience and allow me to do some real life research on a topic that interests me.

What were the aims of your project, and how did you go about achieving these?
The project involved researching into solar power and water heating systems, with the intention of building a working prototype of a solar water heater aimed specifically at developing markets. We spent the first week doing mainly web-based research, then came up with our initial designs during the second week. We spent the last two weeks refining the designs and making the product.

What did you learn most from your bursary experience?
I got to see how things operate at major R&D institutes such as Unilever, which was particularly useful since I intend to one day work in a similar environment.

What are you doing now, and what are your longer term plans?
I'm just finishing my A levels, after which I intend to go to University to study Chemistry with Research in Industry.

How did your bursary experience affect these plans?
I think it just made certain the fact that I wish to study and work in the Chemical Industry.

How does it feel to have won the RCUK award at the Big Bang Fair?
I was very surprised! But it felt really good knowing that my hard work has been recognised and rewarded. I've also had my photograph taken for an article in the local newspaper.