Zoe - MPhys Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, 2013

I moved to St. Andrews three years ago from Falkirk, an industrial town in central Scotland. Before I came, I had not understood that “elegant” could be used to describe ideas, as opposed to the way my Mother desired I walk when sporting a pair of tights.

I am currently in my final year of an MPhys Mathematics and Theoretical Physics course. During my time at St Andrews, I have not only been introduced to fascinating ideas in Physics – and some that are contrary to our expectations based on everyday experiences - but to new ways of thinking. Next year, I wish to continue studying and researching Physics – perhaps in another country or perhaps here in the United Kingdom. I am particularly interested in Particle Physics and Quantum Information Theory. It is unlikely that I would possess such ambitions had I not come to St Andrews to study.

Zoe (second from right) with other summer interns at Freie Universität in Berlin,
on a trip to Poland

Apart from explaining the terms “Particle Physics” and “Quantum Information Theory” to me, the international nature of the Physics Department at the University of St Andrews and the encouragement to participate in summer research projects are wholly responsible for my keen-ness to study and research abroad in the future. I left high school and applied for only one university place outwith Scotland. And yet, I spent my recent summer at the Freie Universität in Berlin, Germany studying Bose-Einstein Condensation principles. During my time in Germany I was reminded, once again, how much I relish meeting people from different cultural backgrounds. My own conceptions have regularly been challenged and strengthened through speaking to others with different upbringings.

The communication between staff and students is an advantage of studying Physics at the University of St Andrews. I have sat on student councils in the past – but I have never felt that time and resources were as well spent as when I joined the Student Staff Council in Physics. In general, the Physics Department staff are very friendly, approachable and encourage students to question the material they are presented with. They are also keen to receive feedback on their courses and tangible changes have been made as a result of the student voice.

I cannot, in a few short paragraphs, explain how I have changed as a result of studying Physics at the University of St Andrews. Crucially, I have started to question some of my own philosophy and I strive to do so in the critical and logical way adopted by my teachers when they present academic arguments. I am optimistic that studying Physics at the University of St Andrews has taught me how to think in new styles and in ways that will enable me to tackle new problems in research and work environments in the future.

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First posted BDS 22.9.13