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Where can a Physics degree take you?

We speak to a lecturer and a graduate about the amazing opportunities provided by a Physics degree

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We've spoken to two people with a great understanding of what it is like to study Physics at university: Peter Dunstan, Chair of the Physics Department at the Swansea University, in Swansea, Wales, and Pravin Anand, who recently graduated from University College London (UCL) with a 2:1 in the subject, and now works as a data analyst for a FTSE 100 company.

 

Pravin and Peter tell you all you need to know if you're considering studying Physics abroad: what will be required of you, what you will learn, and the exciting journey you might take after you graduate.

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Studying Physics: A Graduate's Perspective

 

Pravin Anand started studying Physics at UCL in 2011 and after graduating in 2016, he began working as a data analyst at a FTSE 100 company. We asked him a few questions about his journey from A Level Physics to Experian, recently named one of the UK’s best employers.

 

What first lead you to apply to study Physics, and why UCL?
I decided to apply to study Physics at UCL for a few reasons. The A Levels I chose were based on who I considered the best teachers in the Sixth Form I was attending, within the subject areas I most enjoyed and was best at. I chose Physics, Philosophy and Ethics, and Maths, so my options for degree choices at university were always skewed towards to Maths, Physics, Computing, Engineering – the STEM subjects in general – as well as possibly Philosophy.

 

This was in the final year of £3,375 fees in the UK, so I saw this as an opportunity to get the most out of my student loan by picking what could be considered the hardest and most respected science, Physics (though perhaps I’m biased). I thought by studying such a challenging subject and achieving good grades I would become more employable, as employers would easily be able to perceive the level of work I am capable of.

 

At the same time, my Physics teacher was extremely inspirational, and made me believe I was capable of studying at UCL. He helped me with my personal statement, he tutored me, and showed me that studying Physics wasn’t only a good investment, but something I was passionate about and which I really enjoyed.

 

And there is an obvious reason: UCL is very prestigious, so getting there was a huge achievement for me coming from where I did. It felt great.

 

What was been the most interesting thing about studying Physics?
I realise it even more now, but what most interests me is the way Physics alters a person’s way of thinking into a logical format. It is the study of the universe as a whole, so in order to understand every aspect of it you need to know how to break it all down, kind of like a puzzle or Lego pieces, and then learn how they piece back together again.

 

Studying Physics at UCL offered me the opportunity to meet such a diverse range of very intelligent, very motivated people, and coupled with the variety of societies at the University, every single day was packed with interesting activities. There are opportunities for everyone.

 

What was the hardest thing about studying Physics?
All of that opportunity can actually be challenging! You have to really know how to manage your time: to balance your education with the wider opportunities provided by university, and figuring out where your priorities lie. I have to admit, gradually I found myself spending less time at lectures and more time at extracurricular events, but still managing to keep up with my workload.

 

Now that you have graduated, where has your Physics degree taken you?
Physics at UCL has lead me to becoming a data analyst in a FTSE 100 company, Experian. If you asked me whether this is where I expected to begin my life after studying the subject, then I’d say probably not, but going to university exposed me to so many different things, I matured a lot as I gained new life experiences, and this lead to me knowing exactly where my interests lie, and to me taking this career path. In the long term, I hope it leads to me becoming an entrepreneur within finance, producing a financial software product, but I’m also interested software development in general.

 

I know my time at studying Physics is going to lead to future success, and beyond all that I’ve learnt, I’ve also left with maturity, a different mindset, exposure to many different cultures, and great friends.

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Studying Physics: A Professor's Perspective

Peter Dunstan is Chair of the Physics Department at Swansea University, Wales.

 

What qualities are you looking for when a student applies to study Physics?
We look for students with strong mathematical ability, for example students with a good working knowledge of Algebra, Trigonometry and Coordinate Geometry, curve sketching, sequences and series, exponentials and functions, and Calculus.

 

We also look for those who have a keen interest in nature and the laws of physics that govern nature, as well as those who are interested in the really big questions like: how did the universe begin? What are the basic building blocks of matter? We want students who have an interest in uncovering these relationships, through observing, mathematical modelling, designing and conducting experiments, and using computational methods – these are the students who will flourish doing a Physics degree.

 

Do students gain much experience for future careers when studying Physics?
Students studying Physics undertake practical experiments where they will work in a laboratory and learn the key skills, such as observation, instrumentation, measurement, analysis and testing. These will all be employed in a wide variety of job sectors when they leave university. They will also be learning basic programming, and learn computation aspects so that they can test their theoretical models and understanding.

 

Throughout the course the student’s mathematical abilities will be developed so they become confident at meeting new challenges and adapting their knowledge to new scenarios. They will become skilled at communicating science concepts via a number of means: able to give presentations, produce high quality scientific writing, experience group project work and individual project work. All these are key factors and skills are intrinsic to the Physics degree at Swansea.

 

What kind of jobs have Physics graduates from Swansea University gone on to do?
Many Physics graduates enjoy the challenges that the discipline offers and continue to do postgraduate studies, particularly PhD studies, but the skills acquired during their degree enables students to also consider many fields outside of Physics. All employers recognise the strengths of the Physics graduate particularly in relation to problem solving, instrumentation expertise and computational modelling. Graduate sectors include education, finance, scientific and technical industries, engineering, government, energy and environment, Electronics and IT, Health and medical physics, legal and government research: in all these areas, Physicists find employment and thrive. 

 

Many large industries and corporations recognise the value of a Physics degree due to the logical thinking and mathematical focus of Physics graduates, and are keen to encourage applications to graduate programmes.

 

The Department have employability events throughout the year and encourage attendance of a ‘What to do with my Physics Degree?’ event for our undergraduates to prepare for what to do once they graduate.  This event showcases alumni, who return to discuss their experiences with current students, for example what they have done since graduating, and how they have managed to achieve their ambitions.

 

Finally, why would you recommend your department to an international student?
The Physics Department at Swansea is a vibrant place to work and study.  It is truly international, both from a staff and student perspective, with staff originating from all corners of the world, and students also being very diverse in where they originate from, and often making comment on the supportiveness of the learning community in the Department. We have a very active student Physics Society called PhySoc, which organises ‘Get to Know your Lecturer’ events, as well as a general Physics colloquium for all students, and lots of social events throughout the year.

 

The Department many has resources to help you study, including a large open study area for collaborative working and problem solving. There are opportunities to do research projects with leaders in the field, and also the potential to do research internships during the summer.  The city is widely regarded as a friendly and safe environment in which to live and study: it avoids the hustle and bustle that you might find in a major city like London, while it has the advantages of its dramatic location on the edge of the Gower peninsula and the friendliness of the city inhabitants.

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If you’re interested in studying Physics, UCL and Swansea University are obviously great choices, but there are many other institutions you might also be interested in applying to. To find the perfect Physics course for you, your search starts here.

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About Author

Ben Conway is a content intern for Hotcourses Abroad and WhatUni. He’ll be writing lots about why students should consider studying everything from Anthropology to Physiotherapy. If he looks distracted he’s probably deep in thought about what words should go where. Outside of work he enjoys weird electronic music and weirder books.

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