Physics Personal Statement
Submitted by Sam
The varying scale of physics study is what most excites me: from the universe down to small scale particle interactions, it fundamentally governs all these areas and the many unknowns still existing, which I find fascinating. I want to develop my knowledge through further study of physics to be part of modern day research, which has such a huge impact on our lives.
Alongside my studies, I have been involved in many projects in and out of school to further my interest in physics beyond the A Level course, most recently on Oxford’s UNIQ Physics summer school. In advance of this, I read Feynman’s ‘Six Not-so-easy Pieces’. While I found many of the concepts discussed initially challenging (mainly time dilation, length contraction and curved space), I enjoyed Feynman’s clever analogies to explain these concepts, such as through bugs and hot plates. Study of these topics at Oxford developed my understanding of and interest in relativity, with the opportunity to have intellectual conversations with leading academics being most beneficial and enjoyable. Using the Michelson interferometer to measure sodium emission lines was a session that I particularly enjoyed due to experiencing the university approach to practical work and using equipment that I had only read about, and wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to use. I’ve also read ‘The Last Three Minutes’, in which I found Davies’ links between astro-, particle and quantum physics particularly interesting. However, one of the most interesting points for me in both books was not the content but by how much our knowledge has advanced during my lifetime, with discoveries such as the observation of gravitational waves (which Davies had only predicted), especially as this was performed on a somewhat enlarged version of equipment I have now used.
This year I was selected to join Project Horizon, my school's near-space programme. Over the year, we planned the launch of a payload into the stratosphere, where I led a small team of engineers building and soldering the flight computer and the payload. We had a number of sensors to capture data including temperature, humidity and UV and IR intensity, which was interesting to analyse and compare to expected trends. The payload reached 37864m, capturing spectacular footage from three cameras, which we are hoping to use in a series of outreach lessons in local primary schools. Over the past year I have also mentored a Y8 pupil in physics, as well as assisting in one lower school physics class every week as a STEM Ambassador. This opportunity to have my own basic physics knowledge questioned was extremely beneficial, while also giving back to my school community.
I’ve learnt Mandarin Chinese for the last 5 years and see this as a great benefit to my future career prospects due to the global nature of modern science. Playing the piano since infant school, now at ABRSM Grade 6 level, shows my commitment and I am also proven to be a strong leader: being Vice-Captain of School I work with the Senior Leadership Team to ensure the smooth running of the school on a weekly basis, while also leading and organising the largest RAF Air Cadet section in the country as the Cadet Warrant Officer, and being part of a Cub Scout leadership team to run a weekly programme of activities for 8 to 10 year olds. These all show my willingness to take up the leading role of a university society or in the local community, as well as my ability to communicate with all ages, from young children to peers and staff, and to be adaptable and innovative when things don’t go to plan: all making me suited for group work and the practical side of the course. Overall, I am looking forward to furthering my physics ability at university and believe I display inter-personal and time management skills essential for this challenge, with the prospect of a career in the aviation or space industries adding to my motivation to study the subject.