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Student finds it IS rocket science after research award
A FIRST-YEAR Durham University physics student is celebrating after her project to study laser welding in space was chosen by the European Space Agency (ESA).
This means that Ioana Ciuca - and fellow students from the Polytechnic University of Bucharest in Romania - will get to put their project on the REXUS (Rocket-borne Experiments for University Students) rocket next year.
The project, to study the laser welding of metals in micro gravity, was chosen by a panel of experts at the ESA's space research centre in the Netherlands.
Ioana, aged 19, who came to Durham because her passion for cosmology led her to seek out the best teaching in the discipline available in Europe, has just attended a week's training course for the mission at the German Aerospace Centre.
Paul Clark, from Durham University's Centre for Advanced Instrumentation - part of the Department of Physics - said Ioana and her fellow undergraduate colleagues beat off competition from physics students with far more experience.
"This is an outstanding achievement since most REXUS projects are submitted by postgraduate and post-doctoral students. Ioana is the only first year student among the successful project teams.
"At the project selection event, the ESA praised the team for their professionalism and enthusiasm - especially since they are at such an early point in their careers.
"I have been making instrumentation for international observatories for 15 years - Ioana's team is taking on the same level of project in their first years at University. It is remarkable," added Mr Clark.
As mankind establishes a foothold in space with the construction of the International Space Station, it is essential to establish how the properties of materials can change in micro gravity. Ioana's team are particularly interested in how the welding of strong, lightweight materials such as titanium alloys changes if they are welded in free-fall rather than under Earth's gravity.
Ioana, who comes from near Bucharest in Romania, said: "It is fantastic to be able to study physics in beautiful Durham. The University has an excellent international reputation and it is wonderful to be here."
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