The Millthorpian EASTER 2015

Inside the Easter 2015 edition:

  • Solar eclipse
  • Battlefields trip
  • Marking the centenary of the First World War
  • House of Lords visit
  • The big read

and much more…

Ice Scientist

Qualifications

A-levels
Physics, Mathematics and Design & Technology

Degree
Earth and Space Science (University College London)

Katharine looks at what’s going on at the Earth’s Poles

She has always been keen on adventures, and working in the freezing cold of the Antarctic has been one of her biggest so far. “Ever since I can remember I’ve always been interested in nature and the planet and so after my A-levels I studied Earth and Space Science at university.”

Katharine now uses satellites to monitor the ice at the Earth’s poles to understand changes in our climate. “I’ve even been to visit NASA as well as the European Space Agency to learn about their satellites.”

To get the best results, she compares data from satellites with measurements she collects on the ice. “Doing experiments in the Antarctic has its own unique problems; the extreme cold stopped our generators and radar equipment from working and we resorted to the low tech solution of wrapping everything in a duvet.”

“Even getting to the ice was tough. During our month long voyage to the Antarctic, we faced storms with 60mph winds, waves 10m high and the only safe place was sitting on the floor. But seeing killer whales, emperor penguins and the endless blue sky made up for all of that; when I’m out on the ice it feels as if I am standing in the centre of a huge IMAX theatre with the sun, moon and clouds projected onto the dome above me. It’s truly breath-taking!”

You can find more information about careers in physics by visiting www.physics.org

Gravity Researcher

Qualifications

A-level equivalent
German Abitur

Degree
BSc Applied Physics with Microcomputing, Diplom Physik

Postgraduate Degree
Dr. rer. Nat. (German equivalent of a physics PhD)

Andreas is trying to detect the tiny vibrations in space-time caused by cosmic explosions and colliding black holes.

Gravitational wave research is a new field, but it’s one that Andreas has already been able to make his mark on. ‘I am helping to improve the laser optics of the km-size laser antennas that are designed to catch and measure the gravitational waves caused by colliding black holes and exploding stars. Measuring these vibrations in space-time is very, very difficult and we’ve not yet succeeded, so I am trying to make our detectors even more sensitive. It’s a very exciting job because my ideas directly influence how we build the antennas.’

While Andreas enjoys working on the technical puzzles thrown up by gravitational wave detection, it was the people involved in it who first attracted him as a postgraduate student. ‘I chose gravitational waves because that research group in my university was the most fun to work with. It turns out, fortunately, that it is also a field where it is relatively easy to get involved with the key people and have a real impact internationally.’

Day to day life has remained just as rewarding for Andreas throughout his career. ‘It’s fun! I like to work with other people. I like to learn new things every day and I enjoy the freedom of leading my own research activity. I write a lot of research papers but I believe that my most important contribution has been, together with my colleagues, creating a very productive and happy research group for young researchers and students in Birmingham.’

Andreas’ career has taken him to many different countries, from his postgraduate work on the GEO600 project in Hanover, to the Virgo detector in Italy and now as a university lecturer and researcher in the UK. During this time, Andreas has seen the field grow from its humble beginnings to the very large international collaborations in existence today. But the best is yet to come. ‘The best times for our research field are still ahead and the excitement will last for many years!’

You can find more information about careers in physics by visiting www.physics.org

DJ

Qualifications

A-levels
Physics, Mathematics, Further Mathematics, Chemistry

Degree
Physics (Imperial College London)

By day Martin is a physicist, by night a DJ on Kiss FM.

“You don’t really apply for DJ jobs. To get one you need to build up your experience. I started DJing when I was at school – I worked on hospital radio as part of Duke of Edinburgh award. At university I volunteered for a student radio station and did a lot of networking – which landed me a job setting up a radio station for the music store HMV. I then met a guy who was an agent and he put me forward for a job at KISS FM at a time he knew someone else was leaving. It was a case of good timing”.

Martin studied physics at university “You’d be surprised how useful physics can be for just about anything; even DJing. In fact, physics landed me my first job in radio. HMV wanted to start a radio station to be aired in their stores across the country. It was based on some brand new software that nobody had used before – they needed somebody with both computing and radio experience to help set it up. I’d done a lot of computer programming in my degree and studying physics gives you the confidence to take on new challenges, so I really fitted the bill.”

“I’ve also used my understanding of physics to come up with a new way of DJing, I call it WiiJing – it’s DJing with a Nintendo Wii remote. I’d heard about people using a Wii remote as a computer mouse, and that’s what gave me the idea – I thought, why can’t I use it for DJing. If you understand acceleration and gravity and can do a bit of programming you can use a Wii remote to control the music. I’ve performed entire live gigs in front of crowds of people with nothing more than a couple of Wii remotes in my hands!”

“I live in these two worlds, and they’re not that different. If you want to learn to DJ, physics can help you. There’s a lot of crossover from DJing and cutting edge physics.”

You can find more information about careers in physics by visiting www.physics.org

Red Nose Day – Friday 13 March

It’s Red Nose Day on Friday 13 March. The school wants to support the valuable work that Comic Relief does in the UK and across Africa so we’re having a fundraising day. Students can come to school in non-uniform if they donate £1 (no onesies or sleepwear please). There will be a cake sale at break and lunch and donations of cakes and biscuits would be very gratefully received on the Friday morning. Cakes will cost 50p to buy. There will be other fund raising activities on the day too so please bring along any spare change.

Computer Games Designer

Qualifications

A-levels
Physics, Mathematics, Geology

BSc Degree
Computer Science (Cardiff University)

MSc Degree
Character Animation (University of Bristol)

Chris programmes characters for video games.

“After my A-levels, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and so I took a gap year and worked in an aeronautics company through the Year in Industry programme. Although this placement wasn’t anything to do with what I ended up doing as a career, it was really useful – I learned a lot about working for a company, which helped me when applying for a job. I also managed to save some money to help pay for uni. Another advantage of taking a year out is that, unlike most of the people that are applying for degrees, you already know your A-level grades and so you’ve got a guaranteed place when you do go to university – and also get first pick of accommodation, months before everyone else.”

Chris decided on a degree in computer science after his placement, and then spent an extra year specialising in character animation for computer games. He now works for NaturalMotion; a leading video games development company and explains how what he learnt in A-level physics helps him in his job.

“Modern games rely on a piece of software called a physics-engine, this computer code governs how objects move and interact in a computer game. To build a physics-engine you really do need to understand physics. Objects won’t fall realistically without getting the gravity right, and if you don’t understand momentum you can’t create realistic explosions and collisions. The rules of physics need to be programmed in to a game and our physics-based animation engine has been used in lots of different games like Star Wars and Grand Theft Auto.”

“If you are interested in becoming a computer games designer, one of the most important pieces of advice I could give you is to take A-level physics and maths. So many aspects of games design rely on being able to reduce a game down to the physics and understanding what effect changing the rules and tweaking the numbers will have on the end experience.”

You can find more information about careers in physics by visiting www.physics.org