Saturday 9 June 2012

Abi's Work Experience

My name is Abi and I am an As level student. I spent three days with Sadie, in the Physics and Astronomy department at Southampton University. I experienced both outreach and the general physics department.

On my first day I was given a tour of the physics building, all five floors! I also went onto the roof to see the observatory but unfortunately it was very wet so they couldn't be opened. I met some PhD students and some of the resident astronomers, to find out what they research. Sadie gave me a presentation of her PhD work, and I learnt a lot about supermassive black holes and what the department is researching as a whole. It was very interesting and enjoyable. I also did a worksheet based on the Hubble constant, which was a first year undergraduate experiment, measuring recessional velocity and distance of galaxies to calculate redshift and size of the galaxies. I also attended a seminar by a visiting astronomer, Karina Caputi, who is an assistant professor from the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute at the University of Groningen. The seminar was called "Massive Galaxies in the first 2 billion years," it was very interesting, but a little tough as it was aimed at the PhD students.

On my second day, I was given a tour of the university campus, including the library, the union and the sports facilities, by Ridwan. It was very interesting, if a little soggy, as I would really like to study at Southampton University. I was also given a tour of the physics undergraduate laboratories, by Mark, a demonstrator. He showed me the 1st, 2nd and 3rd year experiments and the labs that they use, including diffraction, radioactive materials, circuits and superconductors. I was shown the lasers, class 3 and 4 (the most dangerous type of laser). I was also taken to the mechanical workshops, where they design and build equipment for institutes all over the country. I was shown the milling machines and the computer 3D modelling software.

Anechoic room.
On my last day I worked with Dr. John Nesbitt to try and explain his research, but in a way a 14 year old would understand. It was called time resolved incoherant anti-Stokes Raman spectroscopy, so it was quite difficult. For example, we changed phonons to vibrations. I spent the afternoon with Dr. Steve Dorney, he gave me a tour of the vibrations and acoustics department, it was amazing! He showed me the Anechoic room, which is a room completely free of echos.
Echo room.

I then went in the Echo room, which is the complete opposite of the Anechoic room. All of the walls are asymmetrical, and are designed to mimic a cave.

I was shown some of the experiments that are used in the roadshow that Dr. Steve travels around the country with, including a dragon bowl and a thunder drum.
I was also given a vibration rod, a metal rod thats rings different notes when you rub it. 
Vibrating rod.

Dragon bowl.

I have learnt a lot from my time at the university, I have developed my communication skills after talking to PhD students and lots of new people. All of my co-workers were friendly and very welcoming, and it was an amazing opportunity to experience life at the university. It has definately exceeded my expectations, I have had an amazing time and met some amazing people.
I would like to thank everyone that I have met and everyone that worked with me, and I would recommend the work experience to anyone that is interested in physics and astronomy.

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