Lidia Gomes Da Silva MPhys Physics with Mathematics, fourth year
During my time at Southampton, through studying challenging modules, drawing insight from the more mathematical and computational modules and undertaking research I have proven that I can come up with original solutions to complex problems.
Choosing to study at Southampton
I chose to come to Southampton due to its well-balanced MPhys Physics with Mathematics course structure. Its world-renowned reputation and state-of-the-art facilities were also an instrumental deciding factor. I was also impressed by the approachable yet academically intense atmosphere the staff conveyed.
Overcoming fears and building confidence
Growing up I always got good grades and was told I was talented. However, I was always very anxious and cautious of my future. During my time at Southampton, through studying challenging modules, drawing insight from the more mathematical and computational modules and undertaking research I have proven that I can come up with original solutions to complex problems. This has finally made me a more confident person and helped me acquire my own style of doing physics, which has been crucial for my success.
The support from academic staff from my very first day has been crucial in building my confidence. I was shy at first due to being a non-native speaker, but this soon changed. My ability to communicate well has been really important as many times in my research I’ve needed to approach scientists from other fields to help piece concepts together and further improve the quality of my research.
Studying general relativity
In third year I had the opportunity to learn general relativity for the first time with the incredibly talented and personable Professor Nils Andersson and PhD student Rory Brown. The course was very well structured and the delivery was perfect. I am also looking forward to studying Advanced General Relativity with the world-leading physicist Professor Marika Taylor next semester.
I hope to go on to do a PhD in general relativity when I graduate.
An outstanding teaching and learning experience
Studying physics at Southampton has been an outstanding experience. All the lecturers and assistant PhD students, both from Mathematical Sciences and Physics, are very dedicated to their teaching and their students.
You will also have your own personal tutor (PT) who is a senior academic member of staff for the duration of your course who can help you with any issues you may have, whether academic or personal. My relationship with my PT, Professor Jonathan Flynn has been instrumental. There has not been a single important career decision I have taken without consulting him first.
The facilities available to you as a Physics and Astronomy student are truly five star. I’ve always been able to use the teaching labs whenever I need to, whether that is to tinker with electronics or to prepare for my summer placement at the ISIS Neutron Source. For my current research project in theoretical astrophysics I use the University’s very powerful supercomputer to run my simulations.
My highlight: the opportunity to do real research
I feel very fortunate and proud that I was able to spend my summers doing original research in both experimental particle physics and theoretical astrophysics.
Through the SEPnet summer placement scheme, I spent a whole summer at the ISIS Neutron Source at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxford. I worked in a lab right in the middle of the experimental hall in Target Station 1, where neutron beams are tested. During the placement I was able to come up with a proof-of-concept experiment which uses Positron Annihilation Lifetime Spectroscopy to study atomic defects in materials. I designed and set up the experiment, and developed a Python code to apply a suitable statistical method to the data. My supervisor is now expanding on my work, and it even led me to land a job offer in medical physics from another organisation in SEPnet!
The next summer I was fortunate enough to work on a research project at the University, alongside Professor Malcolm Coe and a PhD student. I used my mathematical and computational skills to model the effect an orbiting neutron star has on the optical emission light from a massive OB star by performing simulations using the University’s supercomputer.
Southampton Astronomy Group
As part of my research in astrophysics I have had the pleasure of working within the Southampton Astronomy Group. The group has a very strong sense of community and a unique academic atmosphere. There is a weekly journal club, where both staff and students can share their knowledge and exchange opinions across astrophysics and cosmology topics. There are also several weekly talks organised by students and staff, as well as invited speakers from other institutions.