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Hi everyone,

I am in my first year of A level, just finished my AS exams and am soon to be making my university application. From the title you may be able to guess I am going for a physics degree :p, I will hopefully be doing the four years masters course and then, depending on economy/job availability I may stay on to get a PhD.

Just wondering has anyone else done physics at university and how did you find it? Also, which university did you go to and how did you find it?

Sion

P.S. Hope I put this in right section :)

Edited by SionR25
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Hi Sion,

I did physics some many years ago and went on to do a phd in particle physics. If you love your subject it is naturally rewarding and of course you will be motivated and enjoy the experience.

To be a good physicist you need to be a good mathematician as well, so a level course in pure maths and mechanics will be essential, especially these days when the A level syllabus lacks so much mathematics.

There are lots of great universities for physics out there, it's good to pick one that has a well regarded research department in the research area you may be interested in. As a general guide most of the so called red brick universities such Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, as well as imperial, ucl have physics departments that rival Oxford and Cambridge in terms of the quality of their research in areas such as particle physics / astro as well as strong theory departments.

In terms of the work expected from you Oxford and Cambridge are intensive as they have short terms and the demands on self motivation of the students tends to be greater, this is great for becoming a research scientist but not easy in your first years when you need to be guided through a subject. The red bricks tend to guide their students more and have more structured courses and long term times that allows you to cover more material.

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Thanks for the reply Chris,

I do really enjoy physics and am quite a good mathematician, took maths and Advanced Maths at GCSE and taking Maths at A level.

I wasn't thinking of going to Oxford or Cambridge because I think the competition would be too great and could be a wasted University choice. One of my choices is St Andrews due to the big telescopes they have and their search for exoplanets and another choice was Surrey due to the spacestation, albeit a small one :), they have there. Not completely decided on other choices so will look into the Red brick ones :).

Sion

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I am a new comer to astronomy myself, and know very little, I am hoping to move onto courses at basic level and so on, at my age its to late to use as a vocation, at 43 I think i am past it sort of speak lol, but good luck to you in the future

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Thanks for the reply Chris,

I do really enjoy physics and am quite a good mathematician, took maths and Advanced Maths at GCSE and taking Maths at A level.

I wasn't thinking of going to Oxford or Cambridge because I think the competition would be too great and could be a wasted University choice. One of my choices is St Andrews due to the big telescopes they have and their search for exoplanets and another choice was Surrey due to the spacestation, albeit a small one :), they have there. Not completely decided on other choices so will look into the Red brick ones :).

Sion

St Andrews Edinburgh are also good universities, southhampton also has a good astro department probably one of the best in the uk, it is also close to Rutherford lab which is one of the large research labs known for their space equipment construction.

It sounds as though you have done some research on the universities.

It is true that the competition for Oxford and Cambridge is strong, however if you are forecast to get straight A's in your a-levels they are worth considering. If you do decide ask if your school has sent people there before as the application will need to be in before October half term.

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It is true that the competition for Oxford and Cambridge is strong, however if you are forecast to get straight A's in your a-levels they are worth considering. If you do decide ask if your school has sent people there before as the application will need to be in before October half term.

I am predicted A* A* A A but I think because I didn't take further maths A-level it will be seen as a disadvantage, despite the grades.

Thanks again for the help :),

Sion

Edit: The subjects I am taking are Physics, Maths, Chemistry and Geography (grades in that order).

Edited by SionR25
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Did Physics but no point saying where as they closed the Physics dept down some years ago.

Main points:

Check what the university does at Post Grad level. You will find that what is done at research level/PhD has a fair influence at the make up of the degree course. Say the university has a strong solid state physics research element then the degree course will reflect this. Simply put the professors and lectures in the chosen area will be lecturing you in that area a fair bit of the same. It may help make a choice of universities easier.

If they do something you find uninteresting then be careful.

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Did Physics but no point saying where as they closed the Physics dept down some years ago.

Main points:

Check what the university does at Post Grad level. You will find that what is done at research level/PhD has a fair influence at the make up of the degree course. Say the university has a strong solid state physics research element then the degree course will reflect this. Simply put the professors and lectures in the chosen area will be lecturing you in that area a fair bit of the same. It may help make a choice of universities easier.

If they do something you find uninteresting then be careful.

Thanks for that, didn't know that before hand. Will look into it.

Sion

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  • 2 weeks later...

I studied Physics and Astrophysics and left after 4 years with a masters. I realised that the life of an academic was not one for me during the masters year when the reality of astrophysical research set in (I prefer just to admire the beauty now) though a PhD was being suggested to me.

I will echo what has been written on this thread, mathematical ability is key, and to be honest further maths at A-Level would be beneficial. By the time I started my masters the physics department was forced to run remedial maths classes for the 1st year intake despite them all walking in with As and Bs at A-level, and this was because some items from pure maths A-Level had been bumped into Further Maths.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time studying, especially astrophysics, cosmology and particle physics. I was very lucky that I was able to spend a week at a professional observatory as part of my course, and during my masters conducted a photometry project of T-Tauri type stars using the university's telescopes.

Edited by DirkSteele
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I studied Physics and Astrophysics and left after 4 years with a masters. I realised that the life of an academic was not one for me during the masters year when the reality of astrophysical research set in (I prefer just to admire the beauty now) though a PhD was being suggested to me.

I will echo what has been written on this thread, mathematical ability is key, and to be honest further maths at A-Level would be beneficial. By the time I started my masters the physics department was forced to run remedial maths classes for the 1st year intake despite them all walking in with As and Bs at A-level, and this was because some items from pure maths A-Level had been bumped into Further Maths.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time studying, especially astrophysics, cosmology and particle physics. I was very lucky that I was able to spend a week at a professional observatory as part of my course, and during my masters conducted a photometry project of T-Tauri type stars using the university's telescopes.

Thanks for the information. Out of interest which Uni did you go to and how did you find it?

I usually don't have problems with maths, one of my strong subjects and I take part in Maths challenge every year and have won a silver award the last four times.

Thank again,

Sion

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Southampton. Rated 5* for research and the last teaching assessment was rated as "excellent." When I researched physics departments, my choices were based primarily on those that offered the ability to specialise in Astronomy/Astrophysics. Southampton was on that list. Really liked the campus and the department when I visited. Plus the field trip to Tenerife in the 2nd year to use the professional observatory didn't hurt!

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I did physics at St. Andrews, but that was about 30 years ago - i would still recommend it as a place to go, but you should visit to see if you like the place. For any uni choice, remember you will be living there for 3 or 4 years, so it does help if the like the place.

When i was there, in physics they were very strong in low temperature physics and electro-optics. Astronomy was a separate department, but merged a few years back. Astronomy is still very strong, and I think trad. physics there still has a good reputation.

Perhaps a bit more fashionable these days now that the royals have been there - but even when I was there, there were about 50/50 Scots / ROW.

Good maths is essential to progress in physics - though most unis will do the required maths, or have top-ups if needed.

Whatever your choice, sounds like you are doing the right stuff to get where you want to be.

Callum

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