Frederika Phipps MPhys Astrophysics with a Year Abroad, 2018
Frederika has made the most of the opportunities available to her as a Physics and Astronomy student at Southampton. She has travelled to Tenerife on a department field trip, completed a summer placement and will be spending her final year at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.
I chose to study at Southampton because the opportunities that the University offers to physics students are exceptional and difficult to find anywhere else.
Exceptional opportunities at Southampton
I chose to study at Southampton because the opportunities that the University offers to physics students are exceptional and difficult to find anywhere else. For example, I’ll be spending my final year at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. All staff were extremely enthusiastic when I spoke to them at the Open Day which was a really great thing to see. Also in general, the campus is lovely and all facilities are great.
Meeting my ‘physics family’ when I arrived
All first years are in the same boat when you arrive on the first day and therefore it’s quick to make friends. The halls accommodation also helps with finding people with similar interests to you, and people on your degree course. The physics faculty have ‘physics families’ where you’re assigned ‘physics parents’ (students from other years); this really helps you with getting to know the campus, and they are there to help you out with any problems you may have with your course.
Astronomy research in Tenerife
So far, one of my best experiences at Southampton has been managing to get a place to go to Tenerife to do astronomy research projects in my second year. The first week involved an international collaboration; we were put in groups of about eight with a mix of Southampton students, La Laguna university students and Irish students as well. We had six days to design a space-based satellite to look at a specific area of high-energy astrophysics. For the second week, I was up in the observatories on Mount Teide. We were split into groups of four, and there were three telescopes that we were taught to control and use which we rotated on each night. Each student had their own project which they had chosen to do; for me, I was looking at a cataclysmic variable binary star system, NN Serpentis. The trip was a lot of fun but also a lot of hard work! I learnt how to be more organised and also how to survive on very little sleep! It’s an excellent opportunity to get a deeper understanding of what it’s like to be a researcher.
A SEPnet work placement at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation
I did a summer placement at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation in Portsmouth, where I aided my supervisor with one of her research projects. I reduced and analysed radio data of over 200 galaxies, looking for neutral hydrogen in the galaxy. I also extracted various other properties of the gas and the galaxy. I then used this data to plot various graphs, which were used in a proposal to gain more telescope time on the Green Bank Telescope in the USA (the telescope that the research project used). My SEPnet placement was really helpful, as it gave me a deeper insight to the day-to-day life of a research scientist, and also helped me develop my computing skills in Python and learn new skills in other software. I recommend applying for SEPnet placements – they provide a wide variety of placements across all different areas of physics. Most are industry based placements but some are like mine and based in research facilities / universities.
My Southampton experience in one word…