School of Physics and Astronomy Alumni

Henry Adams graduated with MSci Theoretical Physics 2016

Henry AdamsThe connection between students and staff is what made physics at Birmingham special. Not only are the staff always happy to help, but they get involved in some of the Poynting Physical Society (PPS) events such as the quiz and (occasionally) the pub crawls. By the end of your degree you find yourself stopping to chat with most of them, as you bump into them around campus.

The highlight of my time at Birmingham for me would be the sports I got to play with different groups of friends. Whether it was being part of the PPS football team or making use of the multiple astroturf pitches to play five-a-side with friends from various courses, it was easy to get involved and make new friends.

Don’t take the course lightly. Just because the first year doesn’t count towards your overall grade (as is the case at most universities) doesn’t mean you can take it easy, as the stuff you learn is assumed and built on in later years. Putting in the time here makes the difference at the end of your degree. Having said that, don’t let it get in the way of enjoying your time as a fresher!

Following my graduation, I start on a graduate scheme with a leading power generation company in September 2016. As well as the attraction of the course I had studied, the company also liked the fact that I’d spent time at the university radio station, BurnFM, and the University of Birmingham Investment Fund – both societies which aren’t available at other universities.

Tip from Henry - Don’t worry if you’re not sure what kind of physics you want to do. The course is very flexible and you can move course early on, if you meet the criteria (I changed from Particle Physics and Cosmology to Theoretical Physics after my second year).

Helen Ansell graduated with MSci Theoretical Physics 2016

Helen AnsellAs a theoretical physics student I took all of the core physics lecture modules as well as attending skills classes, computing classes and weekly tutorials. Additionally, I took a range of theoretical modules covering areas such as probability theory, chaos theory and general relativity. I also took a number of optional modules each year covering areas of physics including astrophysics, particle physics and biophysics. I very much enjoyed having a variety of different classes throughout my studies. Having so many small group classes in addition to lectures really allowed me to get to know my fellow physics students.

From my second year onwards, I was actively involved with the student representative system, which involved attending weekly meetings with a member of administrative staff and a termly meeting with a larger staff-student committee. Through the rep system, students are able to pass on feedback about any aspects of the course which they feel need some improvement, or which are particularly good. The frequent meetings mean that any small problems can be dealt with quickly before they have a chance to escalate.

During my degree I was awarded a music scholarship by the department, which allowed me to continue having clarinet lessons alongside my studies. I was able to have lessons on campus with a professional musician, developing my skills further. Alongside this, I was a member of the University Wind Band and University Chorus, both of which give two performances each academic year.

Now that I have graduated, I am taking a year out to travel. After that I will begin a PhD in theoretical physics. I know that the skills and experiences I have gained during my time here in Birmingham have set me up very well to continue on to a research degree.

Dan Armstrong graduated with MSci Physics 2015

Dan ArmstrongI chose Birmingham due to the vast array of research projects, the large number of available modules and the support offered to the students. I particularly enjoyed working alongside leading researchers in the metamaterials department for my fourth year project, which is a route I would not have expected to take at the start of my degree. I have also enjoyed the medical imaging and image processing modules which show how the physics and mathematics skills acquired throughout the degree can be used in real-life situations.
Whilst at Birmingham I also took the opportunity to participate in extra activities offered outside of my degree. I represented the University for different sports clubs and have made many friends socially.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the University of Birmingham and I have been offered graduate placements as a result of my degree, which I feel has provided a sound platform for an exciting career.

Lyndon Baines graduated with MSc Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors 2010

I am currently a Project Manager at a UK energy company developing a new generation of nuclear power stations.  We are working towards nuclear new build power generation for the country.  In 2009, I enrolled onto the University of Birmingham's MSc PTNR course because I was interested in getting into the UK's nuclear new build programme.  My studies provided me with a comprehensive survey of the nuclear industry.  There were moments, particularly when I first looked at the neutron transport equation, when my jaw dropped and I really wondered whether I would pass the course.  By the end of it however, I felt as though I had gotten the equivalent of two years' experience in the nuclear industry.

Tip from Lyndon - The MSc PTNR programme provides a great opportunity for getting a vital and recognised nuclear industry qualification.  Take full advantage of your time on the course and especially your summer placement.

Jack Bishop graduated with MSci Physics 2014

Jack After completing my undergraduate studies at Birmingham, I decided to use the skills I had gained to start a PhD in Nuclear Physics, my area of interest. I decided to stay at Birmingham after my undergraduate degree as I found Birmingham to be a fantastic research environment to be in. The idea of spending an additional three to four years of study may feel daunting to some, but I thoroughly enjoy it.

Research is obviously the key component of a PhD and involves working with postdocs and academic members of staff to perform original research which is a significant contribution to knowledge. This can involve spending most of your time either working on experiments or performing complex data analysis, both of which involve employing the key skills learnt in undergraduate labs and the range of lectures. All PhD students perform teaching duties which can involve demonstrating in classes or even small group teaching. Not only is this paid work but it is also a great opportunity to interact with students and work on presenting skills. The remainder of time is spend either performing outreach activities (visiting schools, running workshops, giving talks, for example) and engaging in further education. Once you have graduated there is still a lot to learn so this may involve attending conferences, summer schools or lectures with other Universities to learn more about the subject area you work in.

Tip from Jack - For anyone thinking about doing a PhD, I would highly recommend talking to a lecturer in the area you are interested in, as they will be able to tell you more about the research they do and any upcoming PhD places.

Robert Brennan-Craddock graduated with MSci Physics 2014

Rob Brennan-Craddock The favourite part of my course was the diversity of modules which I have had the opportunity to study. A wide range of subjects to learn about made it easy to determine what area of physics I wanted to pursue after university. I really enjoyed my final year research project.  Being given the chance to investigate a specific topic of my choice was a brilliant experience, as it gave me a real insight into how a true research project is designed and implemented.

Over the past four years, I've found that living in Birmingham has had several advantages.  Being such a central city, anything you could want to do is going to be happening somewhere in Birmingham.  From the theatre and art galleries, to gigs and concerts, there's always something new to do. 

Tip from Robert - It may seem a long way off now, but pay close attention to the areas of research that your future department is involved in.  This will have a huge effect on your own research project in your final year and even the modules available to you throughout your degree.  Picking a department with research into areas which interest you now will make your decisions much easier three years down the line.

Adam Brookes graduated with MSci 2016

Adam BrookesI applied for physics simply because I found it to be the most interesting subject at A-level by far, but I wanted to study further, as college level physics only scratches the surface.  Knowing that I’d have good job prospects may have been a consideration too!

I particularly enjoyed the work you get to do in the labs, which gives you hands-on experience, often with experiments that were Nobel Prize winners in their time.  Another good thing about the course is how flexible it can be if you don’t know what specific area of physics you particularly enjoy.  I undertook several different modules before eventually narrowing this down to photonics and metamaterial physics.

The stand-out thing for me had to be the people at the University – if ever you have an issue with the course, there is always someone to help and knowing that you’re being taught by leading members of the field is very inspiring.  Being surrounded by like-minded individuals who enjoy your subject is a merit in itself.

The highlight of my University experience had to be my fourth year project.  Here, you get the opportunity to do a six month-long project, which is almost like a mini-PhD, participating in current research on a topic.  I’d never imagined myself liking the research side of physics before the project, but it surprised me how enjoyable and rewarding it could be when breakthroughs were made.  My supervisor was always available to help me and my lab partner and in the end, we manage to design and construct a metamaterial that had never been made before.  It’s something that I never thought I could do, but I would love to help with more research in the future.

When I first started at Birmingham, I received the Physics Excellence Scholarship which was for receiving an A* in Physics and Maths at A-level.  This took a lot of pressure off me financially and I ended up spending some of it on a new laptop.

Tip from Adam - It is well worth coming to an Open Day and seeing how beautiful the campus is and you will also get a proper feel for the place.

Dr Noor M. Butt PhD in Physics 1969, DSc in Physics 1993

Paul Carter graduated with MSci Physics and Astrophysics 2015

Paul Carter My four years studying for an MSci Physics and Astrophysics were far more enjoyable and intellectually stimulating than I could ever have hoped for.  The course really does stretch and grow with you as you acquire more skills.  At the beginning, you are recapping prior knowledge, starting from the fundamentals of the discipline and then moving into the later years, where you challenge the complex ideas at the forefront of understanding.  I would say that during my degree, my fourth year project really stood out as my favourite undertaking, working with a world-leading supervisor to try and make progress in a subject area which had not been looked at before.  The skills I have been supplied with during my time at Birmingham have set me up to progress into a future academic research career.

Tip from Paul - Get as involved as possible in activities both inside and outside your studies.  My time with the University's Astronomical Society (AstroSoc), volunteering as a committee member to help run and enjoy observing the stars with a great group of friends was thoroughly enjoyable.  The University has extracurricular activities to suit everyone's tastes so definitely get involved!

Paul Clarkson graduated with MSc in Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors 2010

After graduating in 2010, I worked at Rolls-Royce PLC for three years.  During my time there I worked as a physicist/engineer on nuclear reactors and also on gas turbine technologies, advanced manufacturing processes, combustion research and even biomimetics.  I have recently started a PhD at Cambridge in nanotechnology and am currently working on things like sensor technologies and synthetic biology.  There is a tendency when studying STEM subjects, that after university you should 'stay true' to that field.  This is not the case, as you can see from my experiences.  Studying physics armed me with the tools and mind-set that have allowed me to work as an effective scientist in many areas.  Physics teaches us very complex subject matters, starting with simple models and adding complexity when necessary. This was expertly taught to me at Birmingham, specifically how to approach problems and come up with effective solutions to them. It has served me well throughout my career to date. Not only did Birmingham provide me with an excellent education but also the importance of physics and science in the real world. The academics I was surrounded by were incredibly enthusiastic and inspiring. They are as dedicated to passing on the physics baton as they are to ensuring that you get more than just an education in physics – you also get a valuable philosophy. 

Dr Michael Coleman graduated with BSc Physics 1968, PhD MSc Prize Reactor Physics 1969 

For fifteen months I was a University Research Fellow at Birmingham, lecturing on Numerical Analysis to MSc Course students and doing research. I then Joined CEGB in the Reactor Physics Department working up to the position of Assistant Reactor Physicist at Sizewell A Power station. Next was Bradwell Power Station as technical branch Head and I gained the station its Continued Operation Licence enabling it to operate to 40 years - the first station to do so.  It included all the engineering modifications including the installation of a diverse guardline, and remote pressure vessel inspection, which were both world firsts.

I made a change to Facilities Management for about a year before being seconded to headquarters to work on Business Process Redesign and Change Management. Afterwards, I worked on the initial stages of the Sizewell A boiler repair (a major re-welding of a seriously defective boiler shell), before being head-hunted back to Bradwell to 'change its culture'. This was a two year appointment and at the end I took early retirement at the age of 51 in 1999. 

Nicole Cordy graduated with MSci Physics with Particle Physics and Cosmology 2013

Nicole Cordy

I am currently a trainee Patent Attorney – this involves assisting inventors / companies to obtain patents or registered designs for their inventions both in the UK and overseas. I work in the area of physics, mechanical devices, electronics, medical physics, generally anything except biotech or chemistry inventions. My job involves applying both the technical skills gained during my degree to understand a wide variety of scientific inventions on a day-to-day basis and also the communication and presentation skills developed to liaise between clients, patent examiners and overseas attorneys.

The strong emphasis on developing general problem solving skills have enabled me to tackle challenging issues in areas that I am not as familiar with, and also the perseverance needed to find a solution. I found practical laboratory sessions, especially writing lab reports, to be a big step up from A-levels where not much practical experimentation is taught. Labs and projects can be extremely frustrating when things do not work, but there is an immense feeling of pride when, after overcoming many problems, an experiment you have designed and constructed produces some good results.

Tip from Nicole - The physics department at Birmingham is full of experts in their field that will help you along every step of the way. My best piece of advice would be to put as much effort as you can into attending lectures, problem classes, tutorials, every learning opportunity available to help you when it comes to exams. Don’t be afraid to approach your lecturers with problems, most of them are not as scary as they look!

Georgina Croft graduated with MSci Physics 2016

Georgina CroftI did not know much about which universities were good for physics when I was applying. I mainly chose to apply to universities which were high in the league tables. Birmingham was one of those and when I came to look around I really liked the people and location.

Due to high contact hours and lab work, we spend more time with our course mates then most other courses. I was lucky enough to make a great group of friends who I will remain in contact with. This is my University highlight.

I never encountered any big problems with the course. I think most physics degrees teach similar subjects because they have to cover certain things for it to be an accredited physics degree. Therefore, it’s important to choose the University you really like and not base it solely on the course.

Tip from Georgina - It is hard work but there are a variety of options and you can tailor your courses for whatever suits/interests you.

Ryan Dickinson graduated with BSc Physics 2015

Ryan DickinsonI chose to study at Birmingham because of the friendly department, the large choice of modules throughout the programme and the wonderful green campus. 

From early on in my degree I took a special interest in nuclear physics, choosing to study nuclear related modules where possible, including in the laboratory.

The department holds careers fairs every autumn in addition to the university wide fairs open to all students. Employers known to recruit from Physics at Birmingham attend every year, and I was successful in obtaining a summer placement with an energy company as a result.

There are plenty of other activities to get involved with whilst at Birmingham – these include an annual trip to Coniston in the Lake District, termly quizzes and the PPS Annual ball – the best night of the year! I have also been a Student Ambassador/Representative throughout my time here, which looked great on my CV and gave me an extra source of income during my studies!

I graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Physics in 2015 and I am currently studying the MSc Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors course. I have been successful in securing a graduate job in the nuclear industry starting in September, where I will be using skills both from my BSc and MSc in my everyday work in a technical role.

James Evans graduated with MSci Theoretical Physics 2016

James EvansStudying physics at Birmingham is really like being part of a family. You make friends, with whom you spend most of your time, either because you live with them or have lectures with them. The members of staff are incredible, and the student/staff relationship is one of the things that makes physics at Birmingham so enjoyable. Lecturers, technicians, office staff and tutors are all so helpful towards the students, for whatever they need during their studies. All activities – lectures, examples classes, tutorials, even lab work is taught professionally and effectively, and I know that I enjoyed every moment of my four years here (except exams!)

The breadth of material covered is extensive, and the expertise of the lecturers is clear. Furthermore, the rigorous mathematical approach to the content provides for an excellent learning structure.

I will soon be starting work as an Actuarial Associate with a financial services firm, following my graduation.

Emelia Galkowska graduated with MSci Physics 2015

EmeliaBesides a wide variety of optional modules, the Physics department has been a great place to learn and grow. Every year they run a walking weekend in the Lake District - I regret that I only managed to go once in my four years here. I have also been busy with the PPS, the Poynting Physical Society. The highlight for me was being involved with the organisation of the Spring Balls for the last couple of years.

I have also had some great experiences outside of Physics during my time at Birmingham: after my first year I spent two months volunteering and travelling in South Africa; in the summer after my second year I spent four weeks on work experience at the British Embassy, Poland and last summer I did a summer internship with BAE Systems which has helped me secure my grad job, also with BAE.

Adam Greenhill graduated with MSci Physics 2016

Adam GreenhillI've been a member of a few different student groups, including a choir, the board-gaming society and the hiking society, Wayfarers. I spent three years on the organising committee of the latter society, including a year as President, a role that taught me a lot of important lessons regarding responsibility, delegation and budgeting.

I grew up in the countryside near Tamworth (20 miles from Birmingham), so I have never been too far away from home. Moving to Birmingham was a big change for me, but I have come to love the city and know it well. There is a lot to see and do, whether that's on one's own or with friends or family. The size of the city also means there are many active clubs and interest groups which have nothing to do with the university - good for stepping outside the academic 'bubble'.

I found the fourth year of the course a nice change of pace from the previous three, as the final year project allows an increased focus on one area of study. I was fortunate enough to know fairly early on my next stop after graduation, which was back to a software company in Malvern Link, where I'd had an internship the previous summer. I'm still living in Birmingham though, as I have made many friends here over the past few years whom I don't want to leave behind.

Oliver Hall graduated with MSci Physics and Astrophysics 2016

Oliver HallI applied for the Physics and Astrophysics course at Birmingham because it offered a good grounding in general physics with enough focus on astrophysical topics in later years. One of the best points of my course was definitely the tailored laboratory sessions, getting students doing astrophysics based labs as early as the second term of the first year, which increases in later years.

One of my favourite things about studying at the University of Birmingham is the campus and it’s location. You truly feel part of a student community whilst working on your degree, especially in second year onwards, when most people live close together in Selly Oak just south of the campus. Something I really enjoyed during my time at University was getting involved with the Guild of Students through the Residents Association scheme and taking part in charity events such as the Three Peaks Challenge - both great ways to gain valuable skills, make a difference, and meet new people!

To any students joining Physics and Astrophysics I would recommend paying attention in first year, as it gives you a huge step up going into second year where your grades matter! One of the great things about the Birmingham Astrophysics & Astronomy group is its many research topics, so I would also recommend dabbling in a variety of projects over the course of your four years.

My year four project involved analysing standing waves within stars, a field called asteroseismology, using Kepler space telescope data to try and find evidence of stellar activity cycles in stars other than our Sun. Being able to work on our own project directly at the cutting edge of science was an amazing experience and gave me the skills as well as the inspiration to continue working in asteroseismology through a PhD at Birmingham.

Matthew Harrison graduated with BSc Physics with International Study 2015

Andy Johns graduated with BSc Physics 1992

Manjinder Kainth graduated with MSci Theoretical Physics 2016

ManjinderI chose to do theoretical physics because during my A-Levels I found a passion for physics, but I also identified my skill in applying mathematics. Theoretical physics is the perfect meeting point of these two disciplines for a person who loves doing maths, but does not want to get bogged down in the detailed proofs and axioms. Combining that with the fact that Birmingham offers a higher percentage of theoretical physics in the course, it was an easy decision.

Studying theoretical physics requires confidence in your mathematical ability. You must be able to identify any weaknesses that pop up during the course and put in the time to iron them out. The degree is structured such that modules in further years take for granted knowledge acquired in previous years. It is therefore imperative to have a solid understanding by the end of the year so that you’re not building on a house of cards.

The best thing about studying physics at Birmingham is that there isn’t a divide between the students and the staff. Almost all lecturers have an open door policy and those who are especially busy still respond to emails frequently.

In my final year I secured a job as a consultant with a systems, applications & products and technology consultancy firm.

Tip from Majinder - If you try everything the university has to offer and put in the time on your course, your experience can be the best and most rewarding time of your life.

Josh May graduated with MSci Physics 2015

Josh MayIt felt so daunting when I was trying to pick which University to go to back in 2011, but as soon as I began at Birmingham, there was no doubt in my mind it was the right decision.

The teaching is fantastic and the staff are all incredibly supportive and approachable. The labs in particular are brilliant. You start in first year on guided one week lab sessions and by the third year, you are working on group projects alongside industry partners (we worked with the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on medical imaging techniques and advancements). The ultimate step comes in the fourth year, when you join research groups to work on experiments that have never been done before and for which there is no right answer for what the result is. The scope of what you can do outside of your studies is also amazing; I was the secretary of the Poynting Physical Society (a society so old it even out-dates the University itself!) for two years, a student ambassador and I even had a job with the Guild of Students working with Tech Services installing sound and lighting for everything from Theatre shows to the GradBall. 

Dr Chiara Mingarelli PhD in Astrophysics 2014

Chiara MingarelliSince graduating from the University of Birmingham, I've moved to the United States, where I've taken up a Marie Curie Fellowship at Caltech. It has also been a great pleasure to work at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where I am a Visiting Research Fellow. My time at the University of Birmingham as a postgraduate student gave me excellent preparation for postdoctoral research: my supervisor, Professor Alberto Vecchio, was very supportive, but also allowed me to work independently.  My training and subsequent research have given me the confidence to speak with colleagues about science which is slightly outside of my field of expertise. These collaborations are the most rewarding to me, and the most fun!

As a postgraduate student, I developed a close network of friends which I maintain to this day. Some of my fondest memories of my time at the University of Birmingham are times with these friends - getting coffee and working on problems together. I feel that I became a scientist at the University of Birmingham: I learned how to think more critically, how to share ideas with colleagues and how to carry out research.

Tip from Chiara - Don't give up! Completing a PhD programme is very challenging: don't be afraid to talk to your colleagues, friends or supervisor if you're having a difficult time. We've all been there and it's normal - it's not just you!

Dr Mark Nixon graduated with BSc Physics 1983, PhD Metallurgy & Materials Science 1987

Lucy Quantick graduated with BSc Physics with Particle Physics and Cosmology 2016

Lucy QuantickI chose to come to Birmingham because I knew it was a good place to study physics, especially particle physics. I liked the fact that it is a campus university as well as the close proximity of student accommodation throughout the years. I liked the university’s key involvement with the experiments at CERN as well as the general feel of the place.

If you are not specifically interested in any particular area of physics, apply to the straight physics course, as this gives you the widest choice of modules and you can always choose to specialise later.

The best thing about studying physics at the University of Birmingham is the feeling of a close knit physics community as well as the student run Poynting Physical Society (PPS).

Tip from Lucy - To get involved with everything, don't miss lectures or tutorials and to throw yourself into the course as that way you get the most out of it socially, educationally and enjoyment-wise.

Galen Reich graduated with BSc Physics 2015

Galen Reich

When I started at Birmingham I had no idea what to expect from university life: was my time going to be spent scribbling equations and solving problems, was I going to join societies and learn to do new things, or was I going to meet all sorts of interesting people and make a strong group of friends? The answer, as I discovered as the years of my degree unfolded, was not clear cut. The degree programme busied me with interesting lectures, rewarding labs and challenging assignments, while I filled my spare time with social commitments:  joining and contributing to societies, making and building friendships, and enjoying all of the perks that Birmingham has to offer. Since graduation I have embarked on a PhD Programme in Engineering (also at Birmingham) for which I am researching ‘Biologically Inspired Radar’, allowing me to use the full breadth of skills that I acquired and developed as an undergraduate in the Physics department.

Physics at Birmingham was all that I expected and more, deciding to study here was an excellent decision and I relished every minute of my time here: I would recommend it wholeheartedly!

Alex Roberts graduated with MSci Physics 2015

Alex RobertsThe School of Physics and Astronomy at Birmingham delivers nothing short of a superb degree programme. During my four years at the University, I have enjoyed an extensive portfolio of tasks from working within a cutting edge research group, all the way to compiling vibrant and exciting presentations. Perhaps more importantly, my time here has allowed me to develop a confidence, allowing me to convey intriguing physical ideas in a variety of ways. To this end, I am now teaching Physics in an independent boarding school where I face the task of inspiring young people to take the subject further. For people who wish to gain a worthwhile and exciting degree whilst working within one of the friendliest environments I have ever encountered, the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University will, I am sure, prove itself to be a flawless choice.

Dwayne Spiteri graduated with MSci Physics with Particle Physics and Cosmology 2016

Dwayne SpiteriUnsure about my future, I started the search towards my degree with many different degree programmes on the table. I ended up choosing Physics because I knew I would like the structure of the degree, it has good job prospects and it allowed me to continue what I liked best subject-wise. On Open Days and Applicant Visit Days, I fell in love with the department, the facilities and the staff and I knew that Birmingham was the place for me. It had a friendly and vibrant atmosphere and I really got the feeling that the staff cared about the students and it was nice to see the students and the members of academic staff being so close.

The best thing for me about studying at Birmingham is the vast amount of good choice you are presented with. Whether it is in the numerous types of degree you can apply for, or the huge number of interesting modules you get to choose from later on in the degree. There are so many ways you can customise your degree to ensure you get the best out of it.

It’s going to be a cliché but I’ve loved every second of my time at Birmingham. I’d thoroughly recommend university to anyone. It changes you and you will never be presented with opportunities like this again. You will not regret getting involved. There is so much to do outside the degree and the people you share those experiences with are amazing. 

Tip for Dwayne - Physics has so many options, but occasionally opportunities can be well contested. Grab everything you want with both hands.

Dr Mark Thurston PhD in Astrophysics 2000


After graduating from the University of Birmingham I accepted a role as a software developer in a global investment bank in London. This was an exciting opportunity as it allowed me to interact directly with the in-house Traders and to develop bespoke software to facilitate foreign exchange transactions throughout the world’s financial markets. After several years in this position, I changed career and retrained as a Patent Attorney specialising in Intellectual Property law. I am now a UK Chartered Patent Attorney and European Patent Attorney authorised to act before both the UK Intellectual Property Office and the European Patent Office.

In order to become a qualified Patent Attorney you must have a degree in a scientific field and many also have a PhD. The experience and skills obtained from carrying out PhD research, such as time management, independent thinking, the ability to handle complex issues, multi-tasking and writing up large volumes of information in a concise and coherent manner are invaluable in many careers.

Tip from Mark - No matter what field your PhD research relates to you should try to be commercially aware. After all, at the end of the day once your academic studies are over you will most likely be seeking an employer who runs a company which will be effected by economic and commercial issues. Simply keeping an eye on current affairs and business news will generally be enough, and in most cases you will find that this is also useful for job interviews as employers generally like candidates to be topical. When applying for a job always do your research on the company offering the position. The internet is a wonderful resource for obtaining information about companies and their commercial activities. You should also speak to your careers department. When I chose to re-train as a Patent Attorney, I used the resources of the University of Birmingham’s career department to learn about the role and then applied for a vacancy that was advertised in their job listings. Without their help I would not have found my current job.

Hannah Vaughan graduated with MSc in Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors 2013

Hannah Vaughan

I graduated from UoB in December 2013 and went straight into my training on the British Airways Future Pilot Programme (BAFPP). It took almost 2 years from starting the course to joining the airline, and this time was spent completing 14 Airline Transport Pilots Licence exams, I spent 8 months in New Zealand learning the basics of flying and working towards the Commercial Pilots Licence Skills Test, I then came back to the UK to complete an Instrument Rating, Jet Orientation Course and then finally an Airbus A320 Type Rating. I have now been flying at BA since November 2015 in the right hand seat of the Airbus A320 family as a First Officer.

Not only was the University of Birmingham a top university to study at, with great lecturers and facilities, but there were so many extra-curricular activities available. As a very sporty person, when making my choice about universities the sporting facilities were very important to me. At Birmingham, the Munrow sports centre was exactly what I needed, if not more, and I am very jealous that I won’t be around to see the new sports facilities when they are completed! I was a squash club member throughout my time at Birmingham and it was great to have something different to do other than study, giving me a chance to compete to a very high level in the BUCS competitions and also make some very close friends along the way. As an undergraduate student I also joined what I believe to be one of the best-kept secrets at university, the University Air Squadron (UBAS).

Tip from Hannah - The PTNR course involves a thesis project in the summer to complete the masters. One thing that I would encourage people to do is to apply for the projects that are available in industry, as opposed to staying in Birmingham. The university course is well regarded within the nuclear industry and there are many projects available for study. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only PTNR masters student who has not progressed to a career with their placement organisation. This is a course I would highly recommend.

Dr Diana Wardley graduated with BSc Physics 1983, PhD in Physics 1986

Dr Neil Young PhD in Nanoscale Physics 2007

I am a faculty member in the Department of Materials, Oxford University, responsible for research support and teaching in electron microscopy. Since leaving Birmingham with an MSci in Physics and a PhD obtained from the Nanoscale Physics Research Laboratory in 2007, I have worked at the Department of Materials, University of Oxford.  I began my career here as a research fellow, working on the characterisation of nano-particles using advanced transmission electron microscopy techniques.  During this time I developed skills in facility management, teaching and also interaction with industrial partners.  During 2010-2011, I worked as a consultant applications specialist at a world-leading microscope manufacturer.  Then in 2011 I moved to a new role within the department as the member of faculty responsible for research support and training in electron microscopy.  I now lead a team of scientists involved with supporting research within the department that uses electron microscopy.  I also give lecture courses to students, supervise a PhD student and final year undergraduate student projects as well as continue my research in nano-materials.

My PhD is essential in my career.  Having a good grounding in physics from a research-led university such as Birmingham is very useful in my everyday work.

Tip from Neil -
Explore and make the most of all the opportunities that are available to you.  As a PhD graduate you have a lot of skills, not just in your academic specialism, so make sure you present these to potential employers.