Tag Archive for: work experience

My Work Experience Week

Rebecca-6My name is Rebecca; I am a year 12 student studying Maths, Chemistry and Geography. I decided to do my week work experience with Think Physics because I believe not enough information is given to students about studying and finding a career in STEM. I am the only female in my AS Chemistry class, illustrating perfectly the lack of students, particularly girls, engaging in STEM and why the work done at Think Physics is so important.

As an A-level student not studying Physics, I thought I had waved any hope of a career in engineering goodbye, but within an hour of my arrival at Think Physics Emma had already given me hope by bringing the idea of a foundation year to my attention. Something I had never thought of before, options were opening already – a brilliant start to the week. After meeting the team and settling into the office I began my research into foundation degrees, Think Physics and wind power.

My first morning was spent researching a pharmaceuticals company called MSD which has a site in Cramlington, now home to two 130m high wind turbines. Due to the nature of the A levels I had chosen to take I don’t get much opportunity to do my own research into an area so the task allowed me to build up my weaker research skills as well as find out about a fascinating company and renewable energy (a field I had been considering).  Soon it was time for lunch and some surprisingly good cafeteria food as well as a sit down in the staff lounge. Next up, going to help bring back giant tool box trolleys from a shop in town for a workshop later on the week, although it admittedly did look slightly odd three people speed walking through town with giant wheely tool boxes. The afternoon was spent packing up lots of electrical equipment into those giant tool boxes.

Tuesday was the most exciting day of the week, arriving at 9am dressed in Think Physics green, today was a day of workshops. First up, mechanical engineering with a year 5 group who made little robots. Despite children being one of my biggest fears, it was an incredibly enjoyable morning helping them to create their robotic orchestra. In the afternoon I got to go back to my own school as they were running an after school club with Think Physics for younger year groups. It was great to see how intelligent they were and how confident they had become with the electrical components used to make a chain reaction of structures they had designed – something alien to me. They all seemed to really enjoy it and I did too.

The next morning I began with some more research and blog writing. The office was a lovely work environment and felt very comfortable. That afternoon I was inputting some data for the team from some year 3 questionnaires which I found quite fascinating. It even inspired a project I intend to take up next year studying what happens throughout their time in school to put girls off science. When inputting the data I found that generally, many of the girls said they really liked science and were really good at it, which made me think about why is it that they don’t carry on and develop careers in science as much as boys will do. As I finished a bit early, I helped to make some windmills to be used later on in the week for a workshop about wind power.

Thursday, my favourite day of the placement, saw the team in a day of meetings to review the projeRebecca-2ct, so I was given the important task of creating a makedo example. This for me was a perfect opportunity to spend two hours making a rather large cardboard castle complete with an impressive opening door and working drawbridge. This was by far the highlight of the week for me and I was quite impressed and proud of the finished product. At this point a surprising amount of babies joined the team briefly. After dinner I started to cut out extra propellers for our wind workshop the next day.

An early start on Friday saw me at 8am en route to Excelsior Academy where the wind power workshop was to take place. The workshop involved calculating the power needed to put on a music festival and how to generate that electricity in an environmentally-friendly way, this is where the windmills come into things. The groups got to create small wind turbines and test them using a fan to see if they could life a weight. They then tried to modify the design to make it as efficient as possible. It was a fun way of looking at renewable energy and how it can affect us all even if we don’t necessarily think it does.

This week has been incredibly useful for me and a great experience. I really feel like I have gained a lot out of the placement in a really interesting project. I would love to come back and do it again. Although I was pretty nervous before starting the week as I wasn’t a physics student, the team have been very welcoming and adapted to my interests and shown me it isn’t just about doing physics, it is about the importance of engineering and wider STEM and giving young people the experience and information to get them to be excited about the endless career opportunities STEM creates. I highly recommend this placement to any science student willing to work hard and wanting to gain from their experiences.

Work Experience Diary: Sam Rees

My name is Sam Rees and I am an A-level student from Whitley Bay High School doing a week of work experience here at Think Physics.

Sam was with us from 23rd-27th February. This is his placement diary – Jonathan.

Day one:

My first day: I was very excited to get a real insight into the daily work and life of a member of its team. Nervously I wandered through the, what seemed like, maze of corridors and doorways until I finally arrived at the Think Physics floor. I was then greeted by Annie as I arrived and led to the desk and laptop I would surely be using a lot throughout the week. To my surprise in the office I saw that Jamie, the other work experience member, was sitting in the office, and so I felt reassured that I would have someone just as new as I was in the colossal university. I then met Emma who gave me and Jamie a chance to share some information about ourselves and get to know the department a little better.

I knew that it was going to be a fun week as it was very friendly and made me feel right at home from the off. She then gave us a rundown of what our week would entail: electrical engineering lab sessions, lectures on the core principles of physics and much more. I then set off on my first task which was to create a physics quiz for kids that included a lot of wacky and fun questions, admittedly I found this hard as I felt like the content I was using was a lot harder than the level the kids would be at. I also got a chance to talk to a few more members of the team: Joe and Jonathan who were very warming and made the office a lot more fun. Before I knew it lunchtime had arrived, I travelled down to Granger market with Jamie and bought some food to fill me up for the rest of the day. We then ambled up to the university and headed back to the Think Physics office (it didn’t feel like much of a maze this time) and finished completing the quiz. The whole day was very relaxed as I found my feet in what first felt like a daunting environment, however it was far from daunting once I got going.

Day two:

Sam work experience 3Still excited. I made my way up the long flight of stairs to the office and sat down to be told what my activities for the day would be. To my delight I was told I would be participating in an electronics practical activity all day where I would get to learn a lot of new things and try some new practical skills. I headed down with Jamie to the workshops and labs where there were a lot of workshops with exciting and cool looking experiments and practical’s going on in them. I heading into the lab that I was going to be working in and got started on my task which was to create a pair of speakers that could be used. I started by soldering on the components to the circuit board; my soldering skills were a little bit rusty but I had got the hang of it again in no time.

I had to learn a new skill, unsoldering which was a little tricky to do but I still persevered and managed it in the end. After a little longer on the project we took a break and David showed us some of the renewable energy sources of the school including two wind turbines and some solar panels. Soon it was lunch time and I headed down to the Mexican food bar ‘Zapatista’ that everyone had been raving about, and it’s fair to say I can understand why it’s popular. Jamie and I headed back to the lab to continue with our project and started making the cabinet for the speaker to be housed in to ensure that the most efficient sound was being produced. We finally got the sound just right and it turned out by coincidence the holes David had drilled were near perfect size to allow the best sound quality. So with that I got my speakers screwed in and proceeded to test them out with my iPhone the result was some fairly decent speakers that I had made completely on my own. I really enjoyed the day and can’t wait to be back in tomorrow.

Day three:

I felt completely settled in, I headed down to the lab where I would be doing practicals with Pietro and Gary, I received a lab script and chose an experiment to do. It was very interesting to see some of the topics we had been covering in class back at school being measured and tested in the lab script; some of it however did seem to look a little bit more complicated than what I had seen before.

The experiment I decided to do was one based upon the diffraction of light from a laser. It was an interesting experiment because it showed the phase difference of the light waves as they travelled from the laser to the screen. Jonathan then showed up to tell me that if I wanted I could go with him and Emma to a Northumbrian water sewage works, not the most glamorous place but I thought it would be a good experience…. I was right.

Northumbria WaterWe arrived at the works after having a little bit of a struggle to find its location, to see that Emma and the woman we would be interviewing were already waiting for us. We received some rather funny boots and a coat to wear as we were expecting to film the interview outside where we needed to obey health and safety rules. Laura gave us a tour of the site where we learned a lot of new facts that we wouldn’t have ever expected, such as: the water only takes 8 hours to be fully cleaned and put back in the river; this was very surprising as I thought it would take a lot longer. Next we moved onto the filming, I was holding up the microphone as Jonathan filmed and Emma asked the questions. This turned out to be a lot harder than I may have thought at first! The trip to the water works was extremely interesting and I had a great time, I never knew somewhere like that would be so interesting.

Day four:

The penultimate day of my placement and I was thoroughly enjoying it so far, I got into the office and saw that the two members of the team that I had not yet met, Sarah and Carol, were in so it was very nice meeting them. There were four very large boxes in the office and to my surprise Sarah told me that I would be with her making a rollercoaster out of K’Nex. We opened one of the boxes and looked at what seemed to be an ocean of small plastic components. We were set the seemingly impossible task of assembling a rollercoaster from no more than a few more small dark pictures of the finished product we were meant to have.

Sam work experience 2‘Where do we start?’ I thought looking around at all the different colours. However we soon got into the flow of things and had one of the parts assembled in about an hour, we then had to build the base of the roller coaster which proved even more difficult as the photo we had to work from was very small and a little blurry. So this is where me and Jamie used our skills and created our own base that would hold up the structure. Within 15 minutes we had a very sturdy base which we attached to the roller coaster. It was the moment of truth, would our beautifully coloured roller coaster work, we brought Jonathan in to film as we sent a small ball down, it had worked! This meant that we could now disassemble it and create instructions so that children could make it up when they used it in a workshop. We then got chatting with Jonathan and physics student volunteer Andrew about the physics around the roller coaster. It seemed like what looked like a simple plastic toy wasn’t so simple at all when it came down to the physics of it.

Later that day Jamie wasn’t feeling so good so unfortunately he went home. I then started working on a task Emma had set me which was to look up school prospectuses and decide whether or not they had a good section about taking physics as an A-level. While I was doing this task I couldn’t help but notice what Andrew was doing… he seemed to be using some sort of device plugged in to his laptop that would give him a set of results which he could then plot. Jonathan then explained to me that he was planning to use Arduinos with a number of swinging pendulums and see what happens when he set them up to some sounds or lights, and whether the phase difference would create something melodic and soft, or something rather unorganised and disrupted. That is what Andrew was working on; he had some trouble but he eventually came bursting into the office rather excitedly saying ‘I’ve got it to work!’, he explained he still had a few slight problems but it was doing what he intended and was very pleased.

Soon it was time to go home and I was very happy with my day it was again a very fun and exciting one. That is what I love about being here, not one of my days has been the same, as I have been doing a selection of fun and exciting things each day.

Day five:

Sadly it is my final day at Think Physics as I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here.

I got the day started with an update to this blog and filling in some review sheets about the placement as a whole and how I found it… (Amazing as you can probably tell). Before I knew it lunch time had arrived and I had to go and get some food before my lab session with Pietro and Gary.

work-experience-6After lunch I headed down to the lab and took a seat amongst the undergraduate students and Pietro gave us a few tips on how to do the wind farm efficiency experiment that we were set. We got going and managed very well with the task there were a few pieces of equipment that were new to us but we managed to get the hang of them. It seems we did so well that even Pietro was impressed ‘You already know everything, let’s get you out in the industry now’ he said… that made me laugh. After we had finished the experiment Pietro checked it and asked us if there were any specific areas of physics that we liked. I explained that I find astrophysics quite interesting. He proceeded to show me a hydrogen lamp that they have that allows you to see the light spectra emitted from the lamp, it was a very interesting piece of equipment which I wouldn’t normally get to see or use. He then showed us a few more pieces of apparatus they have in the lab and explained the different types of physicists that exist. The lab session flew by as it seemed like not long after we started it was time to leave, Pietro gave me his email address and told me if I have any questions he would be happy to answer them. I headed down to the office to this; my last entry to my blog that I have been working on this week.

I’m so thankful that I got to experience what it’s like here as I have gained some really valuable information from it. I also got to learn a lot about engineering which is the career path that I intend to go down; Emma has helped a lot in terms of showing me just how vast the array of jobs available in engineering are as well as letting me know the names of a few companies that are extremely good and might be worth looking at.

I would just like to thank the whole Think Physics team as well as David, Pietro and Gary for having me and helping me throughout my time here.

Best wishes


Work Experience Diary: Jamie Clark

My name is Jamie Clark, I’m half way through my first year of physics at AS-level, from Whitley Bay High School, and this is the start of my 5 day work experience placement with Think Physics!

Jamie was with us from 23rd-27th February. This is his placement diary – Jonathan.

Day One

I was excited of the prospect of my first day in a real world of work situation, but I learnt an early hard lesson, always check your metro ticket is valid…

After the early slip up I arrived at the university and was amazed to see so many different people and students all sitting together and talking, the whole building had a relaxed atmosphere. I was taken upstairs to the Think Physics office and was immediately greeted by the whole team and felt so welcome straight away. After a quick brief on the program and what they’re all about I was straight down to work. I was tasked with creating a quiz or interactive learning session to help the team when they tour local schools.

After a recent blog post by a famous sci-fi actor, who shall remain anonymous but is quite accustomed to space, I was inspired to think of the scale of the universe, but also the capability of a single person. I designed an interactive learning presentation, where the students will learn about the universe, its size and scale, but also about how they can change the world. I started off by doing some calculations to scale down the actual universe into something that would be easily representable and easier to understand for the children taking part. After a considerable amount of time dealing with large numbers, I realised the time. The environment of the office and everyone there made you feel so at home and was a complete change from the usual working environments I am in. In addition the ethos and motive the team have driving them on inspired me, as I am already passionate about education being the key to helping everyone no matter their background.

Day two

I’ve come to realise that I maybe should have prepared more for this week. I think the whole point of work experience is to get you prepared for the world of work, and after having been stopped again for an invalid metro ticket, I’m glad I’m having this experience now and not when I’m older, as inspectors aren’t as sympathetic to working age people.

amplifier and speakersLater on in the day we met with the technician for the electrical engineering department and we were introduced to the equipment and what undergrads get up to. He then gave us some equipment and showed us how to assemble a simple circuit. We spent the following hours soldering and building up the circuit. My last experience of electronics and soldering was a few years ago, so it was good to be learning the skill again, especially as I wasn’t too good at it in year 9. Surprisingly my circuit worked, and we were able to use it as an amplifier for music. After this we did some advanced work on resonances and frequencies of sound waves, using oscilloscopes to determine the optimum height for the amplifier in a small cupboard. We also went on a tour of the faculty department and were able to see the renewable energy solutions that have put Northumbria on the map. It was interesting to see some of the postgrad work that was being done on the campus, and was insightful to see the real world applications of physics and electrical engineering.

Day 3

Thankfully this time my ticket worked, as I made my way to the university for a three hour practical. We were given equipment and a lab script which gave us basic instructions on how to set up the Young’s Double Slit experiment. This experiment was relevant to my school work as a large part of the syllabus for year 12 involves light, diffraction and waves. However the work we carried out was at a much higher level to school, but it was helpful of the professors to guide us through the stages and explain to us what the countless jargon meant. By the end I was much more knowledgeable on waves, light and lasers and it was a good experience to use a helium gas laser, something I would never be trusted with at school!

In the afternoon I focused on my EPQ project which centres on the real world applications of quantum mechanics. After having a talk with Dr Beattie the day before I was given references to useful documents published in journals, and this was vital as I needed a direction and most importantly references for my EPQ project, before this I had a total of zero references. To start with I didn’t have much of an understanding of the information that was in the documents, but eventually I got more of an understanding and was able to use the diagrams and references from the journals.

Day 4

Sam work experience 1Arriving early, we got straight down to work helping the team prepare for a workshop with students in secondary school. We helped assemble and the order hundreds of Knex parts to build a rollercoaster. We also got the chance to design a crucial part of the build, the supporting tower, and it was good to put some mechanical lessons I’ve learnt at school into practice to make sure the tower was steady and would hold up the structure. During this time we learnt some more about the work the team does with secondary schools. Unfortunately I had to leave early as I was ill, and I missed the rest of the day, but I was preparing to come back eager and make no more public transport mistakes the following day!

Day 5

Finally being able to use my metro week saver, I realised how much I have learnt in the past week with the Think Physics team. I’ve learnt what a real world office and environment is like, I’ve learnt about physics and the higher level aspects which I am eager to do myself at university, but I have also learnt valuable life lessons, the team have taught me lessons that I will never forget, and I am thankful to them for letting me have the opportunity to take part in this fantastic opportunity.

The main task for today was to carry on my research into the EPQ project, as I had a meeting again with Dr Beattie later that day. I decided to focus more on the equipment that is used in the systems, such as quantum dots, entangled LED’s, and single photon emitting LED’s. I’ve learnt so many new ideas, as during my EPQ at school I don’t have that much time, but at Think Physics I am able to spend hours just researching which has really helped me. After I had researched the equipment I then got some contacts who I could email to get even more information for my project. Having Dr Beattie helping me has been fantastic, as he has knowledge and contacts that I otherwise wouldn’t have known, and given the fact he is a leading researcher exactly in the field that I am writing my EPQ on has been excellent.

Guest post: Work experience week

My name is Callum Webster, and I’m a Physics student in my first year at Churchill Community College Sixth form. I’ve just completed a three day work experience placement with Think Physics at Northumbria University.

Day one: Monday

I was slowly introduced and settled into my surroundings at the University. I was in town for 9:20 and admittedly had to ring the head of my placement Emma to navigate my way to the office. Once I found my way in I was given a work space and a place to put my bag down (finally), then was taken to the meeting room with Emma to discuss what Think Physics is about. That cleared up brilliantly what the office is all about and what I would be doing.

I soon got cracking. I had to write a case study about myself, which I particularly enjoyed, I just relaxed and wrote a bit about me, why I chose Physics as a whole and why I chose Think Physics for my work experience. I then got cracking on some relevant focused tasks. I was asked to create a series of Powerpoints relating to STEM in the North East, which were focused on my aims to be a teacher and hence thinking about the different age groups the presentations may be displayed to.

Early progress on the sun projector kit.

Early progress on the sun projector kit.

After lunch (which was impressive, by the way) I worked on constructing a sun projector from a kit which turned out a lot more successful than I expected given my poor record with design technology. The team provided a cutting board, glue gun and anything else you could need, it was an enjoyable distraction from normal office work. For the last half an hour of my day, my timetable had me down to do this, write up the first day of my placement in a blog.

Day two: Tuesday

I’ve had as good a day as yesterday, if not a better one. I got in comfortably, said good morning to everybody and was off. I had to finish the last of the three presentations ready for schools during science week. I’d just finished the animations when I looked up and realized there was about half an hour until lunch, how time flies!

Planning talks

Planning talks

Next on my timetable was to plan a talk to a primary school surrounding the solar eclipse. I liked this as I could tell the team has specifically designed this around my dreams for the future to be a teacher. I had just got onto what would be the last ten minutes of a lesson in my plan when I was given a request I couldn’t refuse: lunch!

After Lunch I continued my construction project, now fitting a lens to the model, which is further than I’ve ever made it with these sort of things in the past. Jonathan was in a meeting with Carol but when he returned I got to carry out a little experiment, being trusted with a very high-tech Infrared camera and experimenting with scenarios such as a bin bag in front of the face and mixing hot water with cold in a tub. We were planning for a trip from multiple schools which was going to happen on day three.

We seemed to have a pretty successful set up with a display on a big screen and a cool experiment, good work overall that afternoon. Finally, I returned to the office for the last 15 minutes or so to quickly get this down.

Final day: Wednesday

Working with the pendulum in the undergraduate lab

Working with the pendulum

I can’t believe this placement is practically over, I’ve enjoyed myself a whole lot and the time has just flown by. I started the day a little nervously if I’m honest as I was working in a lab with Pietro, Gary and the first year undergraduates. A lot of new faces for one year 12 like me. However I really enjoyed my experience in the lab, Gary and Pietro helped me settle in quickly and got me cracking on a first year practical on the swinging of a pendulum.

I felt this was a really useful experience for the future when I myself will be a Physics undergraduate. I learnt things such as equations with 5 subjects, error bars and graph extrapolation. I impressed Gary with my knowledge of straight line graphs but of course had to ask for help on a few things that I didn’t understand which I wouldn’t have seen yet at sixth form. Towards the end when I had finished both parts of my practical I found that if I hadn’t have slipped up on one section I would have had exactly the same result as Gary, which is quite impressive considering I’ve only done a quarter of higher level physics.

Towards dinner I got chatting with a few students, who seemed really nice and as if they were fine with me being there. It was a super three hours that flew by, I really didn’t realise it was lunch until the team knocked on the lab door and asked if I was ready to head down to the canteen.

For the second half of the day it was the same as previous, with Jonathan and then this blog. This time the practical was real and in front of multiple groups of kids from different schools, varying between 6 and 15 students. Mostly they seemed really impressed and as if they enjoyed the demonstration that me and Jonathan put on about 5 times. This I also found useful as again it links to my future aspiration to be a science teacher. Following that success, me and Jonathan tidied the equipment up from Think Lab and  brought it all back through to their places in the office (which I’ve got used to by now).

Then all there was left to do was fill out a work experience evaluation form where I was honest about how much I enjoyed the experience and then this, the final paragraph of my blog, on the closing day of my work experience placement at Think Physics, Northumbria University.

I’d like to quickly thank the team for having me and being so thoughtful, welcoming and generous over the three days I’ve been here, it’s been such a good experience for me and I find it a shame to leave actually.

Thanks and all the best, Callum.

The completed sun projector

The completed sun projector