David McDwyer

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Studying is a team effort, you work with students on problem sets and give each other the moral support required.

So what is studying physics at Edinburgh like? You’ll spend your first year in and around George Square, which is the central area and the hub of the university.  The main library and unions will both be within a minutes walk of your lecture theatre. First year also gives you the opportunity to ‘acclimatise’ to university life. My advice though would be not to get complacent, as second year and subsequent years will get a lot tougher!

From second year onwards you will be based in the Kings Building’s which is the main science campus and you will be almost exclusively based in the James Clerk Maxwell Building (or the JCMB as it’s affectionately known). The only exception to this is any courses outside of physics you may take, for example if you’re taking astronomy courses you may well be up at the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh (ROE).

The JCMB can cater to pretty much all your needs, with lectures being in one of the 3 main lecture halls. There are a variety of labs spread over 7 floors and some newly opened teaching clusters and communal workspaces which make working on problems with your class mates that little bit easier. The JCMB is quite a large, and sometimes daunting, building so don’t be surprised (or embarrassed) if you get lost from time to time, I still do!

The last thing I’d say concerns the workload. You should know that you’ve not picked an easy option in taking physics and that whilst your friends may well only have 2 hours of lectures a week, you’ll have much more than this. Studying is a team effort, you work together on problem sets and give each other the moral support required. If I could give you any advice it would be to get to know the people on your course. There’s a big temptation in first year just to hang out with people who you’re living with, but as a result you don’t get to know people who are going through the same difficulties as you are. One of the best ways to meet people is to join the Edinburgh University Physics Society (EUPS) which is simply a society for people who study physics like yourself to meet occasionally over a couple of drinks in a social environment.

Whilst other students are struggling to find jobs, myself and other people on my course are having a relatively better time of it. This is because physics is a challenge. One thing that’s guaranteed about this degree is that you will be stretched further than you ever have before, but persevere and it’ll be worth it. The scope of physics itself covers everything, from quarks to quasars, which is a truly amazing thing when you think about it. Everything you learn about in physics can be applied to the world, and you will always have moments where you realise you’ve just learnt something that changed the world we live in dramatically. When this is combined with the fantastic academics and learning facilities available to you, it will make for a truly unique experience.

BSc (Hons) Physics, 2011