Undergraduate Summer Internship: June - September 2011

An internship position, supported by the Royal Society, is available to work on problems in applied dynamical systems this summer. The projects will be supervised by myself and others at the University of Bath.

The project I've proposed below has a substantial experimental side, (as well as some theoretical work to do, perhaps). Substantial guidance will be given!

General information

The idea of these internships, which I've offered for several years now, is to give undergraduate students (i.e. those currently in their third or final undergraduate year) a taste of research, and a concrete problem of current interest to work on. The projects cannot be used to produce work for submission as a final-year BSc or MMath or MSc project, and cannot be counted towards your degree. The internships are intended to be of particular benefit to those seriously considering studying for a PhD.

You will be paid a stipend of 200 per week, for a period of ten weeks between mutually convenient dates in the summer vacation. My understanding is that, as a stipend, this would not be subject to UK income tax or NI contributions. You will be obliged to turn up reliably during office hours, and produce a written report at the end of your internship as evidence of the project work you have carried out.


If you are interested in learning more, please send me (via email) a copy of your CV and a brief statement (not more than 300 words) of your reasons for wanting to do an internship with me this summer. Include details of any previous similar experience you've had in the past, and please include a detailed list of the courses and exam marks you have obtained so far. If you wish, indicate which of the projects most attracts you. Applicants should demonstrate that they have an excellent academic record; a thoughtful and careful approach, persistence and self-motivation are also important qualities.


Project Description: The Thermohaline Circulation

Summary: construct and investigate a fluid-mechanical model experiment for the ocean circulation in the North Atlantic.

The North Atlantic can be modelled, in the roughest possible way, as a pair of boxes into which hot salty water and cold fresh water are introduced, at the equator and north pole respectively. These fluxes drive the usual 'thermohaline circulation' in which hot salty water flows along near the ocean surface from the equator to the pole, where it is cooled and therefore sinks, returning towards the equator at depth before rising as it warms up. Intriguingly, both models [1] and experiments [2], show that it is possible for systems like this to switch into other flow regimes, which would cause far less warm water to circulate, and lead to the Northern parts of the Atlantic (including Europe) cooling down.

The idea of this project is to probe these possible switches, and examine whether it is possible to extract useful information from local measurements in the flow to predict how close the system is to switching from one flow regime into another. This project will use laboratory space and equipment set up recently in the Department of Architecture and Civil Engineering in collaboration with Dr Michael Patterson. A number of complementary visualisation approaches are being developed: the principal two are thermocouple measurements of temperature, and particle image velocimetry (PIV) of the flow field. Operating these will demand learning the relevant software packages and dealing with hardware issues such as calibration of the thermocouples and control of lasers and cameras.

[1] H. Stommel, Thermohaline convection with two stable regimes of flow. Tellus 13, 79-89 (1961) PDF

[2] J.A. Whitehead, Multiple states in doubly driven flow. Physica D 97, 311-321 (1996) PDF