Graduate profile: Jonny
Degree: MPhys Physics
Employer: Tessella plc, Junior Analyst Programmer
After completing A-Levels at Hartlepool Sixth Form College, I opted for Physics at Durham because it provided me with what I wanted: a pure Physics course with a good blend of theoretical knowledge and practical experience. As well as this, the specialisation and experimental project in the fourth year gave me the chance to carry out some independent research, which really feels like you are in charge of your development.
Don't get me wrong: the work was hard, especially compared against students in other subjects! The work you do doesn't feel useless, though; weekly problems allow you to figure out if you've been paying attention in lectures, and practical labs give you useful experience in scientific method, report writing and presentation skills - all excellent things to write on a CV!
If you take the work seriously you have plenty of time to have fun (although be warned that writing a lab report whilst hungover is not an experience I wish to repeat). I found plenty of time to get involved with societies, and I think this is where Durham really excels. There is such a diverse set of things to do (I tackled poker, ballroom dancing and radio broadcasting!) and I really appreciated doing something else after a long day in labs.
When I started to come to the end of my course, I didn't know whether I wanted to continue onto a PhD or to head for a job. By meeting up with Matthew Jones (a member of staff I had met whilst researching my Level 2 essay) he provided me with a summer placement in the Department working alongside PhD students in the Atomic and Molecular Physics group. This was an amazing experience that gave me the chance to apply the knowledge I had to a piece of real scientific research; however, after the placement I decided that I wanted to apply my knowledge outside of the scientific community and hence started looking for jobs.
I started looking for jobs in the January of my final year because I was determined to have a job offer before graduating. However, like many soon-to-be-graduates I had no idea what I wanted to do or even what I would be good at! I searched through the Careers Advisory Service's job pages, taking a closer look at any jobs that looked interesting. After a little time researching and a lot of time writing application forms, I sent away my applications.
Most applications didn't receive responses at all, but within four months I had completed half a dozen psychometric tests, been to three interviews and eventually received two job offers. I chose to work with Tessella as it looked to provide the more interesting work and really blended together my scientific knowledge with my programming skills (which I had learned through both the course and by programming in my spare time).
I now work at Tessella, an international software and consultancy firm that specialises in applying scientific knowledge to business problems. The work is very interesting and marries the experience I have in both science and technology. I haven't completely detached from the University though: I keep in close contact with my friends from the university and spur on undergraduates by telling them about my experiences as an undergraduate...
You can contact Jonny about his experiences at Durham via the Careers, Employability and Enterprise Centre.