Student Profile

David - Level 4 Theoretical Physics 2013

I came to St Andrews from Germany in 2010 and initially had not planned on studying physics. Although I was born in Göttingen in Germany I spent the first four years of my life living in Cambridge before moving to Munich. Due to somewhat overly romantic memories of my time in the UK I had always been very sure that I wanted to spend some more time in Britain and decided there would be no better time to attempt to do so than University.

After going through the usual visiting and UCAS application process I received my offer from St Andrews for a place in theological studies. Choosing St Andrews at the time was not a difficult choice for me: For one it was the University town I had most enjoyed visiting immediately falling in love with its scenic position on Scotland’s eastern coast. For another I liked the fact that the way the courses were set up would allow me to study modules from multiple disciplines in the first two years of my studies and I took full advantage of that fact by starting my first semester with Theology, Physics and Arabic (before switching to Math). I continued studying Theology and Physics side by side until I realized at some point during my second year that I was spending far more of my time thinking about and engaging with physics problems and thoroughly enjoying doing so. So I applied for a change of degree from the MA (honours) in theological studies to a BSc in Physics. A couple of months later I changed degree again to an MPhys in theoretical physics which I have been pursuing ever since. I think that one of the greatest strengths of St Andrews University is this relative freedom to dip into different departments during the first couple of years of studies.

Two of David's ceilidh band line-ups.
Upper - David is far left, Lower - far right

Aside from academic work St Andrews does have quite a few things to offer. As a guitarist I had been slightly worried that the small size of the town would be a problem. Although there is an issue concerning enough rehearsal space for fully amped loud bands, St Andrews does have quite an active music scene. Open Mics are being held in one of the many pubs at least once a week and the Student lead music society puts on quite a few of their own. Over the past years I have quite enjoyed listening in on the weekly jazz jam sessions – a music genre I have since fallen in love with. I, myself, have started playing in a local ceilidh band and am currently trying to set up a blues band with some friends.

Some coordinate geometry on the beach with friends ..

In my second year one of my professors kindly nominated me to the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes). Through them I am currently taking part in a scientific training group on the subject of anthropogenic climate change. The plan of the training group is to get students to spend time beside their studies engaging with the issue and doing some novel research. In my case I shall be looking at networks and network stability of energy networks for instance and their fluctuation under addition of renewable energy sources for instance. But the same methods can also be used to examine infrastructure networks and interlinked networks (networks of networks). This may be interesting for future climate change considerations, because it is possible to depict the earth’s climate and all its interconnections as interlinked networks. By understanding how networks can be made stable or what their greatest weaknesses are it is possible to then draw conclusions as to what factors of the world climate are the most unstable or rather how big the impact of their tipping would be for the system as a whole.

Ever since coming to St Andrews I have never once regretted my decision to study here. If it had not been for this University and the professors in question I probably would have never ended up in physics. To any student coming here in future I would give the advice to study as broad as you feel like, as it was really the freedom to go into different subject matters that helped me make my final decision to do what I am doing now.

First posted BDS 10.13