Paul Clarkson

PhD Candidate in Nanotechnology, University of Cambridge
MSc Nuclear Physics and Reactor Technology (2010), BSc Physics (2009)

Physics teaches us very complex subject matters, starting with simple models and adding complexity when necessary. This was expertly taught to me at Birmingham. The academics I was surrounded by were incredibly enthusiastic and inspiring.

I studied physics at Birmingham where I got my BSc (Hons) followed by an MSc in Nuclear Physics and Reactor Technology in 2010. Since then, I worked at Rolls-Royce plc for three years. During my time there I worked as a physicist/engineer on nuclear reactors (not surprisingly) but 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 from sensor technologies to synthetic biology. In my not-so-spare time, I am also a writer and co-founder of an entertainment production company called 'Box Step Productions'. I also get involved with science popularisation, most recently at the Global Grand Challenges Summit. 

There is a tendency when studying a STEM subject to ‘stay true’ to that field after university. Once leaving university this may not be the case, as you can see from my experiences. The thing that I can say is that studying physics armed me with the tools and mind-sets 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 in regards to approaching problems and coming 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 taught me the importance of physics and science in the real world. The academics I was surrounded by were incredibly enthusiastic and inspiring. They even let me make a comedy film in my final year in which many of the academic staff got involved! 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.