A day in the life of an MSC Fusion Energy student

Hello, my name is Willow. I am a part-time student at the York Plasma Institute (YPI), currently halfway through my taught masters in fusion energy. I live a fair way off campus so my day usually starts with a bike ride. It takes me about 10 minutes to cycle down Tang Hall road, cross the main road on to campus and arrive at the YPI.

I usually start by heading into the kitchen and grabbing a cup of coffee. I will often pause for a brief conversation with whoever’s in the common room or kitchen, as there is always a friendly communal atmosphere and I am always interested to hear about other people’s projects and research. I then head up to the MSc hot-desk room, collect my laptop from my locker, check my emails, and begin my day’s work. In the absence of a lab day or an early-morning lecture I will check recent physics news and crack on with any weekly assignments. There are normally at least two or three fellow students also working on the weekly assignments and generally getting on with whatever else they have to do. We keep each other up to date with deadlines and changes to our timetable and often alert each other to particularly interesting conferences or talks being held during the week.

I tend not to take my laptop into lectures as I prefer taking notes with a pencil and often find my laptop to be a distraction. The lecture content is generally very interesting and always very relevant. I particularly appreciate being able to question the lecturer afterwards about any particular points that piqued my interest. Often there are other students with questions and for five minutes after the end of a lecture there is a sort of impromptu discussion session / Q&A. Several lectures are in the form of a problem class where we will be asked, as a class or individually, to solve a series of problems, with tips and feedback from the lecturer. Due to being a part-time student I generally don’t have more than two or three lectures a day which gives me plenty of time to read the supplementary material and keep up to date with my weekly assignments. There is a fair amount of programming involved with the course and the Department uses a lot of python. Before coming to York I was not familiar with Python so have been pursuing my own personal project developing small but increasingly complex games to familiarise myself with the language. I enjoy using them to experiment on the laptops provided as it is perfect for developing code.

For lunch I usually walk south to Main Street. Main Street is 3 minutes away from the YPI and boasts two pubs and an excellent little sandwich shop. The latter is my favourite place to buy lunch. I walk back over to the YPI, eating my sandwich, and head into the kitchen for another cup of coffee. I take my time walking back up to the hot-desk room and often stop to sip my coffee whilst I peruse one of the posters that line the walls of the corridors.

The afternoon continues much as the morning started. I work from the hot-desk room and cross the corridor to the Debye Lecture Theatre or cycle over to the Department of Physics for the occasional lecture. Once my lectures are all done for the day I cycle home. I pass a small co-op on the way and I can stop to pick up any shopping I need. I live in a five-bedroom shared house in Heworth. None of the other residents here are students; they’re all working various different jobs around the city. This means our timetables are often very different and sometimes the house can feel quite empty. When we do see each, however, other there are always interesting things to talk about.

Just north of my house is the pub where I work part-time, generally in the evenings. So, having got home, I have a shower and cook some dinner before heading to work. Working in the pub is fun. We have a good team and the shifts generally pass easily. If I’m not working too late I’ll stay around in the pub for half an hour or so after my shift before heading home to get some sleep or – if I don’t have morning lectures next day – to grab my bike and a change of clothes and cycle 10 minutes into town to join my friends for an evening out.

If I don’t have work that evening and I feel up to it, I’ll try and go for a climb at the nearby bouldering centre, just a 5-minute bike ride from my house. But, I confess, I often end up relishing the, rather rare, free time and playing video games or watching TV with my housemates.

I really enjoy living in York, both for the beauty and fun of the city and the interesting community at the YPI.