Young physics graduates – future bio-physicist Hazel Garvie-Cook

Hazel Garvie-Cook  recently graduated with a physics MPhys from Durham University. She is currently doing an internship at the IOP. Here she shares her experience of studying for a physics degree  and blogs about her interest in the ethics of science.

Having realised my passion for physics during my degree and the subject’s ability to make a difference to the world, I decided to apply for an internship at the Institute of Physics to get to know another side to the subject. The internship is in Business and Innovation Policy and I hope to find out more about how research successes in the UK have led to commercial products which have been a benefit to the UK.

My interest in physics was driven by a desire to learn more about the world that surrounds me. I was curious about the origins of the universe and about life in general. It became clear that physics gives the means to approach these questions. With a questioning mind set, everyday objects hold a new light and allow one to see the beauty of science.  After learning more about physics, I have come to realise just how broad and applicable the subject is. Physics can make a positive difference to the world and solve global issues.

My four years of studying physics at Durham University were great. I spent the first and second year getting to grips with the step up from A-Level to degree level physics and the different style of learning at university. Laboratory work experience at the end of second year really cemented my passion for physics and encouraged the idea that my future lies within the subject. The eight week project hardly felt like work. Every day I would use incredible equipment, and I became completely involved in the research.

One module during the third year really stood out as a defining point in my approach to physics. The course was called ‘General Problems’ and encouraged students to take a general approach to solving any problem given to us. It changed the way I thought about questions and made me feel much more confident in my ability to tackle any problem presented.

Fourth year was the best year of my undergraduate degree, and many other physicists from my year agree. With more choice of modules and an individual project, the year felt ‘tailor-made’ and it was easier to become engaged in all aspects of the course.  The project gave me a chance to get to know members of the department and it was great to feel part of the community there and the research being undertaken.

After going to various extracurricular lectures by scientists such as Brian Cox, Graham Farmelo and Martin Rees, I was interested to look into the ethics of science, its support and impact in the UK. I knew that I wasn’t ready to leave physics after four years at university and I wanted to explore what I could do with the subject. I applied for this internship because it gave me an opportunity to experience a job which would use my degree and make a difference to the world and to a subject which I’m extremely passionate about. I’m greatly looking forward to starting a PhD in September in biological physics. After spending some more time in research, I’ll think again about where my experiences and motivations can take me. I’m looking forward to the opportunities which face me in the future in this subject.

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