The University of Southampton

James Pillow MPhys Physics with Particle Physics

It was during the open day that I learned about the unique flagship programmes at Southampton. Having the chance to spend a year at CERN doing real experimental research was one of the major deciding factors to study here.

Southampton easily became my top choice for studying physics after attending one of their open days

"The students and staff that were there on the open day were all incredibly welcoming and very easy to talk about the course or the university as a whole and it was very obvious that they truly enjoyed being a part of the Physics department at Southampton.

"When I received the email, at the start of my third year, inviting me onto the CERN placement program I was in a slight bit of disbelief. I couldn't quite believe that I had managed to secure a place to work at one of the most famous research sites in the world. To say I was over-the-moon would be an understatement.

"Once I had got to CERN I was not in the least bit disappointed. While it is a very different experience to the previous three years of study, it was an incredible year. Right from the get go, my supervisor had me looking at real data that had only just been collected in the previous few months. Within a few weeks I was already given the chance to present my findings at group meetings, which was very well received by other members. This continued throughout the year, as my supervisor lead me onto more and more complicated and interesting analyses, with my investigations eventually leading to an improvement in the way electrons were selected in the CMS detector.

"As well as doing research I also had a very active social life while there. Alongside the general meetings, CERN also holds guest seminars, a few of which I attended, including a talk on AI and its potential impact on the future of humanity, and even a live stream of the LIGO announcement of the detection of gravity waves! The other students and I also traveled to Chamonix, Zermatt, and Montreux, to see Mont Blanc, the Matterhorn, and an extraordinary Christmas market. Towards the end of the year I even helped bake over 200 cupcakes for the LGBT CERN group to give away for free in the main foyer! And I even got to take part in the yearly CERN relay race.

"The year as a whole was an incredible insight into the world of professional experimental physics, and has thoroughly prepared me for the PhD I am now doing at the University of Warwick. Hopefully I will be able to continue with a career in academia, eventually becoming a lecturer that is able to enthuse new students to follow a similar path towards a career at the forefront of experimental research."