Study Physics in Scotland

Physics is the most basic and fundamental science. It tackles problems at the frontiers of knowledge, addressing the most fundamental questions on what makes the world around, inside and beyond us. Physics also deals with practical issues, leading to discoveries and inventions that change our lives, like medical scanners, computers, lasers, mobile phones, and the internet. Starting from the observation of natural phenomena, physicists unravel the complexity of the world by analysing each process in terms of few fundamental and universal quantities such as energy and charge.

Study Physics in Scotland

One of the main factors at the base of the remarkable progress of physics is the way in which ideas and techniques flow from the must fundamental branches to the most applied ones and vice-versa, so that a breakthrough in one sector soon leads to advances in others. To drive this constant flow of new ideas and results, physicists need to master practical, numerical, and analytical skills and, above all, have an inquisitive mind and a problem solving attitude. These skills are easily transferable to other fields; indeed no other science degree gives wider prospects for employment while maintaining such fundamental academic interest.

This is shown by the great variety of different companies that offer well-paid jobs to physics graduates for their ability to “add value” to products and services. In fact, economic sectors whose activities crucially depend on modern physics and employ a high number of physicists are those with the strongest economic growth and highest productivity. These sectors – such as telecommunications, instrument manufacturing, oil extraction, and many others – are strategic for technologically advanced countries concentrating on the production of goods and services of a very high technological level.

The economic performance of physics-based sectors is particularly good in Scotland. According to a recent report of the Institute of Physics, between 2000 and 2005, physics-based companies in Scotland have performed better than in the rest of the UK, contributing more to the national output than finance and construction. This reflects both the traditional outstanding quality of physics in Scotland and the recent evolution of the Scottish industries.

Scientifically, Scotland has outstanding traditions: Maxwell derived the equations that connect electricity and magnetism, opening the way to inventions such as radios and lasers; Watt designed the first steam engines, the workhorse of the industrial revolution; Kelvin laid the foundations of thermodynamics and had hundreds of patents on almost everything of use in his time; Logie Baird invented television; Watson-Watt designed and developed the first radar. This scientific and technological excellence had an industrial counterpart: most of the ships – which were the lifeblood of the British Empire – were built on the River Clyde in Glasgow.

During the last 30 years, the Scottish economic landscape has changed dramatically with the once dominant heavy industries being replaced by new high-tech research-led activities such as electronics, biotechnology, semiconductors, photonics, and many others. As during the industrial revolution, these changes have been supported by the quality of the physics research in the Scottish universities and by the flexibility of the physics degrees in adapting to the needs of a constantly evolving world. Virtually all the new high-tech industries in Scotland have strong links with universities, many are spin-off companies founded by university researchers and former students.

Typically, Scottish degrees are of two types: BSc lasting for four years and MSclasting for five years. In some universities, MSc degrees are directly linked to cutting-edge research with a wide variety of classes and final year projects to get experience with advanced research topics. Most universities have careerservice departments helping students to find how they can use their training and provide them with opportunities to network with people already working in private companies or in other universities. Students whose first language is not English find that a major advantage of getting a degree in Scotland is that they become fluent in written and spoken English.

All these factors contribute to make graduates from Scottish universities very successful in finding well-paid jobs. Furthermore, the Fresh Talent Initiative of the Scottish Government may enable international students who graduate in Scotland to work two years in Scotland after achieving their degree. With a thriving high-tech sector, there are plenty of opportunities in Scotland for clever and determined people, no matter where they come from.

Last but not least, student unions provide a friendly and safe environment managed by students for students to relax and socialise. So studying physics in Scotland is a great fun and allows you to get interesting and well-paid jobs: should you not consider it very carefully?

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