Last week, three of the department’s most distinguished academics and beloved lecturers shared their thoughts on the life of a first-year physics student at York. This week, as promised, we bring you three more.

Dr Emily Brunsden — Head of Student Liaison, Astrocampus Director

Welcome all- it so great to have you in the department! I am an astrophysicist with lots of involvement in the year one programme. I am teaching both Mapping the Universe and Optics and I look after the Astrophysics project as part of the lab. For Physfest you will all get to come and share my favourite place on campus- Astrocampus! (O.K. I may be biased as I run the site- but it is a fabulous facility!).

Another important job I have is titled ‘Head of Student Liaison’. What it really means is I have a lot of contact with you guys about your experiences of the department. Part of this is the Staff-Student Committee. This is a group of representatives from each year and the year tutors that meet and discuss how things are going and if any improvements could be made. It is a great group and I really like working with the reps.

So here is my chance to plug the role of the reps. I know you won’t know each other very well when you first arrive but you have a couple of weeks to nominate and select two people to represent your year group. It is a good way to meet lots of staff and students of different years and get involved in activities in the department. We will give you more info when you arrive but you might want to think about if this is something you would like to do.

Otherwise I hope you packed everything and are ready to have a great first year in our busy community of physics-lovers!


Dr John Pasley — Senior Lecturer, Special Relativity

My name is Dr John Pasley and I teach the “Relativistic” bit of the Newtonian and Relativistic Mechanics Course. For my research I blow stuff up with gigantic lasers. Relativity is an interesting subject which, as you will see if you go on to do my third year course in Special and General Relativity, ties the relatively comprehensible subject of Mechanics to a lot of really weird and wacky advanced physics related to Black Holes, Cosmology and exotic theoretical physics… Even some of the results of relativity itself are quite peculiar and fascinating… Many of you will have read about the first observations of gravitational waves last year- the press conference where these results were first announced actually happened in the middle of one of my Y3 General Relativity lectures (I am sure the scientists concerned timed it to coincide specially!) and the following week I ended up giving a rather hastily put together lecture on gravitational waves… or “gravy waves” as they are sometimes known- though frankly the mental image that this gives me tends not to inspire me to refer to them as such(!) When I am not lecturing in York I am often to be found in India, where I do a lot of my research, photograph tigers, ride around on elephants, and act in the occasional Bollywood movie.

Dr Andrew Pratt — Year 1 Tutor

Hi everyone! I hope you’re having a great summer and are looking forward to starting your degree in a few weeks time. We’re certainly looking forward to welcoming you to the department and to helping you integrate into your first year of study. We realise that this will not happen overnight and so there are a series of activities that take place over the first few weeks to help you get to know each other, to introduce you to various members of staff including your academic supervisor, and to encourage you to begin ‘thinking like a physicist’. At the same time, you will be attending lectures for the Autumn term modules you are taking and learning key skills in the experimental laboratory.

In Year 1 you will cover fundamental topics of physics, for example, electromagnetism, quantum physics, and classical mechanics. You will also study subjects that are specific to your degree programme such as Mapping the Universe, Mathematical Modelling, and Human Uses of Energy. A key goal of Year 1 is to ground you in the mathematical skills needed for later stages of your degree and these will be covered in the Mathematics I module.

At all stages in your first year, you will receive support in the form of small group teaching activities such as tutorials and problem classes. In addition to building your problem-solving skills, these provide you with a great opportunity to get your head around difficult concepts and to interact with fellow students and lecturers. By the end of Year 1, I’m sure you will be amazed at how much you have developed, both as a person and as a physicist.

Have a safe journey to York. I look forward to meeting you soon!

Best wishes,
Year 1 Tutor

With less than a week to go until you move in, I speak on behalf of all of PhysSoc when I say we can’t wait to welcome you to your new home. The best three or four years of your life lie ahead of you and, like the rest of us, you’ll never want to leave.

Once term is underway, we’re going to be bringing you the latest news on PhysSoc’s activities, in-depth articles highlighting the incredible research going on in the department, and news from the wider world of physics. We’re really excited to share it all with you.

See you soon!

 Your First Year at York: The Staff Perspective, part 1

Main image by Aran Kriesch [CC BY SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons