Ciprian Pruteanu

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I was lucky enough to receive two summer scholarships to undertake physics projects, and what I liked the most was being encouraged to contribute to key research being carried out in the School.

One of my desires when I came to the university was to do experiments, to test the world directly, guided by acquired theoretical knowledge and skill. And this was promptly offered during my degree, giving me a "tasting" of nuclear physics, atomic, molecular and optical physics, condensed matter physics and even electronics. These experiments ranged from very simple, out-of-the-box experiments to a more complex project, which involved real research in a rather unexplored area of High-Pressure Physics (that is the area of physics which deals with the insides of stars and planets, among other things).

The idea for this project came when I was awarded my first summer scholarship.  Scholarships were available for undergraduate students to undertake a real research project in one of the research groups in the Physics & Astronomy department.  To be honest, approaching a professor and asking if he would like to supervise me for a project was a bit intimidating, at first. After we discussed the details, it turned out he was (like most people in the department) approachable and helpful, and glad to help students develop into real physicists.

I learned so many interesting things during my first summer placement that I did it again the next summer. During my second summer placement I had the opportunity to participate in some experiments at central facilities (ISIS, the UK neutron source and Diamond, the UK synchrotron), which only boosted my enthusiasm for that particular field and made me enjoy even more the company of the people who were guiding me through this whole process.

Retrospectively, I think what I liked the most was the feeling of not being kept away from real research, the thing which gets published in journals and which drives human knowledge forward, but rather encouraged to bring my contribution to that.

In fact, I seem to have enjoyed that experience so much that I decided I want to spend at least another 4 years around these people, working next to them, in this environment, trying to earn a PhD.

But don't think it's all just work. Of course, once in a while you need a break, and for that you have all the pubs, restaurants and concert venues in Edinburgh; and there are far too many for me to enumerate here. I won't give you any examples or advice since it only takes a person 15 minutes of wandering around the Old Town aimlessly to find a place where he or she would like to spend a few hours in a nice setting and company.

MPhys Physics, 2012