A year after graduation: reflections from a MPhys Physics alumni

Cameron Berry, MPhys alumni who graduated in summer 2019, talks about his student journey at the University of Edinburgh.


Why did you choose Edinburgh?

Applying to Edinburgh for me was a very natural fit considering half my family is Scottish. I had visited Edinburgh multiple times and it was only a short train journey from home. As I visited the city and University in the lead up to applying, I felt sure it was where I wanted to end up. However, I really couldn’t have known what a ride it would be studying here for five years!

Did the MPhys in Physics meet your expectations?

Studying Physics at the University of Edinburgh is hard! Having passed my GCSE and A Levels with good results, I came to the Uni with a certain sense of complacency, but by the time I reached third year this had very much been left behind. The workload is both high and extremely varied and even if you’re brilliant at all areas of Physics there are many kinds of assessments (problem sets, longer essays, computational assignments, experiment-based courses) that will challenge you. However, as they say, diamonds form under pressure, and the product of most of this work was genuine satisfaction and pride in what was accomplished: there is a great reward to the work, which goes far beyond the piece of paper you get on graduation day.

Did you find the courses in the School of Physics & Astronomy interesting?

I did! While the first two years were mode ‘guided’, there is still a lot of flexibility, and I was able to take outside courses, which were not connected to science. I had a great time brushing up on French and German and this was a welcome change from Vector Calculus and Linear Algebra.

I had more ability to shape my interests in 4th and 5th year. I had the opportunity to choose my own research projects, and I was spoiled for choice by the large number of optional courses available. I studied Nuclear Physics, Medical Physics and Advanced Cosmology all in the same semester, and did a Senior Honours Project on the acoustics of brass instruments, none of which I had any idea I would be studying when I entered the degree.

Did you enjoy living in Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is a city with a huge amount of things to do, see, and eat. The city is truly a wonderful place but only if you take the time to experience it. I would consider it an extreme misstep to let work dominate your life at the expense of enjoying Auld Reekie.

I had the privilege the last few years of staying in the city over summer while working and this is something I’d really advise people to try. In August, during the Festival Fringe, the city completely changes. Immerse yourself in the culture of the city and you will not be disappointed – though I can’t promise your bank balance will benefit!

What did you do once graduated?

I have moved on from university feeling fulfilled and much more aware of what I want from life and started my current career as a teacher in London the summer after graduating. Throw yourself into things and take risks but always remember to use the time at the UoE to contemplate deeply what you want out of life. Indeed the University motto is particularly valid here, Nec temere nec timide – neither rashly nor timidly.

What advice would you give to prospective students?

Make sure you keep up your interests and passions while studying at university. Balance is key: don’t even let anyone tell you that you can’t have a social life or time to chill out while studying. These are vital and if you focus too much on work to the expense of your general well-being you will find it hard to make it through.

 

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