Jenny - final year theoretical physics 2011


St Andrews East Sands, Harbour, and Cathedral, in winter - photo by R W HilditchWhen I came to visit St. Andrews it was different from any other University I had looked at. The town is beautiful, full of history and, amazingly, also on the coast and surrounded by the beautiful countryside of Fife. It is also small and consequently feels very safe and has a real student vibe. Despite having a stinking cold and feeling terrible, it was immediately obvious that I wouldn't find a better environment to spend the next few years to study in.

During my second year, I joined the University Air Squadron as a reservist in the RAF (and that there is any obligation to join up afterwards is a myth, by the way!). Through my years on the squadron, I have completed Elementary Flying Training, which means that I have flown solo aerobatics, navigation and formation flying and have more than enough experience to gain my Private Pilots Licence. I was also given positions of responsibility as I moved up through the years, such as flight commander and senior student, the latter of which attains a rank promotion. These roles allowed me much freedom to make important decisions and the experiences I gained tick many boxes on my CV.

Jenny Additionally as a reservist, I joined the Mountain Rescue team also based at Leuchars, which involves being on a one hour call-out readiness 24/7 and attending at least one in two training weekends. The mountaineering experience that I gained in one year in such a training orientated environment was immense and I was involved in some major call-outs which, again, were incredible experiences.

Influenced by my experience in Mountain Rescue, I also became a very keen climber and after a year managed to qualify for the European Military Championships, In which I ranked sixth in the overall women's competition.

In my third year I undertook the ID4001 Teaching Science module, which involved a placement at a small secondary school in Fife. I chose to work with a lower-achieving class of 11-13 year olds, mostly because I wanted the challenge of getting them interested in learning. I built a rapport with some of these students and was immensely rewarded when they started partaking more in class. Although I probably won't go into teaching, I found the experience very very satisfying and well worth while.

Invisibility cloak designed by Prof Ulf Leonhardt

After deciding to do the full MPhys Theoretical Physics course, I went about looking for a thesis topic that I could write myself and became interested in the science of invisibility and transformation optics, led by Prof Ulf Leonhardt at St. Andrews. The support I received from advanced research fellow Dr Simon Horsley was excellent and I was able to let the project progress naturally, rather than stick to a formal outline - real research! Simon is continuing work on some of the things that we found and, with any luck, we will produce a paper on it, which is pretty exciting.

Overall, my time at St. Andrews has been busy, rich and varied and I feel as though I have achieved a great deal and have made some life long friends. I am sad to leave such a beautiful place, but also feel ready to venture into the next era of my life and know that I will reminisce fondly when I look back at all the things I have done here.