Tom - Fourth Year Physics - 2018

When I first visited St Andrews back in 2015, I instantly fell in love with its many charms and its unique atmosphere, blending a world class academic institution with the feel of a quaint Scottish seaside town. Even though living far from my home back in Sheffield seemed daunting at first, I do not regret it a single bit.

I expected that Physics at St Andrews would be very formal with a tight focus on the work and your professional career. But while that focus does exist, most of the lecturers have a very friendly and laid back attitude, willing to help with any problem a student may have, even if you have to go back many times! The small size of the department also fosters a sense of community within all the members of the department where everyone knows everyone, which has helped myself and many other students feel very welcome upon first arriving in the department.

As I complete my fourth year in the Physics MPhys course, it's strange to think how much I have covered in such a short amount of time, ranging from Electromagnetism to Lagrangian Mechanics to Optics; yet every moment has been thoroughly enjoyable, with rarely a dull moment. The course itself has been fantastic, with an emphasis on not only making sure you have a good theoretical grasp of the material, but on also improving your scientific methods and presentation skills; key requirements for any physicist. The labs especially have given me an extreme sense of freedom, allowing me to push myself beyond the material and directly investigate phenomena that form active fields of research.

My time at St Andrews has also allowed me to push myself out of my comfort zone and into the world of research through internships. For example, during the previous summer, I spent three months at the University of Toronto, partly funded by the School of Physics and Astronomy at St Andrews. My work involved the tagging of Intrinsically Disordered Proteins with fluorescent dyes to determine their properties via analysis of the dye’s spectra, which could then be applied in a medical context to determine ways of mediating protein interactions. The picture above is from that internship. Doing these internships is highly encouraged by the University as it massively aids a student's CV once they leave the University to go into further study or a career; I would highly recommend these to any student thinking of moving into research after their degree.

Outside of study, I have been heavily involved in other aspects of the University, allowing me to try many new experiences and meet new people. I was Treasurer then later President of the University of St Andrews Astronomical Society, which also has the privilege of being one of the largest student run astronomy societies in the UK. I had the great pleasure of helping to organise many events associated with the society, including the annual charity ball, Star Ball, and an international excursion to Iceland.

St Andrews truly isn’t like any other university, there is always something new to be found in this small town, even when you least expect it. It is a wonderful and unique place where lifelong friendships are forged and unforgettable memories are born. It’s not just a place to study, it’s home.

First posted BDS 20.4.18