The University of Southampton

Azaria Coupe MPhys Physics (2015), PhD Physics, second year

Azaria was first drawn to Southampton by its vibrant, green campus and interesting physics courses – and she is still here six years later, studying for her PhD in particle physics. 

Southampton is, and has been, perfect for me since I moved here in 2011.

Choosing Southampton: a green campus with exciting opportunities

I first decided I wanted to come to Southampton around seven years ago. The undergraduate MPhys course had so many core and optional modules that looked interesting. Coming to Southampton for the Open Day cemented my desire to study here; the campus struck me as vibrant and green, and both the staff and students were helpful, enthusiastic, and welcoming. I absolutely made the right decision, and this carried on into my desire to stay here for my PhD.

A strong sense of community

From the very first days of lectures here back in 2011, I knew that I had made the right decision. The sense of community between physics students made self-study and completing problem sheets fun, and the lecturers and PhD demonstrators were always keen to help us. Having a personal supervisor was also a huge benefit. Professor Stefano Moretti was my supervisor, and across the four years of my undergraduate degree he helped, supported, and advised me in both academic and personal issues. The physics parenting system also meant that we had contact with more experienced undergraduate students, which helped us settle in a lot.

Tailoring the course

The flexibility of my course allowed me to choose modules from across the wider university. In my second year, I chose to study a module on 20th Century music, instead of the alternatives within my department. Music is a second love of mine, so getting to dip into a subject I love – despite it being very far from my degree subject – was an excellent experience. I very much feel I was able to tailor my degree towards studying a variety of topics that I was interested in.

Living in Southampton

Southampton is such an excellent balance of city and nightlife, with culture and countryside. Being from Wales, having easily accessible green spaces such as the Common are a real home comfort. Having both the town centre and the more student-oriented Portswood area means that it is easy to balance calm strolls with fun nights out, and even now that I don’t go out clubbing, there is still plenty to experience. I’ve been here six years and I’ve still not experienced everything that Southampton has to offer!

I stayed at Glen Eyre Halls during the first year of my undergraduate degree, and it was an amazing experience. Living with a mixed gender and mixed subject group helped me make friends from outside of my degree course and experience the wider variety of life at this University. I would not change a thing about my halls experience, and we all still keep in touch.

Continuing my third year research at PhD level

The Southampton High Energy Physics group (SHEP) allows PhD students to choose their supervisor and project after a year of specialist courses. This was an important for me, as I wanted to know I would have countless opportunities to steer my PhD in any direction I wanted.

I was very keen to carry on the research I had started in my third year internship, within the SHEP group at Southampton, on the physics of Walking Technicolor and its signatures at the LHC. More generally, I am a phenomenologist, which means I bridge the gap between theory and experiment in particle physics. My time at Southampton has showed me how crucial it is to be able to connect these two areas in order to truly understand the Universe. I plan to continue on that path for the remainder of my research career. Even if I study theories other than Walking Technicolor, I will always be a phenomenologist.

If you are considering doing a PhD (particularly in particle physics!), then Southampton is the best place to be. The taught courses, the freedom to choose your research topic and supervisor, and the links we have to SEPnet (the South East Physics Network) and NExT are great reasons alone. There is no place I’d rather be.

Growing as a person at Southampton

I’ve always been an enthusiastic student, particularly when it comes to physics and maths, and my time at Southampton has really helped to consolidate my desire to be successful as a researcher in particle physics. Having both the undergraduate and postgraduate perspective has very much highlighted how much I have developed as a person and as a researcher.

In particular, my passion for helping others to learn has been cultivated. I’ve gone from being an under-confident student asking the PhD students for help, to being a Mayflower Scholar, teaching and helping the current undergraduates with their understanding, and their confidence. I think discovering my passion for teaching undergraduate level physics has been my greatest development so far.

My Southampton experience in one word…

I’d say “home”, as Southampton is and has been perfect for me since I moved here in 2011.