Student profile: Erin Raif, fourth year physics student
Student experience 20th August 2020
Erin’s about to go into fourth year of the MPhys Physics course – he tells us why it’s a good thing to have your head in the clouds…
Why did you choose Physics, and why did you choose Manchester?
I was interested in space when I was little, and I guess that evolved into being interested in physics. Not many people from my hometown go to uni, so it wasn’t really something I thought about. But after I found out it was an option to study something I really enjoyed for four years, and I could do it for life if I wanted once I had a degree, there wasn’t really anything else I wanted to do.
At the time, I chose Manchester because after trampling round the open days and the offer days, Manchester seemed like the place with the best teaching and a vibrant (if rainy) city. To be honest, I still wasn’t fully convinced till I got here – I don’t think anyone really knows they’ve made the right choice until they arrive. Happily, I feel like I was proven right. If you asked me now, I’d say the most important thing about choosing Manchester is that despite being a Liverpool fan and having a strong Cockney accent (apparently), I still feel like fit in at Manchester!
What’s been the best thing about your degree?
There’s no way of saying this without being cheesier than an 80s Eurovision band, but the people here really make it – both students and staff. You make friends at any uni, but I couldn’t imagine life without my friends at Manchester – with 300 people in your year it’s very hard not to find physicists you’ll bond with. Also, the massive size of the uni means you’ll meet literally hundreds of people in halls and societies if you’re willing to get out there a bit – there’s always someone you know walking down the Oxford Road.
The staff are really approachable and really inspirational. I’ve had some great professional and personal interactions with some teaching staff that do amazing research, and that’s helped me to work out what I want to do with my degree.
Because of that, I’ll really miss it here once I graduate. If you’re a professor and you’re reading this, give me a PhD so I don’t have to leave! Blimey, that was properly stilton, I don’t know how you’re still reading this…
What are your plans after uni?
I’d really like to do a PhD studying the physics of clouds. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t even know you could do that before I came here – I thought I was probably into astrophysics, but then I discovered how fun environmental physics and condensed matter physics are – and I’d never really heard of them.
What’s been your favourite module and why?
That’s really hard! I think my favourites are ones that I’d never considered before uni. I loved Physics of Fluids and Condensed Matter Physics because they had really cool stuff that blew my mind (Google reversible Stokes’ flow to see why). Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics helped me decide what I want to do in life, and Random Processes was just so much fun – I couldn’t stop laughing through it. And of course, being taught quantum mechanics by Brian is pretty cool to write home about…
What’s been your experience of labs?
Haha – that depends on what day of the week it is! I’m an experimentalist at heart, so I love getting my hands dirty but they can be beyond frustrating at times. You need to be really precise, and there’s so much that can go wrong even with the best equipment that you spend at least half the day tearing your hair out – but when you get it right, there really is no better feeling.
What clubs or societies are you involved in?
Currently, I’m on the darts team, and bearing in mind my dyspraxia, I’m not sure how I’ve not impaled someone yet! I’m also a senior member of our Physics Outreach society, and it’s great fun sharing what we do, know and love with kids all around Greater Manchester, and partying physics-style at Bluedot! I also had the chance to help run two bars and organise a lot of events as part of my halls’ Residents Association, which was also really fun and I’d fully recommend doing.