Graduate profile
Laser hitting balloon in lab

Ashena Shams Ghahfarrokhi

"The level of opportunity and progression offered to today’s new physics graduates is almost without precedent. There's no better place to begin the journey than Surrey."


Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics

What attracted you to choose Surrey and to study your course here?

Throughout my professional and academic career I have had a driving passion to combine the real-world applicability of classical Physics with the more exotic elements found in areas such as Radiation and Astrophysics.

During the selection process for my undergraduate studies I found that the University of Surrey offered a course (Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics) that included all of these components in abundance.

In an attempt to provide credence to my initial enthusiasm for such a diverse method of study I endeavoured to attend a University open day.

During the open day, I was given the opportunity to speak to key members of the departmental faculty and I immediately realised how closely aligned they were with the needs of each individual member of the student body. In my mind this provided the University with the requisite strength that would allow me to pursue my academic goals to full realisation.

In addition to the outstanding quality of the syllabus, facilities and teaching staff I was briefed on the universities splash system where the departmental lectures and content could be discussed in an open forum environment with other student colleagues, both under- and post-graduate.

The in-house elements of the available courses were provided with a strong element of rigorous practicality through the inclusion of a high-quality industrial placement through the universities extensive links with the international private sector. This provides all students willing to partake with the thorough grounding required to succeed in today’s competitive professional climate either through collaborative research projects or hands-on experience of day-to-day operations. This methodology is clearly proven by the outstanding job receipt percentile for the University's Physics graduates.

The University also provided a clear advantage over its competitors on both the social and geographic aspects of student life. The proximity to London meant it was only a short train ride to the heart of the capital whilst maintaining the highly effective cost of living that is typical of the more rurally located university campuses.

It was the above mix of social and academic qualities that drove me to choose the University of Surrey as the springboard into my professional career.

What is your strongest memory of your time at Surrey? What do you picture first when you think of being here?

First and foremost in my mind when considering my time at Surrey University was the foresight and flexibility that was inherent in the academic staff. It was these attributes that allowed me to seek an industrially orientated project outside of the faculty’s mainstream. The result of this was a direct driver behind the opportunity I was granted to take up the position of consultant, which I currently hold at Nuvia Ltd.

What is the one thing you would say about Surrey, or the course you studied to someone who doesn’t know anything about it?

The absolute first word that I would associate with the University and especially the Physics department is “Opportunity”. The ability to get out of the classroom and become involved in the latest Physics projects that are pushing the boundaries of scientific knowledge beyond what we thought was possible. Be it in the world of the small via the University's links with the CERN LHC or the very big at the Surrey Space Centre.

How did you change as a person during your time as a Surrey Student, and how has your time here influenced your life and career since then?

The method of teaching and mentorship by the excellent staff in the department allowed me to consider every path that would be open to me as a Physicist in the modern world. It opened my eyes to ways in which modern Physics is applied that I had previously never considered. They possessed the drive and experience to allow me to pursue the correct targets that would allow me to reach my career goals.

What do you find most enjoyable about your line of work and why?

As a consultant with Nuvia I can apply every aspect of knowledge that I acquired during my time at Surrey and apply it across the Nuclear industry from Nuclear New Build right the way through to decommissioning alongside some of the best technical experts in the UK.

What are your top tips for students aspiring to work in your profession?

In the UK’s Nuclear Industry it is vitally important to not just know your field but be aware of all the other aspects that are so important in today’s struggle for energy security. Fields such as commercial awareness, considerations on ethics and environmental impacts as well as the political aspects of both construction of the Nuclear future and the disposal of its legacy.

Why do you choose to support Surrey by volunteering your time?

I believe that it is important that the UK’s industry (particularly Nuclear) retains a healthy skill balance. The level of opportunity and progression that can be offered to today’s new graduates is almost without precedent and I believe that there is no better place to begin than University of Surrey.


Discover our physics courses, including our BSc or MPhys Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics.

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