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
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.
Hi, my name is Abdullah. I am 21 years old and currently in
my second year studying at the University of Manchester. I study Mechanical Engineering
which I find exciting, inventive and fun! So, what is it like and what can you
do with an engineering degree?
Why I Chose Mechanical Engineering
First, let’s see the many reasons for studying it. I chose
the course so I could become an engineer primarily because I enjoy STEM subjects.
Studying engineering has enabled me to use the topics I liked the most in one
course: Maths, Physics and Chemistry. Furthermore, being an engineer provides
the opportunity to apply your knowledge to real-world situations and be
creative every day, solving real-world problems. Additionally, the rapid and
constant developments mean the subject will only become more interesting and
engineers will be more and more sought after. There are always plenty of jobs
and you will never be bored with what you do.
A Day in the Life of a Mechanical Engineering Student
On a typical day, I wake up at around 7.30 am and travel by
bus to the university which starts at 9 am most of the time. With around 6 or 7
hours at university, the day is made up of a mix of lectures and tutorials
spread over 2 campuses: Main Campus and North Campus (where engineers are
mainly based). On North Campus, lectures are always in the Renold Building. Also, there
is the George Begg Building with exceptional computer facilities. This is where
I prefer to work with friends; 2-3 hours of study is required each day. Finally,
to research for assignments, I go to North Campus’s Sackville Street Building
library for books.
In terms of work outside classes, this contains coursework,
reports based on previous lab sessions or rewatching lectures once uploaded
online to further grasp the concepts. In addition, there are tutorial sheets
that I need to attempt before the tutorial class. These are questions based on lectures
in the past week of that module then the class tutor goes through the solutions.
While this seems like a lot, there is still plenty of free time if you chose to
study Mechanical Engineering!
What Can You Do With a Mechanical Engineering Degree?
Using the Careers Service and career fairs at the
university, I have learnt about options you have after you finish the course in
lots of detail. The obvious one is to become a mechanical engineer which most
students do. Mechanical engineers are mostly hired by the aerospace, automotive
and manufacturing industries. After the course, you can also do a Master’s
degree which is another 1-year degree. With this, engineers are able to become
chartered engineers in the future which means faster career progression and increased
Surprisingly, there is considerable demand for engineering students in investment
banking too. Generally, it is working as an analyst to predict market trends
because students are taught the numerical and analytical skills applicable to
the role. Alternatively, I learnt at a university career fair that there is
also scientific research in engineering as an option but this requires an extra
Overall, I would conclude that studying Mechanical Engineering
has a lot of benefits and an extensive range of excellent career prospects that
it leads to. To learn more, details can be found on the university website in
the links below:
My name is
Hashir Kiani and I am a PhD researcher at the School of Computer Science. My
research is titled “Wireless Sensor Networks in Smart Grids”. I work on
designing algorithms which can be used to make an electrical grid smarter by
analysing the data collected from the grid through wireless sensors. These
algorithms are used to detect faults in the grid and then employ appropriate
measures to prevent those faults. The end goal of my research is to develop
methods for a more efficient and smart electricity network.
I did my Bachelors in Electrical
Engineering from National University of Sciences and Technology in Pakistan.
After my bachelor’s degree I was awarded a Commonwealth Scholarship to study
for a Master’s degree in Communications Engineering and Networks from the UK.
The main motivation behind going for a PhD after the completion of my Master’s
course was the worsening situation with respect to electricity generation and
distribution in my home country, Pakistan. Pakistan is facing a huge shortage
of electricity and people have to go without electricity for multiple hours
each day. The situation worsens in the summers as demand for electricity peaks due
to cooling requirements as temperatures soar above 40 degrees Celsius. According to a report by USAID,
Pakistan has suffered a loss of 10% of its GDP due to power shortage. The long
power outages have caused great distress to the public with people resorting to
rioting on a number of occasions. The distribution losses are above 20% which
is more than double the global average. Therefore if distribution losses are
brought down close to the global average Pakistan can solve its energy crisis.
The main objective of my
research on smart grid systems is to find ways to make the electrical grid more
efficient and thus considerably reduce the distribution losses. My research is
focused on using wireless sensor networks in order to monitor the electrical
grid so that timely decisions can be made to increase the efficiency,
reliability and robustness of the grid network. Therefore my research will be
very helpful in solving the energy crisis Pakistan is currently facing.
After completion of my PhD I
have plans to work at a reputable engineering university of Pakistan as an
academic and a researcher. One of my objectives would be to introduce a course
on smart grid technologies at the MS level and develop interest among the
students in this area. I will use the knowledge I gained during my research to
form a research group responsible for doing high quality research in the field
of smart grid systems. The research group would strive to work in partnership
with national bodies and distribution companies to facilitate the transition
towards a smart electrical grid which will not only be efficient but also cost
effective as it will be able to detect electricity theft and thus prevent losses
of millions of dollars each year.
Further information about smart
grid technologies can be found at the following links:
https://www.smartgrid.gov/ : A good resource on information about smart
: Details the smart grid initiatives taken by the European Union
: A cool video showing Britain’s future version of smart grids
: A link to my research group (Machine learning) at the University of
Hi! My name is Chris Storer, I’m a fourth (and final) year
PhD student here at the University of Manchester. I’m originally from
Warrington, in the North of England, and I came to Manchester to study an
undergraduate degree in Biomedical Materials Science.
I find the interaction between nature and science to be
fascinating, especially the way that new, cutting edge technologies take
inspiration from biology. Evolution has already provided ingenious solutions to
challenges that engineers face every day.
This led me to pursue my PhD in polymer sensors, where I try
to understand how the sense of smell and taste work in nature. The aim is to
use this knowledge to create a portable chemical sensor – just like the hand-held
sensors you see scientists using to scan things in Sci-Fi movies!
How I got here
At school, I studied biology, chemistry, physics and
geography at A-level. I really enjoyed all the different aspects of the
sciences and didn’t want to specialise too much early on.
This led me to studying Biomedical Materials Engineering at
university – an interdisciplinary science that gave me a lot of freedom to
study a range of topics and keep my options open.
Following this I started my PhD in Polymer Sensors, in the
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering here at Manchester. It really
does go to show that you’re never stuck in one area of science – quite the
My research takes inspiration from the binding sites found
in the olfactory cells of the human nose. These very specialised receptors
allow us to detect chemicals in the air and give us the sense of smell.
I recreate these receptors by imprinting the chemical
molecule that I want to detect into a plastic material, called a polymer. You
can imagine this is a bit like pressing a piece of a jigsaw puzzle into a piece
of play dough, but on a microscopic level. When I take the chemical molecule
out, only that unique shape will fit back in place. And hey-presto, you’ve got
a chemical receptor!
The tricky part is how you then turn this into an electrical
signal to send to a computer to measure – like how a nerve cell sends
information to your brain. For this I use a capacitor to measure the build-up
of charged molecules on my sensor. This acts as a transducer – changing the
chemical information into electrical information for measuring the chemicals in
A great video clip by Brian Cox on how animals use chemical
sensors to navigate their environment through sight, smell and taste (BBC,
“Wonders of Life” documentary):
A link to some of our research here at the University of
Manchester involving chemical sensors for use in Agriculture:
Hi! My name is Junaid and I am a medical student
at the University of Manchester. I have taken a year out of my medical studies
to spend some time doing a research masters in Medical Sciences. This means
that I will be spending six years at university instead of the five normally
required for medical school. I am currently conducting research into the
treatment of asthma and rhinitis. I am hoping that this research will lead to
permanent improvements in how we treat people with asthma. The reason I wanted
to conduct research in this area is that I would like to become an Ear, Nose
and Throat (ENT) surgeon in the future. One of the challenges of an ENT surgeon
is managing patients who suffer from rhinitis and the effects it has on their
asthma. Alongside this, I wanted gain an understanding about how research is
conducted in hospitals. Since the way which doctors care for patients is
evolving so quickly, research is an enormous aspect of our careers.
Rhinitis is a very common problem that
affects a large number of people who suffer from asthma. It is described as the
inflammation of the nose and can lead to symptoms such as a runny nose,
sneezing and irritated eyes. These problems can affect people all year round
and if you suffer from asthma you are more at risk of suffering from allergic
rhinitis. This is a type of rhinitis that can be caused by allergies. From
research in the past, it has been found that people who suffer from both
allergic rhinitis and asthma at the same time experience a very poor quality of
life. For this reason, I am investigating patients who attend asthma clinic for
allergic rhinitis symptoms. This will help us understand the link between
asthma and allergic rhinitis and how much of an impact both diseases make on
people. Omalizumab is a medication that improves asthma symptoms which leads to
people have a better quality of life. We do not know how this treatment affects
people who suffer from both allergic rhinitis and asthma. By using
questionnaires to find out how many people suffer from asthma and rhinitis and
how well Omalizumab treats patients, we will be able to fine tune the
treatments we give to people to make sure we are giving the right drugs to help
them improve their asthma and allergic rhinitis symptoms.
To provide some further background on the conditions that I
am studying you can visit the NHS choices websites for asthma and rhinitis.
Allergic Rhinits : http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/rhinitis---allergic/Pages/Introduction.aspx
World Allergy has provided a good overview about why asthma
and rhinitis are linked and how they can affect people: http://www.worldallergy.org/public/allergic_diseases_center/caras/
Inflammation (swelling and redness) of the airways which
connect the nasal passage and the mouth to the lungs is an important mechanism
which causes people to suffer from asthma and rhinitis. The asthma centre
provides a good overview on “What is Inflammation?” http://www.asthma.partners.org/NewFiles/Inflammation.html
The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has provided
an information leaflet on Omalizumab and the main facts about how it works and
the evidence behind its use: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2003/omalgen062003LB.pdf