Physical Natural Sciences

Applied in: Winter 2013

University Offers: Cambridge, Imperial College, Durham, UCL, Manchester

I have always been struck by the notion that "Science is a field that grows continuously with ever expanding frontiers"(John Bardeen) and it is this that drives my desire to learn how to predict and explain the world around me.

In 2012, I undertook work experience at ***, assisting on a macromolecular crystallography beamline. The coalescence of three sciences in this field interests me and I was given the opportunity to be involved in the practical interpretation of problems harnessing a range of scientific specialisms, including mounting protein crystals and analysing the complex structures. This was also my first exposure to superconductors, which intrigue me through the complexity of the quantum BCS theory that underlies the phenomenon and how they represent a meeting of two essential fields of physics: electromagnetism and quantum mechanics. I pursued superconductivity as my A level research brief and it was here that I encountered the inspiring work of John Bardeen, with his emphasis on how "Science is a collaborative effort". I was intrigued how the formation of Cooper pairs could be explained both as an electrostatic attraction, within the classical model, and, via phonon-mediated pairing, as the exchange of a lattice vibration boson between two electrons, in the quantum model.

Having sparked my interest in crystallography, I made contact with ***, through whom I gained insight into the varied practical aspects of this field. This allowed me to be part of a highly collaborative team examining the crystallographic characterisation of ligand-protein interactions. It was challenging and rewarding to operate an interactive modelling program and thereafter interpret electron density maps.

Last summer, I was fortunate to be selected for work experience at ***, where I assisted in experiments using non-active simulants of material on ***, again experiencing the importance of collaboration and the inter-disciplinary nature of the sciences. I was thrilled by the chance to bring together my physical and chemical knowledge as I was tasked with computer designing parts for remote robotic systems, testing the strength and durability of various encapsulation concretes with different chemical structures, monitoring their tensile and compressive strengths and assisting in testing freeze-sampling equipment.

I was one of 20 pupils in the country to be selected to attend the Imperial College Insights Course in 2013. Immersing myself in the world of academia, with lectures and practical work, further solidified my determination to pursue a career in science.

I brought my fascination with the frontiers of physics to the board of my school's scientific society. I organized and hosted an evening dedicated to time travel and persuaded the author Brian Clegg to present a lecture. Wanting to share my passion with others, I began what was intended as a single term of a weekly after-school science club at a local Primary School. I devised and then demonstrated experiments, involving the 8-11 year olds in each and explaining the science behind what they were seeing. Running this club was a great privilege and it proved so popular that I was invited to continue it and have done so. I was awarded a prize for my contribution to extra-curricular science at school and in the wider community.

In my spare time, I have undertaken the Cambridge Online Chemistry Challenge every month for two years and have won the Gold award in the British Physics Olympiad. Outside academia, I enjoy rowing, (I was part of the winning Junior Eight at Marlow Regatta) and playing the guitar and piano.

It is the balance of my interests in and out of school, and the incorporation of science in all that I do, that drives me towards a degree in the subject. I relish the challenge and chance of exploring the widest possible terrain up to the very frontiers of science.

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