Student profile
Elliot Cheetham

Elliot Cheetham

"A highlight of the placement has been getting the chance to become part of a scientific community and contribute to active research." 

Entry year
Placement company
Oak Ridge National Lab, USA

When looking at physics courses I went to a lot of different open days, and Surrey was the one that stood out the most for me.

I particularly liked the idea of the integrated MPhys Research Year placement. While other universities do offer a placement year, Surrey’s MPhys is the only one I know of where the placement is an integral and compulsory part of the course. This means there’s a great support system for students both during the application process and while on placement. Surrey has connections with universities all over the world which regularly take on Surrey students, so there are loads of opportunities.

I’m currently in the middle of my placement year at Oak Ridge National Lab in the US. I’m working with the Nuclear Astrophysics group which studies nuclear reactions to understand processes that happen in stars. My project has focused on the simulation of a detector for studying these reactions, which will be used to influence the design of detectors in future experiments.

"My placement has been less hands-on than usual because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but I’ve still been able to get some practical experience. For example earlier this year I travelled to Michigan to help out with an experiment at the National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory."

A highlight of the placement has been getting the chance to become part of a scientific community and contribute to active research. Next month I’m going to present some work at the American Physical Society (APS) Division of Nuclear Physics meeting, which I’m very excited about. Overall, it’s been amazing to experience life in a different country while also building my career, and I’d highly recommend a placement abroad to anyone considering it.

One of the best aspects of the MPhys programme at Surrey is the variety of content in includes, which reflects the broad spectrum of topics physics encompasses. In the later years there’s also a lot of flexibility with optional modules, which has allowed me to focus on the areas I’m most interested in.

Two other strengths of Surrey’s physics degree courses are the academic staff – who are actively involved in research and always happy to answer questions – and the research facilities at Surrey, which include the Advanced Technology Institute and the Ion Beam Centre.

"As for life in general at Surrey, the location has been one of the best things for me. Guildford is just the right balance between city and town: it’s large enough that there’s always loads to do but without being crowded like a big city. The campus is beautiful and it’s really convenient to have everything in one place, with lots of activities on offer. I’ve enjoyed being a member of the Concert Band Society which has been a great way to meet people and keep up my musical hobbies while studying."

I’m not yet sure what I’ll do after I graduate yet, but the experiences I’ve had on my Research Year will definitely be a key factor as I consider my options.


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