Physics is the best! Let me tell you about the department and course …

So you may have already guessed I love physics. Despite all my whining and moaning about exams, I still think it’s the best subject ever! I thought I might tell you a little bit about why I love this department so much and try and give you a flavour of what it’s like to be part of it.


York is an friendly city in general and the Physics department here is no exception. The staff  have a genuine passion for their subject but are also very friendly and welcoming. There is an open door policy so if you have an issue, like a question from a lecture course, you can just pop by their office and say hi! Staff are also more than happy to reply to enquiries by email which can be really handy if you’re struggling with something specific.

Course reps and flexibility

Every year, you will elect two course reps to represent you at the department meetings. They are a fantastic go-between, allowing students to have a voice and make an impact on our courses. If there are issues with a lecturer or lecture course they can talk to people within the department about it and help to make changes if necessary. The department in general is very receptive to student feedback. Feedback is taken at the end of each module and helps to improve the course for following years. My overall experience has been very positive- I feel as though they would like both individuals and the year groups as a whole to have the best learning experience possible.

Volunteers for the Principia weekend
Volunteers for the Principia weekend

Outreach and volunteering opportunities

The department holds loads of outreach events that you as a student can get involved in! They do all sorts, from smaller visits to the astrocampus and out to schools, to great big events like the big telescope fair and the Principia weekend (when astronaut Tim Peake came to visit for the day!). They are always looking for volunteers. Apart from being fantastic fun, you get training to work with the equipment and it is a great thing to talk about in interviews further down the line.

Amazing research

There is some pretty cool research going on in the maze of Physics buildings here. From plasma science and fusion energy, to super heavy elements, biophysics, magnetic fluids, nanotechnology and more. To be taught by the people doing all this amazing work is great! In addition to final year and masters projects that involve all this cool stuff, the department run summer placements where you can work within a research group doing proper real science.

3rd year physics girls at winter ball! :)
3rd year physics girls at winter ball! 🙂

Women in physics

So yeah, there aren’t so many of us. There’s no getting around that in the world of physics! But we are all the more fabulous because of it. I have never been treated differently by a member of staff or student because I am a girl and there are some great female members of staff here. If you are a girl thinking about taking Physics please don’t be put off by gender ratios.

Visiting Jodrell Bank Observatory
Visiting Jodrell Bank Observatory

Physoc and Astrosoc

Physoc is the University of York’s Physics society. It is open to all members of the University but is, understandably, mostly made up of Physics students. Physoc host lots of events throughout the year, from open lectures from guests within and outside of the uni to socials including our winter ball, bar crawls and more! We also have Astrosoc who deal with all things stellar. They host observing nights, using the big telescopes over on the astro-campus, have socials and run cool trips to places like the Jodrell Bank observatory.

Course content

Different things suit different people but I have found this course has given me a well rounded Physics education including all the mathematical tools I need to understand the content. Going into third year I have had the opportunity to choose lots of my modules and have really enjoyed learning about some more specific areas of physics, including plasma science and technology, and modern optics.

Physfest 2016
Physfest 2016

Physfest and apple pie

Last but not least is Physfest! Every year the department hosts a mini ‘festival’ on our Astrocampus to welcome all the new students. It’s a great way to meet your course mates, your academic supervisor and the rest of the staff. Upper year students help out with the setting up and running of the evening, so you can ask them questions too. There is food and drink for everyone. This includes enough apple pie to feed a small army, made from the apples from a graft of Newtons apple tree we have here in the department. For me it reflects a whole load of the things that are great about this department: friendliness, inclusivity, teamwork and fun!


If you have any questions about the course, the staff, the department or what it’s like to be a student here, please just ask! I am more than happy to help 🙂

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Hey there! I'm Emma! I'm in the third year of an MPhys Physics! I originally started off with a foundation year and loved York so much I'll now be going into my fourth year of living here. I'm a member of Derwent college, do loads with dance society and love to bake in my spare time!