The University of Southampton

Declan Millar MPhys Particle Physics with a year abroad, PhD in Particle Physics, Southampton High Energy Physics group (SHEP)

“I chose to do an MPhys degree at the University of Southampton because, after researching online, I found it had a great reputation for both Physics research and teaching. I really liked the campus and the Physics and Astronomy department had a relaxed and friendly atmosphere with a good sense of community.”

I think I may be slightly different to your standard physics student, it isn’t the ‘unknowns’ and the ‘unanswered questions’ about physics that really excite me, it’s actually the fundamental ‘knowns’!

Opportunities abroad
“At the end of my second year, I was given the opportunity to change onto the Physics with Particle Physics course, which included a year abroad at CERN, near Geneva. I jumped at the chance to widen my understanding of Particle Physics in another institution where world leading research was being carried out.

“I haven’t always been interested in theory and particle physics, but I do love learning, and I think the reason why I wanted to do research is that I just wanted to learn more, ideally I would like to learn everything, so it makes sense to start at the smallest scales of matter!

With support from my supervisors at the University of Southampton, and at CERN, I soon became extremely excited and enthusiastic about my Masters project using the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. I enjoyed it so much that I decided I would to like continue doing research for a PhD, so I chose to apply for a PhD working with my Masters supervisor in Southampton."

Different perspective
“I think I may be slightly different to your standard physics student, it isn’t the ‘unknowns’ and the ‘unanswered questions’ about physics that really excite me, it’s actually the fundamental ‘knowns’! For example, I still find it very cool that Quantum Mechanics underpins everything, and this is rather well established; studying Particle physics exposes you to the consequences of this every day.

“In the second year of my PhD studies I applied for and was awarded a prestigious ATLAS grant, this scholarship is generously funded by Fabiola Gianotti and Peter Jenni using the Fundamental Physics Prize they were awarded in 2013. The grant not only allowed me to live and work at CERN again but it also allowed me to widen my network and explore many new opportunities.

“Southampton has a lot of close connections with other Universities, and as a result of my 6 years at Southampton, and my 2 years at CERN, I have a much wider range of collaborators, and have been able develop my research in many diverse ways. I have also made some really close friends during my studies and I am very much looking forward to going on the annual CERN ski trip again in January 2017.”

The future
“I did a Physics degree simply because I loved learning about Physics itself. I actually hated computers and programming before I started my Masters but I really enjoy them now, or rather, what you can do with them. Once you have learned enough of the underlying procedures, it’s like writing physics in any other language.

“I actually think that one of the most important things I have learned during my Physics studies here at the University is computer programming. I can now confidently script in Python, C++ and Fortran languages, so, even if I don’t continue in academia, I am confident I could get an interesting job using my skills in computer modelling which will be attractive to a variety of companies.”