Why I Study Physics

We’re now past the halfway point of Term 1 and fully immersed back into the chaos of student life. It is always at around this point in the year (when it’s colder and darker and the early morning lectures start to take their toll) that I find it all too easy to lose sight of why I came to university in the first place.

The stress induced by deadlines, revision and exams has often left me wondering why on earth I thought it would be a good idea to condemn myself to four years of physics – it’s at times like these that I find it important to remind myself again of my love for the subject and why I made the decision to come to Exeter to study it.


Physics is the study of matter, energy, space and time, without which nothing would exist. In fact, the entire universe is built upon the principles revealed through the study of physics. In this sense, everything you learn feels significant – what could be more fundamental than a knowledge of how the world works?


Studying physics has always encouraged me to be forward-thinking and solution-seeking. Physics students are taught to be curious, and our tendency to look to the future leads to a natural optimism. Most crucially, we have seen time and time again how science can solve problems and maintain the belief that it will go on doing so.


Whilst the heavy workload and seemingly endless contact hours are often the primary complaint of STEM students, these aspects of the course certainly have their positives. The long days prepare you for the world of work (in which you will have to be focused and productive) and you also demonstrate an ability to function under challenging conditions.


I know that, in the end, all the hours put in will produce benefits that last a lifetime and lead to knowledge and skills which are highly valuable to employers. Just a few examples of these are analytical skills, problem solving, organisation, IT, and many more.


Finally, a knowledge of physics gives a new appreciation of the world around you and all its intricacies. The way that simple mathematics can be used to describe even the most complex of phenomena constantly amazes me. As the British philosopher and logician Bertrand Russell once wrote, this “possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty – a beauty cold and austere, like that of a sculpture”.


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