Student story: Grad scheme success

se16-8131Hi, my name is Liam, I’m a fourth year MSci Physics student, I just got back from studying abroad at The University of Miami and I’ve got a place on a graduate scheme with Schroders.

I feel like I really made the most out of my time at university. In my first year I joined the boxing team and the physics society. In my second year I started my own business, became social secretary for the physics society, the president of the surf club and a competitive swimmer for Queen Mary. That summer I networked my way into work experience with The Met Office, where I wrote writing a path finding algorithm for them. Although I had some programming experience from my degree, I taught myself a lot in order to get this job. In my third year I studied in Miami, joined a fraternity and a financial investment society (TAMID Group). During this summer I did two internships back to back over sixteen weeks when I cam back, I don’t think I could’ve possibly managed this without my work experience at The Met Office. The first was working as a data analyser for a trading team in an energy company, Good Energy. The second was working as a database analyser with Hilger Crystals. All of these positions and jobs taught me a lot about time management, software development, data analysis, communication skills and leadership.

This year I joined the executive board of the first fraternity in London, focused on my academics and finding a job. From the minute I got back to London in September, I arranged to have a careers appointment. I got a few brief tips on my CV and a lot of resources regarding what companies offer graduate schemes. I was mostly applying for companies which offered roles relating to data analysis, software development, consulting and technology. Despite having studied physics for the past four years, I had very little interest in pursuing further education or becoming a scientist.

unadjustednonraw_thumb_c25Finding a job is stressful, it takes up as much time as one and doesn’t pay you anything. I went through hundreds of pages of different companies that the careers team provided me with, applying to each and every one. My first few applications took up most of my day, but once you get into the rhythm, it becomes a lot easier. If I had a whole day, I could do a video interview, a couple of phone interviews, a few psychometric tests and four applications. I think the hardest part was finding enough jobs which my skill sets were suitable for.

My top tips would be to apply for as many as you possibly can. Most of your applications will be rejected almost immediately by their CV sorting algorithms, so I am a strong advocate of quantity over quality. Always make sure that you’re writing well structured answers to the applications, but don’t spend a whole day worrying about one cover letter. Make sure you know a lot about the company if they’ve offered you an interview and be a team player at assessment centres. Remember that if you don’t get a graduate scheme, it’s not the end of the world, I know loads of people who found their jobs shortly after graduating. So long as you’ve got perseverance and charisma, you’ll get a job.


Guest blog: Life as a Patent Attorney

stephanieI am training to become a Chartered (UK) and European patent attorney at Kilburn & Strode LLP at our offices near Holborn.  I have a background in physics and previously worked in research and peer review publishing before joining the profession.  

Patent attorneys work with individuals and companies to help them protect their innovations and developments, principally in the form of inventions. The role is unique, and not only requires a technical background usually in the form of a science or engineering degree, but also specialist legal knowledge and a commercial mindset. It takes a number of years of on-the-job training and several professional exams before one can become a registered patent attorney. Most trainee patent attorneys work in private practice, however there are other options such as training in industry or in a government department. Ultimately, a patent attorney aims to provide a service to a client or to an employer by advising on, obtaining, and maintaining intellectual property rights. This involves a good understanding of the client and their business such that balanced measures can be taken in light of commercial decisions.

To train, you will usually need an undergraduate degree in a scientific or engineering discipline, and many firms require a classification of at least a 2:1. This strong grounding can help ensure you have the adequate analytical skills required to quickly understand relevant information across a wide range of technologies. There is no requisite legal knowledge as this is built upon during training.  

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Student stories – Summer placement

Natasha Westland, SEPnet intern

Read about Natasha’s experience of a Summer placement at Good Enough Energy on their blog.

QMUL School of Physics & Astronomy is a partner of the South East Physics network (SEPnet) which organises a summer placements scheme for 2nd and 3rd year Physics students. Last summer, 10 QMUL Physics students were successful in getting a summer placement as part of the scheme. Read Natasha’s story to find out what she did in her placement and how she benefitted from it. Applications for 2016 will be open from 2nd March and all eligible students are invited to attend the SEPnet Summer Placements launch event to find out more about this year’s opportunities.

Why become a Physics teacher?

This post first appeared on the Develop Your Career blog.

Science based industries currently employ about 5.4 million people. By 2030, this is expected to rise to about 7 million.

But with a shortage of physics teachers in the UK, who is going to teach school children the skills they need to take on these jobs in 15 years time?

At an event recently, Professor Peter Main said that if everyone who is studying physics at university at the moment became a physics teacher, we would still have a shortage of physics teachers!

But the teaching profession is recruiting against many other employers, some of whom can offer enticing pay packages and benefits. So why might someone decide to work as a physics teacher? I asked this question of someone who has left the engineering sector to do just that.

Teaching Physics

Why did you leave your engineering job?

I found working for a big corporation was actually quite slow moving. There were lots of meetings with people talking in jargon about things that didn’t matter at all outside of the corporation. I also felt that there was a process of promotion. So you’d do a job for a couple of years and then you’d be hoping for a promotion. This meant that there were excessive numbers of middle managers and many others trying to impress in order to become middle managers. To be promoted you needed to make an impact or create something, so everyone was creating new processes thus making things more complicated without actually getting anything done. I can’t say that every company is like this, but I decided that I didn’t want to work in a big business.

What made you decide to become a teacher?

I thought about the things that I enjoy. Not just things in the workplace, but my hobbies and interests. I realised that I enjoy performing – I like being on stage, playing the saxophone, giving presentations. I noticed that this was something I had missed since graduating.

I enjoy working with really bright and interesting people but I don’t mind whether they are 17 or 57.

I am still really interested in physics and I wanted to do something related to this, but I have always been broadly interested. I never wanted to specialise.

And I definitely wanted autonomy, to take responsibility and see results from what I was doing.

When I looked at these things, being a physics teacher was clearly a good match for what I was looking for. Because autonomy is so important to me, I also decided that I wanted to work in a private school where I thought I would get the most freedom in terms of my teaching practice. I don’t know if this is accurate, but it was my feeling. It might be different for someone else.

And do you think it was the right decision?

Teaching is great. I work with bright, fun kids. It’s great seeing the kids learning – especially those who found physics difficult, learning that physics can be something that they enjoy and can be good at. It can be very rewarding to see the kids enjoying something because of what you do.

For me, teaching has rewards that are personal (rather than earning returns for a pensions fund). I can see the positive results, the difference that I have made. And I get to use my creativity to adapt to the students needs.

What are the down sides?

Definitely the bureaucracy. There is a lot of protocol so sometimes even when it’s obvious what would be the best thing to do you can’t do it. And teacher chat! Teachers are always saying that there is no job harder than teaching. I can’t think of teaching as hard work because it’s so enjoyable.

The first day of your internship

QMUL School of Physics & Astronomy is a partner of the South East Physics network (SEPnet) which organises a summer placements scheme for 2nd and 3rd year Physics students.

This year, six QMUL Physics students have been successful in securing a SEPnet placement and are on their placements as we write. Wimpy Yahya, a QMUL BSc Physics student, will be writing a series of blog posts about his experiences and learning curves whilst on his placement at an engineering & hydraulics company based in the Oxford town of Wallingford. His first blog post dealt with the topic of relocating out of London and knowing what to prepare before placement begun. In this second post, Wimpy guides us through the trials and tribulations of his first week on placement.

“It’s your first day woo! I mentioned about all these random questions that popped into my head, well let me explain. See when I came to my first day of the internship, I was all dressed up with a shirt, tie and uncomfortable trousers, waiting for my boss to arrive. No one really knew what I had to do on my first day, I felt so out of place probably because I was nervous as heck. But anyway I was soon placed into the coast & estuaries department and man everyone who works here are so friendly, so this made me feel at ease.

Anyway, I was led into my little office space and was introduced to the people around me, which was probably why I started thinking about the dress code. I mean some people are wearing rather casual clothing, is it only certain people who are allowed? I later asked my boss and the receptionist just to be sure about this and they both replied with ‘it’s pretty casual here’, which means I can wear casual clothes, I was rather happy. After meeting my boss/supervisor and being given work to do, I wasted no time to do it. It’s kind of funny but I constantly kept repeating and checking over my work, since it was my first day and I was really scared of doing things wrong. Pretty soon I had to go into an induction meeting, which covered everything from where you can go for lunch to IT policy. Talking of lunch, I forgot to mention that my internship is in the middle of the countryside and the nearest town is about a 15 mins walk, so it’s pretty important for me to know where I can get lunch at the nearest place. After the induction I was introduced to everyone and the first day is all about the barrage of new names and new faces with a constant battle of trying to remember them (luckily they have name tags on their desk!).

After a few days I was told to start e-mailing some people about the work I was doing, kind of scary to be honest because you don’t know if you should go casual hello or more of a formal approach. It’s all very confusing. Also, when it comes to lunch everyone tends to go in a group. I ended up spending lunch times by myself because I would miss most of the lunch calls and well it’s really scary to just try and go into a group of people you don’t know. So instead I read and draw, which is good and I’ve been able to explore the place and watch people play volleyball woo!

Over the next few days my supervisor was away on work related courses so I was left with a lot of work to do. But beforehand I was introduced to Alan who was a very friendly and funny man that I could ask for help for my work. So the first week flew by and I was flying through the work they gave me and before I knew it, it was the weekend. Finally being given so much freedom living away from home, I planned to go to Download festival and came back on Sunday. It was an amazing time! I guess if you have weekends off make the most of it especially if you live somewhere you have never been before. Anyway I knew my supervisor would be away and I would have to do independent work which I don’t mind at all. So I just started reading all the things they gave me and revise over some stuff that was important. However, I still ended up getting stuck on the first day back! I knew in my head I had to ask Alan for help so I gathered up the courage to walk up to his desk and ask for help – and he was really keen to hep me. Again and again the tests we were doing were still outputting unstable results and even Alan couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Then my other supervisor Belen came back and she tried to help me but to no success and at this point it was agreed upon by all of us to wait until Marion comes back.

Final thoughts – I think it’s always scary and hard to know what you are doing but then no one expects you to know what you are doing especially not for a while. I think that in any situation it’s always good to ask people around you for help. I mean even if you are not going anywhere with the work, at least you have tried and you have people around you to vouch for you. Oh yeah never waste your weekend whilst on internships! Because after that hard second week, I went back to London to go to a gaming event and found out later on, another person from SEPnet will be starting on the Monday. Maybe I can make a friend? Who knows…”

You got the internship! Now what?

QMUL School of Physics & Astronomy is a partner of the South East Physics network (SEPnet) which organises a summer placements scheme for 2nd and 3rd year Physics students.

This year, six QMUL Physics students have been successful in securing a SEPnet placement and are on their placements as we write. Wimpy Yahya, a QMUL BSc Physics student, will be writing a series of blog posts about his experiences and learning curves whilst on his placement at an engineering & hydraulics company based in the Oxford town of Wallingford. His first blog post is about what a student might need to take into consideration before starting their placement.

Wimpy_HRWallingford edit

“You got the internship! Now what? This is the exact question I asked myself when I received the good news, after all the cheering and celebrating I was left asking myself ‘what do I actually know about internships?’… turns out nothing.

Re-location, re-location…

In this modern time you would think that having parents hearing you got a job in the summer is a good thing, but not for some…I guess my first hurdle was actually convincing my parents to be okay with me moving out. For some, this is one of the greatest hurdles (mostly due to religion, gender, trust issues etc). It’s always hard to confront my parents especially when I’m not used to it, but after some convincing and begging they reluctantly agreed. The advice I can give is that persistence pays off. If you keep highlighting all the good things and reassure them about their worries, how can they say no? I mean, you’re going to have to do it at some point.

After getting my parents’ approval I didn’t really think much else about the internship as I had exams, which was a big mistake on my part. Because when the time actually came to confirming the internship, I was suddenly in a panic – the internship was outside of London but I didn’t have any accommodation sorted. I asked the company I was due to work for if they supply accommodation (which is always a good idea) and unfortunately they did not, but they did point me in the direction of a possible accommodation source. Thinking that there would places available I left this at the last minute, which was an even worse decision on my part. As it turns out there were no places left for the dates I needed. So I had to frantically search everywhere I could but to no avail, until a stroke of luck when a space became available at the initial accommodation provider. Even though it was expensive I agreed anyway since it was my best option at that point.

Familiarise yourself with the area…

So, accommodation, confirmation of the internship and the start date all done. I guess at this stage it’s more about how you prepare yourself. I decided that it would be a good idea to move-in two days before the internship started. I did this so that I could use the days to settle in and research what’s available near where I live. From supermarkets to gym or places of interest it’s always good to look around to see what’s happening. I was really glad I did that; I know you can just search through the internet to find main shops and supermarkets but the best deals usually are found in the local shops. Since my workplace was a 30 minute bus ride from where I was staying I decided to take a visit there too, mainly so that I can get used to the bus ride, knowing how long the bus ride takes and where the bus stops are including the bus timetables (important when you’re outside of London and buses can be infrequent). It is also worth noting to have a list of what you need and buy when you get to your accommodation.

What to ask the employer before you start…

It’s always kinda funny to think that not many people  respond to the ‘if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask’ and when it is too late people always say to themselves ‘should have asked this, that etc.’, because that exact thing happened to me. I remember coming in on the first day and I honestly did not have a clue about what would happen. Even worse, I got confused with what time I was meant to start. There I was walking in, I picked up my temporary ID card and was told that I was an hour earlier than expected, so after getting a tour and sitting at my desk, I was given material to start reading to kill some time until my supervisor comes in. At this point I should say that when walking past the whole workplace I noticed that not everyone was wearing formal clothing, which got me thinking, is there a dress code for this work place? A sudden rush of questions came into my mind: what are the work hours?, is there a canteen here?, did I need to bring anything? Thankfully all was clarified later on in the induction process the company gave me. In reality these are the kind of questions you need to be asking before an internship so you are prepared and know what to expect.

So the moral of my story? Think about accommodation sooner rather than later and don’t be afraid to ask questions!”

In the next blog post, we’ll be finding out about what the first two weeks were like for Wimpy.