Jonathon, Mathematics & Physics, from the USA, 2012

I didn't really know what to expect when I came to St Andrews; the first day of Freshers' week was my first time to St Andrews. With that being said I am glad I chose to come here and don't think I would have been happy anywhere else. The system here is extremely different to that of the States and I like that if you know what you want to study then you don't have to take general studies courses (i.e. a history course which doesn't apply to a physics degree).

I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience studying physics. The modules are interesting and cover a wide range of topics which let me get a broad view of physics and a taste of possible postgraduate fields I might like to pursue. The tutorials help to solidify and test your understand of what the courses have taught and the labs help to apply taught material to real world experiments. All the members of faculty are very approachable and everybody is willing to help a student in need.

Now that I'm going into my final year, I have started to look at postgraduate programmes and previous lecturers have given me invaluable advice on where I might think of applying. Not only have they given me advice but I was lucky enough to do a summer internship with one of them, Chris Hooley. I can't describe how rewarding the internship has been. It has given me insight into what theoretical research projects are like and I was even able to go to a conference related to my project with Chris where I saw what other physicists were working on.

Jonathon is pictured (centre) with other physics and astronomy research interns
from summer 2012 at an event to celebrate their achievements.

Although I don't think I will pursue a theoretical postgraduate degree, my project helped me realise I would prefer to do experimental research while allowing me to get an idea of the theory behind the experiments I may one day do. I was concerned that if I wanted to do a PhD in experimental physics I would need some lab experience (outside taught courses) when making my application but there wasn't much time to do anything. Thankfully another member of the School, Clifford Hicks, was willing to supervise me while I work on a short experimental project which he was looking into. After doing this second project, I am certain that I want to do a PhD in an experimental field.

Having spent the majority of my summer in the physics building I have seen some of what its like to be part of the department. I really like that there are daily tea/coffee breaks where all the members of staff can come and take a break from their work, and I may come to some during term time as its always interesting to hear what people are working on. I know at some universities there is a large divide separating staff and students, so its nice to be able to sit down with lecturers outside of class and have a chat, maybe over a pint. I can't imagine grabbing a drink with a professor at many other places, definitely not in the States, which is something I will keep with me from my days at St Andrews.


First posted BDS 27.9.12