Physics, an interview with an Oxford Student

Can you give a short introduction about yourself? 
I’m a second year Physics student at Corpus Christi, originally from Manchester!

What’s it like studying Physics at Corpus Christi? 
The work is difficult, as you would expect, but Corpus Physics is a very close-knit group and so I know that they’re always happy to help out on any particularly hard questions. Especially when you have to spend the entire day together in labs – it’s definitely a strong bond that gets formed.

How do STEM subjects compare to humanities? 
STEM compared to Humanities in general have a very different set of workload – the difference between problem sets and essays (although some STEM subjects also have essays) means that we work in different ways. From an application point of view – there’s also more of an expectation of prior knowledge of your subject for STEM, whereas it would be relatively normal to apply for a humanities subject, like Law, without having formally studied it.

Could you tell us more about your course, the content and the structure? 
Physics is timetabled so that there are lectures in the morning, tutorials in the afternoon with lab days kept clear. This means that there is a built-in level of structure to your week and day, making it relatively easy to find a working time after your lectures or tutorial. In first year, the course offers a good grounding in maths – with half the courses being focused on mathematical methods. The other topics cover electromagnetism, optics and a choice of short courses. In second year, we cover Electromagnetism and Optics in more depth, Quantum Mechanics and Thermodynamics.

What are your most and least favourite things about studying here so far? 
Best thing so far is having those rare eureka moments and working as a group, worst has to be some of the labs.

Did you have any expectations about Oxford before you came here? 
I reckon I had a typical set of expectations of Oxford – that everyone would be ridiculously intelligent, rich, from Eton or somewhere in the South, and so I wouldn’t fit in

How does the real thing compare?
When I first got here I was still terrified but the more I spoke to everyone, it soon became clear that your background was irrelevant and essentially never came up in conversation. Although there are inevitably people who are intelligent, and who did go to Eton – that didn’t define them and makes them no different from everyone else. Everyone was in the same situation of trying to fit in, find friends and figure out the usual stuff like laundry and cooking.

Teneeka Mai is a physics student at Corpus Christi College, Oxford

Tony Liu, 21 Feb 2017