The University of Southampton

Andrew Cox MPhys Physics with a Year of Experimental Research 2016

Phoenix Photonics

During Andrew's placement he worked on producing a fibre optical power coupling device. His aim was to create a device in which the intensity of light coming out of two optical fibres could be changed relative to one another.

Doing a placement made me realise that the thing I love about physics is the problem solving aspect

How would you describe a typical day?
Mornings consisted of carrying out experiments and collating data on a problem such as mounting the fibre within the glass block. Then in the afternoon I would take some time to draught up some new ideas. Following this I would get my new plan approved by my supervisor. Finally, I would prepare so that I could conduct the new experiment the following day.

Why did you decide to do a placement?
I decided to do a placement so that I could start narrowing down my vision of what I wanted to do when I graduated. I was interested in fibre optics so I thought it would be a good placement to show me whether that was the field I wanted to go into. Also, doing a placement was a good use of my time over summer, as opposed to working a normal summer job such as barwork or retail to pay my rent.

Would you recommend doing a placement?
Doing a placement is an excellent experience and has really helped me think about all the options available to me upon graduating. It has made me think more about what I enjoy about my subject and the things I should try to avoid. However, I would warn other students to think carefully about travelling large distances to complete internships. I would recommend you try your best to find a local internship as it will save you a large amount of money, hassle, and will mean you can easily see your friends and family.

How do you think doing a placement has benefited you for the future?
Doing a placement made me realise that I needed to have a real passion for something to do a PhD straight after graduating and that purely working experimentally with optical fibres isn’t for me. However, doing the placement made me realise that the thing I love about physics is the problem solving aspect, and that any job I have in the future should contain some practical problem solving.

Do you have any plans for the future?  If you do, what are your next steps?
Photonics is still something that excites me as an overall theoretical subject. I am considering taking another internship next year to see whether I enjoy working with lasers instead of fibres. Alternatively, I have recently considered working for a consultancy firm; mainly stemming from my love of problem solving. Next summer I will look to either travel or take up another internship depending upon personal funds at that point in time.