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29th May 2024

At the College, we make sure our students get lots of opportunities to build upon the classroom learning provided by our specialist teachers, by exploring their subjects with visits from guest speakers and at events like the recent Particle Physics Masterclass at Bristol University.

Four of our Year 13 Physics students (James, Eddie, Jess and Joseph) attended the workshop at Bristol University so we caught up with them to find out more!

So, I hear you guys got to meet some of the scientists who worked on the LHC, and to all of us mere mortals that is the Large Hadron Collider. What was that like?

JESS: It was cool as a lot of them were PhD students from Bristol University and they were spending their placement year there at the LHC. So it was nice to see something that’s possible in the near future, rather than like 20 years away! They showed us what they get up to on a daily basis and gave us a tour of the facility.

JOSEPH: They’d recently completed an update, so we got to see the parts that they’d taken out and improved. The whole facility is like five storeys high, so it was great to be able to get up close and see lots of things in detail.

Sounds like a great start to the day, what else did you get up to?

JOSEPH: We had a few taster lectures where they explained some of the uses of Particle Physics. One of them focused on muons and how they’re used to inspect the contents of cargo containers to prevent terrorism and smuggling.

That’s really interesting to see how their work and research is applied to real life!

JESS: After the taster lectures, the PhD students gave presentations about their field of interest in relation to Particle Physics. One student spoke about Physics and Biology combining in the medical world, and another focused on Astrophysics, which involved a lot of Maths!

Cool to see how the different subjects combine. The topics you had taster lectures and presentations on, have you covered them much in class at College?

EDDIE: We had already learned about some of the theory, for example, what muons are, but it was really cool to find out more about their properties and what you can do with them.

JAMES: The great thing about going to an event like this masterclass at Bristol University is that they expose you to degree level information, so you get to learn a lot and experience what it would be like to study the subject at University.

Always good to learn new things, I certainly am today! So as well as having a taster of University education, you guys were also set a challenge to complete – which you won, wahoo! Tell me about the brief?

JESS: We had to design a particle detector and accelerator, and develop three uses for it. Earlier in the day, we had learned about the parts of a detector and accelerator so we knew the elements we needed to construct. We were set a budget for the build and there was a panel of PhD students who were like a mock government. We had to pitch our idea to them, detailing its function and cost, and why they should proceed with our design.

JOSEPH: It was an interesting task because it showed you what life as a Physicist could be like; developing a design under a budget and having to pitch your idea to the government for sign off.

So for anyone reading this that doesn’t know what a particle accelerator and detector is, is it essentially what the LHC is?

JESS: Yes! The accelerator speeds everything up, and the detector is where everything is smashed together and you find out what’s inside.

Brilliant, we can all walk away with a Physics fact! Talking of Physics in general, what’s your favourite part of the subject?

JESS: For me, it’s Particle Physics so I really enjoyed the day and it’s what I’m most looking forward to exploring in a degree.

JAMES: I really like Nuclear and Astrophysics.

EDDIE: The more fundamental and out-there topics are what I like, so I’m also a fan of Astrophysics.

JOSEPH: Similar to Eddie, I like the abstract elements; thinking about the bigger things that are out there and yet to be discovered.

Nice, so we need to stay on the lookout for a new star that will be named after you. People reading this may be currently studying Physics at GCSE, would you say the jump is big between GCSE and A-level Physics?

JOSEPH: A-level is definitely a lot more complex but it’s a truer picture of what the field is actually like. You’re given quite a limited scope of it at GCSE level so that’s why the jump can feel big.

JAMES: What’s also different is the amount of Maths that’s involved. At GCSE it’s a lot of remembering facts, whereas at A-level you focus on more fundamental elements which are built upon Maths.

So GCSE is almost like a taster of the subject and there’s lots more to look forward to at A-level…

EDDIE: The A-level starts off with the basics like Mechanics which you probably would have explored at GCSE, so you start with something familiar to ease you in.

JESS: Yeah the College does a really good job at switching the module order to help with the transition. Chapter 1 is actually Particle Physics, which many people might find overwhelming to begin with. Whereas the College starts us off with Materials and Mechanics to build up your confidence before moving onto things like Particle Physics.

That’s great to hear that our teachers have tailored the course structure to help with the jump. Finally, what are your next steps after finishing College this summer?

EDDIE: I’m planning to do a degree in Physics.

JAMES: Same for me, hopefully at Durham University.

JESS: I’m going to do a joint honours, Physics and Philosophy, at Nottingham.

JOSEPH: I’ve got an offer from Manchester to study Physics there, so we’re soon to be a full set of Physics undergrads!


Congratulations again to our team of fantastic Physicists on competing against 11 other local schools to win the design challenge! A massive thank you to Bristol University for hosting such an insightful and inspiring masterclass. We can’t wait to see what our students get up to next, including all of the discoveries they’ll make along the way!