Guest blog: Ten things that I experienced as an Ashok Kumar Fellow

14th October 2016

In February 2016 Akshay Deshmukh, a postgraduate chemical engineering student at Yale University, Connecticut, US, was awarded the IChemE-NEPIC Ashok Kumar Fellowship for 2016.

The Ashok Kumar Fellowship provides an annual opportunity for a graduate chemical engineer to spend three months working at the UK Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology (POST). It is jointly funded by the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) and the North-East of England Process Industry Cluster (NEPIC).

Ashok Kumar, a Fellow of IChemE and Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Middlesbrough South and Cleveland East, UK, died suddenly in 2010. He was the only Chartered Chemical Engineer in the UK House of Commons at the time.

If you are interested in being IChemE's next Ashok Kumar Fellow apply by the 31 October 2016.

Education: Chemical Engineering (MEng), University of Cambridge, UK

Job Title: PhD Student, Yale University, US

Research interests: Energy efficient ways of processing contaminated water into clean drinking water

Fellowship winner Akshay is a chemical engineering graduate. He is currently undertaking a PhD in Chemical and Environmental Engineering. For his Ashok Kumar Fellowship he worked on a POSTnote on Nuclear Security. Here are his experiences from undertaking the Fellowship:

1.Learning about a new and exciting topic

Prior to the Fellowship I knew very little about nuclear security. Learning about the subject from scratch was a very interesting process and opened my eyes to a new set of issues and ideas.

2. Meeting and interviewing leaders from a variety of fields

Conveying expert opinion is a key part of POST’s work. During the Fellowship, I had the opportunity to meet and interview a range of specialists from Government, Parliament, the UK’s nuclear regulator, the nuclear industry, security think tanks, and academia. Hearing their assessments of complex issues first hand proved invaluable.

3. Gathering, analysing, and evaluating information from a broad range of sources

Reading and understanding reports from a wide range of sources (including Government, industry, think tanks, and academic institutions) is central to the research process at POST. Learning how to read these reports and analyse the information that they present is a skill that has helped me with my PhD work.

4. Learning to write in a clear, concise, and impartial way

Communicating complex ideas in a clear, concise, and impartial way is an essential part of POST’s work. The Fellowship has certainly helped me formulate and express my thoughts and ideas in a more elegant and succinct fashion.

5. Applying chemical engineering knowledge to help understand key issues

Chemical engineering plays a vital role across the nuclear industry. The Fellowship gave me the opportunity to apply knowledge that I have learned as a chemical engineering student to help me understand some of the main issues in the nuclear security debate.

6. Seeing the power of the IChemE’s vast network of chemical engineering professionals

The IChemE’s wide network of experts were extremely helpful in the research process. Dr Alana Collis very kindly put POST in touch with IChemE members working throughout the nuclear industry and in the UK’s nuclear regulator. Their insights were invaluable in helping me understand the key issues faced by the nuclear industry.

7. Learning from POST’s scientific advisers

Learning how to analyse complex topics first hand from POST’s team of scientific advisers was one of the highlights of the Fellowship. My supervisor, Dr Chandrika Nath, really helped me develop the skills necessary to research, analyse, and present complex information accurately and clearly.

8. Attending debates and select committee hearings in Parliament

I had watched debates and select committee hearings online and on television before, but being there in person was an unforgettable experience. I’ll always remember seeing David Cameron’s last Prime Minister’s Questions from the Serjeant at Arms’ box in the Public Gallery of the Commons Chamber.

9. Working with a team of Fellows researching a variety of topics

Over the course of the Fellowship I worked alongside several other PhD students working at POST and in the House of Commons Library. Learning about their research and getting their perspectives on a range of policy issues was very broadening.

10. Working in and around the Palace of Westminster

Being in and around Parliament on a daily basis was exhilarating and never became routine. During the Fellowship I spent many hours exploring the palace, including tours of the Parliamentary archives in the Victoria Tower and Big Ben. Regularly seeing the MPs and Lords that I had read so much about was an incredible part of the Fellowship.

The Ashok Kumar Fellowship provides funding for one successful candidate each year to spend three months working at the UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST).

The post-holder is expected to produce a short briefing paper, contribute to a longer report or assist a select committee in a current inquiry. The topic of the work will be relevant to chemical and process engineering or the process industries. The Fellowship is jointly funded by IChemE and NEPIC.

If you are interested in being IChemE's next Ashok Kumar Fellow apply by the 31 October 2016.