Student Profile

Kim, Fourth Year Physics

When it came round to applying for university courses at High School, I really struggled to make up my mind where to start with what course or subject to apply for. My best subject throughout school had always been languages, mainly German. I had received several awards and it seemed a natural route to follow this through. However, as I got further into my studies languages I found it fairly easy and it became less fun. I always enjoyed science too, Chemistry but particularly Physics. The problem solving aspect of it really drew me towards the subject. I liked the idea of asking why? And sitting back and thinking about it. In the summer in my 5th year I attended the Scottish Space School at Strathclyde University and this consolidated my decision. I decided Engineering would be perfect for me, it seemed so exciting to be able to put scientific knowledge into a real practical, hands on application.

I went to several open days for engineering across Scotland and soon discovered that maybe that it wasn’t quite my cup of tea. As St Andrews didn’t do engineering I came here for the physics open day and this changed my mind completely. I still remember Bruce’s bright cheery face as he gave the introduction lecture, throwing liquid nitrogen across the floor. I knew immediately physics was what I really wanted to study.
I still debated between which university to study physics which required several more visits. I come from a small village just outside Kinross and had attended Kinross High School. Which ever university I chose in Scotland I knew I wouldn’t be too far from home which was a reassuring thought. I was unsure of St Andrews, the small student body and town was very different from other university towns in Scotland, and I was unsure if that would suit me. Eventually I was swayed to St Andrews by knowledge that it has the best Physics department in Scotland. 3 years later and I can agree it really does.
I haven’t looked back since making that decision 3 years ago. The physics department here are always so friendly and helpful, I feel perfectly at home. I wasn’t always very confident with maths at school and I was concerned about this holding me back. But with the maths revision classes and knowing there is help on hand whenever required I really had no problem settling in. I really enjoy my course, and enjoy always being kept on my feet with challenging problems and projects.

This summer I took part in a research project with the optical manipulation group within the school. In the third year transferable skills module, we have to undertake a small independent project on a topic of research. I loved my project and learning about something completely new to me. As a result I went on to ask my supervisor if there was a summer project I could do and I was given a great opportunity to work on optical trapping using lasers, as shown in the picture at the top of this page. My internship was a very good whole round experience, I was amazed to see all the research that goes on in the school as well as the teaching. I learnt a lot about practical research and at points it was challenging but I learnt patience is required in research and the ability to search for solutions.

Relaxing during the third year conference weekend

I am looking forward to the next year of my course and where it will take me. Although I am still unsure of where I will go after university, I know I made the best choice in choosing to study Physics at St Andrews. I've loved my course so far and feel it has set me up for life whatever I decide to do.

First posted BDS 11.9.14