Rachael Dixon

Rachel tells us about her career journey after completing the MPhys Physics.

Why did you decide to study at the University of Edinburgh?

Rachael Dixon

Edinburgh was always appealing to me. I grew up in Aberdeen and visited Edinburgh a few times. I enjoyed the University of Edinburgh’s Open Days, and liked what Edinburgh had to offer. It was an easy site to fall in love with!

How did you get where you are?

When I applied for my MPhys in Physics I had in my personal statement that I wanted to be a teacher. Throughout my time at the University of Edinburgh I nurtured both my passion for the subject as well as my interest in working with young people.

The combination of these experiences brought me to apply for a job at the European Space Agency, in the Education office. My job was to develop space related material for young people all over Europe and running competitions for them. I moved to the Netherlands in summer of 2020 during Covid. I then worked as a Data Analyst for the NHS and eventually applied to do a PGDE in physics, which is what I am currently working towards.

Did you do any teaching experiences while you were at university?

Teaching had always been something I wanted to do, and I started on a voluntary basis while I was studying at the University.

I worked at a summer camp for international students who came from all over the world to learn English in Edinburgh. I was in charge to take them around different parts of the city and run activities. I also worked at the Children's Hospital delivering maths to those patients would benefit from some science input. I was doing a lot of coding around the hospital and the children I worked with were aged 8 to 16.

These experiences made me realise how much I enjoyed teaching and also grew my passion for physics.

Where there other experiences that helped you for life after graduation?

During my time at University, one of my friends got involved with the UK National Student Space Society and put a bid in to host their annual conference at the University of Edinburgh, where the conference was eventually hosted. I helped organising the event and ended up becoming the secretary of this organisation.

I also attended a conference called the Symposium for Space Education where I delivered a talk on a paper I had written about the work I was doing at the Children Hospital.

A number of other exciting opportunities followed shortly after. I was asked to keynote at a space conference in Budapest; I was then invited to the US Ambassador's residence in London for an event on the future of space which was being hosted by Buzz Aldrin's son; a couple of weeks later I also got invited to run the stall for a space company in America for the fiftieth anniversary of the Moon Landing. Needless to say, I met a lot of interesting people at these events!

These were all incredible opportunities that certainly strengthened my application to the European Space Agency, Education Office. The School of Physics and Astronomy was very supportive. My personal tutor, Ross Galloway helped me get funding for travel to the conference, and made sure that the extensions for my assignments were approved.

And do you have any favourite memories of your time at the University of Edinburgh?

I've honestly really enjoyed my time in the School of Physics and Astronomy! The support and academic staff were great

Because we had a common room for our year, the cohort became really close as there was a space to socialise, as well as undergo study sessions and work together towards assignments and exams. I did direct entry, so started in year two, and I’ve never regretted that decision.

What advice would you give to current students?

I would recommend to take the opportunities that the University has to offer, and engage with activities beyond just the academics. When I started my MPhys degree I was very much focussed on physics and had quite a narrow view of what I wanted to do. However, looking back in retrospective, it would have been useful to see what other opportunities were available – societies, sports, music. You name it!