The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T +44 (0)1227 764000
The School of Physical Sciences has a strong commitment to ensuring we provide courses that offer students employability once they have completed their studies. Graduates from the School have an excellent employment record with 85% of them employed or in education 6 months after graduation.
Our links with industry provide students not only with the opportunity to develop work experience during their degrees, but also equip them with the general and specialist skills and knowledge needed to transfer to the workplace. The School’s Forensic Science programmes are taught not only by in-house academic lecturers, but also by expert practionner lecturers from industry. Our Physics programmes include the opportunity to spend a year in the USA and our collaborations with SEPnet include a significant element of employer engagement, making our Physics provision particularly attractive.
The School ensures that key elements of taught and examined modules are relevant to the transferable skills that are required in today's job market. We are continuing to enhance this by constantly reviewing the learning outcomes and objectives of our courses. Each student is also provided with a dedicated careers talk in the early part of the second stage of their course to ensure they understand the services the University offers on this important subject.
We have provided some profiles below of students that have now left the University and gone on to enjoy success in their chosen career path.
Chris Rees graduated from Kent in 2007 with an MPhys in Physics with Astrophysics.
Why did you choose Kent?
When I was making my university choices, Kent was one of a few universities that offered the degree that I wanted to do. From a young age, I was really interested in astrophysics and astronomy. At university, I wanted to do something that I would enjoy and find challenging. Kent offered a four-year Master’s programme in Physics with Astrophysics, which was exactly what I was looking for. When I visited Kent for the first time, I could not have picked a worse day – I arrived in the middle of a horrible winter storm. However, as soon as I spoke to the lecturers and professors, I felt right at home and knew that I had made the right choice. Everyone was so welcoming and very happy to spend some time talking to me about the course. It sounded great and the mix of theory and practice seemed just right. Also, the School has two observatories on campus that students can use any time.
What are you doing now?
I currently work as a Nuclear Safety Case Engineer for Magnox South Ltd. After graduation, I had a number of job offers from various companies. However, given that the UK had recently decided to build new nuclear reactors, it seemed a good idea to go into the nuclear industry. Over the past two years, I’ve had the opportunity to work within Reactor Physics on an operating nuclear power station, applying my physics knowledge from
university to a real-world situation. I’ve also been involved with the decommissioning of older reactors, conducting shielding assessments for protection against radioactive waste. I have now been offered a job in Australia, working on small nuclear test reactor. My degree has helped me so much in the real world and now it’s taking me to the other side of the world. In the future, I’m hoping to continue to travel around the world and end up writing safety cases for the space industry in the USA.
How have your studies prepared you for work in the outside world?
I think my degree prepared me very well for the real world. In my third year, I took the Physics Problem Solving module. This involved applying physics to real world problems and this is now what I do on a day-to-day basis.
There are lots of other skills that you gain as part of your degree; presentation and report writing skills are just a few of many that really assist in the outside world.
Did you have any contact with industry?
Yes, I spent some time working in Kent and Canterbury Hospital shadowing members of their nuclear medicine team and this gave me a great insight into how physics was applied in the real world.
Do you have happy memories of Kent?
I have brilliant memories of Kent. The School of Physical Sciences was fantastic and the University campus was a brilliant place to live and socialise. There was always something to do on campus with lots of great societies that catered for everybody’s interests, whether you were interested in astronomy or surfing. Kent has a wonderful
student culture and I would recommend it to anyone. You’ll meet people from all over the world and have the opportunity to make some great friends.
What advice would you give to a student following a similar path?
Take every opportunity to gain experience and find out which areas of physics you really like, whether it’s medicine or rocket science, as it will really pay off when you come to decide on your career. Get involved within the School, help out with the Open Days or school visits and, most importantly, join the physics societies, as they really are excellent at Kent. Physics is an amazing degree to do. You’ll learn so much more about the world
around you. Remember to have fun and never be afraid to ask questions.
Obi Onyiah is a forensic scientist working in the Drugs Department of LGC Forensics, the largest privately-owned forensic science service provider in the UK.
What made you choose Kent?
I was doing my Chemistry A level when I attended a talk given by a forensic scientist. I told her I was interested in the subject, and my university choices, and she said forget the others and go to Kent, as it was the best in her opinion. I was a bit sceptical, as she hadn’t even been there herself, but once I visited the campus and saw the
School, I fell in love with the University immediately. The course was very well structured, offering a mixture of both practical and theoretical work. And the resources were just great. I do have an immense love of science, but I also developed a passion for other areas, such as law. As forensic science is defined as ‘the application of science to the law’, it was perfect for what I wanted. I also didn’t want to limit my scientific knowledge to one science such as chemistry, and the course involved a broad range of scientific disciplines. I became particularly interested in chemical identification techniques, which is closely related to the sort of work I do now.
What are you doing now?
I’m a forensic drug analyst for LGC Forensics. We assist police forces all over the UK, identifying and analysing drugs, from trace amounts to multi-kilogram quantities. We provide advice, support and expert opinion on all drug-related matters. I’ve been working here for over a year, and no day has really been the same.
Did your studies prepare you for work in the outside world?
Definitely, and not just the obvious academic side. It also helped me develop things like timekeeping, communication skills, teamwork, confidence and being organised. And part of one final-year module was a PowerPoint presentation on courtroom skills which I still use to help prepare for a court appearance.
Did you do a year in industry?
No, in the end I didn’t, but I would say do try because it gives you valuable experience and it might help with finding a job. Forensics deals with a lot of sensitive information, so it can be difficult to get any kind of work experience on your own.
Do you have happy memories of Kent?
Academically, the best memory has to be getting my final year grade. I put my utmost effort into that last year and it was just amazing to see the fruits of all that hard labour in the library (and that library is absolutely remarkable)! On the social side of things, the opportunity of meeting so many different people with a range of backgrounds was wonderful.
What advice would you give a student hoping to follow a similar path?
I would tell them that you must think of your passion for the subject first, and money second.
The love for the subject is vitally important in career progression, because although the salary is not scorchingly high to begin with, quick development is based on how you can apply your expertise in new areas and what you can bring to the department, to better the services of the team – whether it’s implementing new ideas or taking on more responsibility. When you’re job-hunting, don’t just wait for vacancies to appear. I got an interview just from uploading my CV onto the LGC website – there were no ads for jobs at the time. And make sure you have a good CV. I would recommend looking at the science CV on the Careers Advisory Service section of Kent’s website. This is a very good career to have, and it gives you skills which are employable in other professions.
It raises more than a few eyebrows when meeting new people, too. Also, it will stop you watching CSI– which is so exaggerated – so you’ll waste less time watching TV!
Catherine Scandrett graduated with a PhD in Physics. She shares her experience as a student in the School of Physical Sciences and how it helped her in her employment:
“I arrived at the University of Kent in September 2003 to begin a PhD in the Forensic Imaging Group, in the School of Physical Sciences. After I'd finished my Physics degree at another University in 2002, I was looking for a new challenge and the Forensic Imaging Group really appealed to my interests and my desire to perform research in a field with a real-life basis. Starting a PhD was exciting but slightly daunting as it was so different to undergraduate work but soon I had settled into the group really well, thanks to the friendliness of its other members and the tutelage of my supervisor, Dr Chris Solomon.
After only a short while, I was getting stuck into some fascinating research questions, which were posed to solve some real-life problems in the field of Forensic Imaging. In 2004, Dr.Solomon encouraged me to write my first research paper for submission to a conference and I was very lucky to have it accepted. In the summer of that year, I flew to Kauai, Hawaii to present my paper to my international peers. It was an incredible experience and I gained so much confidence in both my work and my abilities.
Over the next year, I was given the opportunity to write more papers, alongside carrying out my research, and I attended conferences in both London and Glasgow in order to present them, as well as gaining further publications in two international scientific journals. In addition, I attended an EPSRC summer school at the University of Surrey, where I learnt further presentation, research and timemanagement skills. Elsewhere, I was involved in giving presentations and workshops on my research to school children, which I found challenging but
My first two and a half years at Kent went really quickly and it was soon time for me to begin the arduous process of writing my thesis. It was a real challenge and, at times, a struggle but thanks to the support of my supervisor, my husband and my family, I was able to complete my write-up and submit my thesis for examination within the three year period of my registration. I had a nervous wait for my viva but the actual process was nowhere near as daunting as I thought it would be and I was thrilled when I found out I had passed my PhD with only minor corrections.
After submitting my corrections and getting the final copy of my thesis bound, I completed my journey at the University with a wonderful graduation day in Canterbury Cathedral in November 2007. I learnt so much from my time at the University of Kent. I learnt how to be an independent and confident thinker, a successful problem-solver and an organised researcher. I also learnt how to write professional scientific papers and how to present them effectively to a variety of audiences. I think these transferable skills helped me immensely in securing my position with my current company, who specialise in Forensic Imaging for both prosecution and defence cases.
Indeed, the company created the position for me upon my speculative application. I have no doubt that this was due to the skills I gained during my time at the University.
In conclusion, I spent a happy and fulfilling three years at the University of Kent. I met some fantastic people and learned some truly useful and applicable transferable skills, which I now use everyday in my career in industry. I will always look back at my time in Kent with fond memories and am so grateful to everyone who made my academic journey there such a positive and rewarding experience.”
All of our degrees equip graduates to undertake postgraduate training and research at universities worldwide.
For further information see:www.kent.ac.uk/employability.