Physics at Oxford
UCAS Personal Statement
From the on-going investigations and theories surrounding matter-antimatter asymmetry to the discovery of black holes, physics enables complex phenomena to be explained through logical and elegant theories. While physics has solved many questions, various areas are still riddled with mysteries that, once solved, will bring immense benefits to society through technological advancements. The ability to contribute to research and be a part of a specialist field that changed the way society thinks motivated me to choose this dynamic subject to study.
My interest and aptitude for the subject are demonstrated through achieving a silver award for the physics As Challenge. This made me want to take part in the upcoming Round 1 of the Olympiad to further push myself to obtain gold. Unfamiliar scenarios, taught me the value of breaking a problem down into first principles, thus enabling a deeper insight into the interconnecting aspects of physics that play in problem-solving. This was further demonstrated through undertaking the 'Project X' program run at University College London. The project aimed to develop a wearable piece of technology. I was involved in designing and creating a prototype glove, which facilitated a change in colour of an LED ring as a result of specific hand gestures made by the user. The project allowed me to refine problem-solving skills as we overcame difficulties. An example of this was when we suspected a flex sensor was defective but were unsure if the wiring was correct. To fix the problem I used the continuity mode of the multimeter to see if the wires in the flex sensor were broken. The idea came to me by using the simple fact that a closed circuit will allow current to pass and an open one will not. Furthermore, the project enhanced my fascination for the subject as I was left intrigued by the fundamental role physic played in the advancement of technology.
Through reading 'The Universe in Bite-Size Chunks' I was able to explore my interest in astrophysics. The book highlighted the perplexing nature of the universe; for example, astronomers initially misidentified Uranus as a fixed star due to the planet's slow orbit. Perception and interpretations that theories are based on, can therefore be misleading, thus highlighting the importance of exploring alternative explanations. Working alongside an electrician in my spare time enabled me to apply physics practically through the application of resistivity to quantities such as minimum wire thickness required for certain currents. It also enabled me to see how electromagnetism is used in circuit breakers and transformers which are pivotal in ensuring domestic properties can safely access a national power grid.
Throughout my educational journey, I have always perceived myself as an ambitious individual. I have had the opportunity to compete in various academic and non-academic competitions including the UK maths challenge and Debate Mate, where my school was placed top ten for the urban debate league. The experience enabled me to structure my thoughts and tactically consider confounding factors that may discredit an idea in construction. Attaining a silver in the chemistry Olympiad further demonstrates my ability to problem solve beyond the A level curriculum. Participating in extra-curricular activities required the implementation of good time management and self-discipline to ensure the tasks were completed to a high standard. Additionally, being honoured the role of senior prefect in my secondary school shows I have handled responsibility and leadership skills. Volunteering at open evenings provided the opportunity to develop communication skills as I alleviated apprehension in younger students.
Being known as the child who always asked questions, it became evident to me that my mind was fuelled by curiosity. To use what we know to solve that which we don't. A passion, to uncover the mysteries, but more importantly, understand them.
Behind the Statement
How did you make start on your personal statement or begin planning?
Make a list of achievements/ reasons (detailed with explanation) of why i wanted to study the course. Also identifying certain areas of passion/interest in the field in which i have done extra research or had experience with.
How did you decide what experiences to include in your personal statement? What did you cut out?
Anything that wasn't a strong link to the field (work experience in an unrelated field).Also soft skill based experiences weren't mentioned a lot unless mentioned as an additional bonus to a course based experience.
How did you get these experiences in the first place?
Opportunities given from school. Reading books of interest. Also looking online to find free classes or lecture programs.
How did you structure your personal statement?
Don't start off with why the subject is great rather why you think you want to study it and any specifics that peaked your interest. Then move into personal experiences in the area you want to study and how that made you want to study that field. Don't focus much on the actual science (they already know this) focus more on your journey as an enthusiast of that subject
How did you decide on an introduction for your personal statement?
I picked what i found the most interesting in my field and rather than going deep into the science i talked about how that interesting thing makes me feel about the subject and how i can see myself pursing this interest post-grad.
How did you decide on a conclusion for your personal statement?
I talked about my drive, what motivates me and how my curiosity and desire to understand were what would help me become a physicist.
What do you think are the strengths of your personal statement?
Unique takes on experience for example working with an electrician gave practical application of physics concepts. Also how when doing project X mentioning problem solving but also explaining (briefly) the physics concept i used to overcome the problem. Also doing Olympiads can help as they show you are willing to put extra time and try some hard and challenging questions which shows (rather than telling) the university you are ready and keen to taken on new concepts.
Is there anything you wish you knew beforehand/advice?
The entrance exams and what to learn in preparation and also how reading books early can widen knowledge so can be helpful in interviews. Also doing higher level questions can help shape a thought process which can be helpful when tackling interview questions.