Thursday, August 11, 2011

Those higher academics--worth it?

I'm not sure. There aren't a whole lot of employment opportunities for the physicist or philosopher or Medieval scholar. Self satisfaction is primary.

"Young physics graduates – future PhD student Joanna Carthy"



August 11th, 2011

IOP blog

Joanna Carthy, 23, recently graduated with a physics MSci from the University of Nottingham. She is currently doing an internship at the IOP. Here she shares her experience of studying for a physics MSci and blogs about why she thinks doing an MSci is still worth the extra tuition fees.

Have you read the Higher Education White Paper? The recent one? Well, I don’t know about you but I’ve read the whole thing; front to back.

One of the most well known fixtures in this paper is the new, “£9,000 tuition fees cost” policy, and everyone I’ve come across in my limited time as science policy intern at the IOP is trying to make guesses as to what this will do to (amongst other things) applications and admissions to university. Will it severely put people off?

I have just graduated with a Physics MSci from Nottingham and, not to sound biased or anything, it’s the best university, and I absolutely loved my time there. Therefore my own little worry to add to the pile of concerns about these university reforms is that physics undergraduates will opt for three years over four at undergraduate level, discouraged by the hefty price tag. I worry that the new crop of fresh faced would-be physicists now pouring into the department I left will question “is it worth it?”

It is.

To address the question “why physics?” quickly – everyone assumes you’re really clever (that’s nice) and you, well, get to know things about the universe and how things fundamentally work and this should give you the type of smugness that lasts a life time. And yes, you can learn a lot of this in years 1-3, so why stay a year longer?

When you return a fourth year there’s no doubt that you feel lofty and clever. You convince the younger physicists that you know something by now…..but what’s truly strange is that about halfway through January you’ll realise you do. Staff members know your name, post-grads and post-docs engage you in conversation, and when someone asks you a question you actually know the answer. You huff around your lab feeling like a PhD student, and the words “publishable” get banded about with regards to your work.

For the examophobic, fourth year for me was almost entirely continually assessed with coursework, presentations and a beastly (but hugely rewarding) project at the end. I cannot stress how much I grew (in confidence and knowledge) over the year. You might mistake ‘continually assessed’ for ‘continually stressed’, and sometimes you are, but I luckily had a fourth year common room. Mark my words, we practically lived there, comforted by the same boatmanship when times got rough. And they did, it’s a masters’ year for a reason, and you feel like you earned that slightly underwhelming piece of paper coming out at the end.

You become a physicist, not a person memorising and churning out details in countless, badly scheduled exams; you get to participate and think, and you get to know the only other people who understand what you’re going through at 3am sobbing into your half-written abstract – your course mates.

So I hope, after a fantastic four-year experience, that the future occupants of common room b16 are not discouraged, because for me the final year was one of the best years of my degree.”

Any opinions expressed here are Joanna’s own and do not represent those of the IOP.

No comments: