Why study physics?

July 17, 1998

Physics is healthy and yet university departments are closing or merging. THES reporters investigate

David Colling Researcher in the high-energy particle physics group at Imperial College, London.

"To me, physics is a way of thinking. It is the purest scientific methodology, and it has changed the way I think about tackling a problem. I was attracted because of its fundamentality. The fact is that if there is any non-religious way to describe the universe, we will find it through physics."

Jessica James Vice-president of the strategic risk management advisory strategy group at the First National Bank of Chicago in London.

"I design trading strategies for the bank and advise external clients. The whole of finance is to do with probabilities - that is very physics-y. A lot of equations of physics are absolutely applicable on the stock market."

Emma Sanders Exhibitions unit at Cern, the European particle physics laboratory in Geneva.

"My work is varied. I write text for exhibitions, help design exhibits and computer interactives, work on schools materials with teachers and follow the work of the lab. One of the nice things is keeping in touch with physics research. I need to be able to understand the work so that I can communicate it to the public. Physics has made me a questioning and curious person. I have gone into communications so that I can share the fascination of physics with others."

Vijay Thakur Spacecraft engineer for the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency.

'"My work involves developing microsatellites for in-orbit technology demonstration.

"I chose to study physics because I was interested in getting to the heart of the matter. My job is very much applied engineering, and physics meant I understand the basic underlying principles. I think that it is true that a physicist can go on to do anything."

Nick Marley Manager in the insurance and assets management group in the financial markets division of Arthur Andersen.

"I advise clients such as insurance companies and brokers on cash management. I chose physics because it is a pure subject but not so pure that it has no meaning. Physics involves lots of ideas at different levels and different ways of looking at the same problem.

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