ing a display known as “Stem Cell Mountain” and recommending how to improve it.
My confidence has increased from presenting shows. I was nervous about doing them to begin with, but I started by teaming up with another member of staff to deliver them and presented my first solo show in front of the head of the planetarium. This was really helpful to gain confidence and get constructive feedback before doing them solo and it became my favourite part of the job. I have gained so much experience being an educator t oo. I picked up t ip s on how o t hers presented and taught around the centre, which helped me to successfully communicate to a wide range of ages and science backgrounds. Seeing children learning and getting excited about science has been the most rewarding part of the job.
I used skills from my laboratory module at university during the project, such as keeping a lab notebook, but I’ve also learnt a lot about evaluation. I’ve taken observations, semi-structured interviews and surveys as well as analysed both quantitative and qualit a t i v e da t a . I t h e n u s e d t h e da t a t o make sma l l modi f i c a t i ons t o t he e x h i b i t t o s ee i f t hey wer e successful so I could make recommendations on how to improve it. My study was one section of a bigger project to modify Stem Cell Mountain, but it was really interesting to see the evaluation side f rom star t to f inish.
By undertaking a placement, I’ve gained s o much e x p e r i e n c e t ha t I c an u s e t o h e l p me with the rest of my degree and when applying for jobs. I would really recommend completing a placement in an area you’re interested in as there are a lot of job-specific skills that can’t be taught at univer sit y.
Adam Powell I am a graduate student with the University of Calgary, Canada, as a member of the Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus (ALPHA) collaboration at CERN. During the foundation year of my physics deg r ee a t Swansea Uni ve r s i t y, UK , when t he opportunity to lead the university’s physics society arose, I leapt at the chance. I had begun my degree at a disadvantage, not having taken maths past the age of 16, so I was a l l t he mor e mot i va t ed t o f i nd my p l ac e . A few months after taking on the society, I had helped to organize the first in a number of careers events to help my peers (and myself) see the vast number of possible pathways through physics. This was also my f i r s t in t er ac t ion wi t h IOP Wales, and my f i r s t outreach event came soon after – eventually I became a campus ambassador and
I’ve gained so much experience that can help me with my degree and when applying for jobs nations committee member.
As my network started to grow, I was offered an internship with the university’s employability academy. I spent a summer focusing on the sof ter skills that are incredibly important in an increasingly competitive workplace. I was encouraged to apply for the Undergraduate of the Year awards sponsored by Target Job and was shortlisted in the men’s category. The reward for this was an interview at L’Orèal UKI. I was aware of the brand but had no experience in the beauty industry. Determined to show what I could do for them, I took the sample data provided and set to work on analysis. After combining skills learnt through my studies with some impromptu market research (questioning the unfortunate travellers on a Swansea to London train about the various products) I was offered a summer placement in the business development team. While my time with L’Orèal was full of very valuable learning experiences and wonderful people, it wasn’t for me long-term. I learnt the most valuable lesson of all – that it is just as useful to know what you don’t want to do, as what you ac tually want to do.
I returned for my final year at Swansea, now as an MPhys student, with a desire to focus on research. I was then incredibly fortunate to be sent to CERN to carry out my f i na l - y e a r p r o j e c t w i t h t h e A L PHA e x p e r i men t . I spent three months working in an environment that pushed me every day, and I was h o o k e d . K n ow i n g t ha t I wan t e d t o r e t u r n a f t e r my MPhys, I set about trying to find a postgraduate position. A few discussions later, I was hired as a research assistant by the T R I UMF l ab o r a t o r y i n Van c o u v e r t o h e l p i n t h e construction of the new ALPHA-g experiment at CERN. This then led to my current place as a g r adua t e s t u d e n t w i t h t h e Un i v e r s i t y o f C a lg a r y a s a member o f t h e A L PHA c o l l ab o r a t i o n and I currently hold a Leverhulme Trust Study Abroad Studentship.
Despite now being based outside Wales, I’m still a regular volunteer and committee member, and played a role in organizing the IOP-sponsored Conference of Astronomy and Physics Students 2019 at Swansea.
Srinidhi Rajagopalan I’m currently pursuing a physics (Euromasters) MSc a t Royal Holl oway University of London.
After the first year of my Master’s degree, I was looking for opportunities to gain some experience working in professional labs, which I saw as necessary for my career plan. I found many of the adverts on GRADnet interesting, but was particularly keen on working at the National Physical Laboratory, because most companies advertised for data science internships, whereas NPL’s placement was focused on experimental physics.
I worked on a project to build a method to reconstruct the spectrum of a 2D material using photoluminescence imaging techniques. This involved using the LabView platform, which is an indispensable tool in experimental physics. I also worked in an optics lab where I learnt not only how to work with several instruments, but also how to approach a new and unfamiliar instrument. Whi l e i t wa s a s t r u g g l e t o t r an s f e r my b o o k i s h knowledge to real-life experiments, I learnt what experimental physics actually entails.
The placement helped me sharpen both my technical and professional skills. The standard of professionalism expected of a student is not that expected in a real working environment and I learnt a lot by just watching my superiors and peers every day. Indeed, I believe this placement was one of the most important learning experiences of my career so far, and will help me work on future projects more efficiently.
I also made many friends who were mostly PhD s tudent s. From them, I was able to get a g r e a t i n s i g h t i n t o h ow t h e o r g an i z a t i o n wo r k e d and all its activities. They were then able to give me advice about what they would have done dif ferently before star t ing their PhD.
The placement was an invaluable learning experience. I would highly recommend anyone who has the chance to take up a summer placement with SEPnet, GRADnet or the IOP, and to utilize i t to i t s fullest.
Holly Stemp I am currently a PhD student in quantum computing at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia.
During the second year of my MPhys degree in physics at the University of Surrey, UK, I began to think more seriously about what I wanted to do after I graduated. Pursuing a career in research had always interested me, so I figured that
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Physics World Careers 2020