Student View - Studying Physics at University

by YPU Admin on May 29, 2020. Tags: Physics, science, STEM, student view, and UoM


My name is Yulia Yancheva and I am currently a third-year MPhys Physics student at the University of Manchester. The Physics course at UoM is a combination of theoretical and mathematics subjects, programming, and experimental laboratories.

How is Physics Different at Uni?

One of the main differences between university and high school is that at university, the degree is focused mainly on one topic, in my case Physics. This allows students to gain a lot of subject-specific knowledge in significant depth. For example, in Physics, we do not only learn different subjects, but we also learn how to think like physicists. This allows us to often know the answer to questions that we have not seen before just because we have enough knowledge of the basic physics laws in the world that surrounds us.

Another major difference between high school and university is that in university, students are mainly independent. This means that it is a personal choice for each student how to organise their time and make sure they are up to date with all new material. There are lectures, tutorials and workshops that help us to organise our time but we do not have a teacher who makes sure we have attended and learned the new material – it is our responsibility to do that! Everybody tries to keep up with all the new lessons because at the end of each semester we have exams where we can show what we have learned during the semester.

Physics at Manchester

I have studied a very diverse range of subjects during my university degree in Physics. For example, in my first year, I had a module on astrophysics and cosmology during which I learned about stars, planets, telescopes and the Universe in general. I also had a module on quantum physics and relativity, which was taught by Prof Brian Cox. During this module, I learned about time and space as scientific concepts as well as about black holes and even various scientific paradoxes.

Apart from the theoretical subjects, I also spend a lot of time in the experimental laboratory. For example, in my third year, I was working with graphene – this is a material that was discovered by Professor Sir Andre Geim and Professor Sir Kostya Novoselov at The University of Manchester for which they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. I spent four weeks in which I was investigating the electrical properties of graphene and I found the work very interesting and engaging – it felt like real research. Here is a photo of myself doing a task that was required for this experiment – I was handling ammonia and hence the safety goggles and the face mask.

At the University of Manchester, Physics students work in pairs in the laboratory. We also have lab demonstrators who introduce us to the experiments and help us if we get stuck. However, in third and fourth year, most of the time students work with their lab partners without the demonstrators being there all the time. This makes the lab experience unique – there is a lot of brainstorming going on between lab partners and it almost feels like solving a puzzle.

Going Further...

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