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Life as a student in Bath

Adventures in the Netherlands

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📥  Faculty of Science, Postgraduate

I struggled for breath as my body was in free fall. Some people apparently hate this feeling when a plane descends. I loved it. It almost felt like the thrill of a roller coaster, and I was a kid again wishing it would take yet another dive. This plane was about to land in the Netherlands. For my CDT placement, I was going to do research there for six weeks with my project partner, Emma.

It was a quiet January night when we arrived in Nijmegen, a city near the Netherlands–Germany border. Our supervisor, Alix, welcomed us and showed the way to our apartment. She had a calm and thoughtful demeanour, just as I remembered over Skype when she briefed us on the project.

Emma and I were going to test a thermometer for use at temperatures below –200 °C. Weird things happen when stuff is this cold, one example being superfluidity [1]. Traditional thermometers measure expansion and contraction of mercury in a glass tube, whereas digital thermometers measure changes in electrical resistance across metals like platinum. Both types, classed as secondary thermometers, can be a problem for researchers: at low temperatures, they lose calibration. That’s why for our project, we were to test a primary thermometer which doesn’t need calibration. The catch? It takes over ten minutes for a single temperature measurement. This involves software plotting a conductance–voltage curve whose full width at half maximum is directly proportional to temperature via known constants. Despite long measurement times, primary thermometers are worthwhile for researchers needing reliable results in low-temperature physics.

When we reached our apartment, the lab where we’d be working was close enough to be seen out the window. How convenient. It took only a few minutes to walk there, but it felt like going through a freezer. The sharp difference in temperature between well-heated buildings and outside made even Alix grumble.


[View from the 7th floor of our guesthouse apartment in Nijmegen, Netherlands. We worked in the High-Field Magnet Laboratory (HFML) seen on the right with curved architecture.]

The lab itself was the High-Field Magnet Laboratory (HFML) where magnetic fields up to 37.5 Tesla can be reached; for comparison, a fridge magnet has a strength of 0.005 Tesla. Magnetic fields are often used in low-temperature experiments to reveal more information about samples like a magnifying glass. The downside is that magnetic fields affect thermometers so they need to be monitored and accounted for when calculating temperature. It turns out that unlike other primary thermometers, the specific type we were to test—a Coulomb blockade thermometer—was expected to be independent of magnetic fields. Confirming this would be useful for researchers in the HFML.

Everyone in the HFML was friendly and supportive. Ineke helped us settle in and was a joy to be around, and Olga went out of her busy way to help us when needed. We couldn’t be more grateful. Someone I admired, Inge, whistled and strolled around the lab as if she had springs in her steps. She’s a confident person, able to fully express herself with infectiously enthusiastic body language. Another researcher, Laurens, noticed Emma’s lip ring.

“Do you have piercings in other parts of your body?”
Emma let out a big smile and confirmed his curiosity.
“That’s all I needed to know."

Cycling is the norm in the Netherlands, so we borrowed bikes to explore Nijmegen. The trouble was that I hadn’t ridden a bike for over a decade. It had been many years for Emma, too. Unsurprisingly, we had a rough start when riding again. Emma fell and scraped her knee. If she felt embarrassed, that soon disappeared with what happened to me in the hours ahead.


[Bikes parked outside Nijmegen train station. There are more levels below ground, and this is a typical sight in the Netherlands.]

While crossing the road, I almost got run over by cars. It was my fault, though. I was so focused on trying to ride in a straight line that I forgot traffic goes in the opposite direction here. And yes, I should have looked both ways, but learning to ride a bike again in foreign land threw me off big time. Along not-so-straight lines, we continued onwards to the city centre. “We came all this way to another country and the first store we go into is Primark?” I saw the irony that Emma was referring to, but we needed towels and knew Primark would sell them. After exploring the city centre, we returned to our bikes parked beside an overflowing bike rack. I managed to topple over an entire row. The bikes fell like dominoes. Paralysed to react, I could only watch, but onlookers generously helped me pick them up afterwards. At least on our ride back to the apartment, I finally saw someone looking shaky with eyes down on her front wheel.

"Emma, look, someone else is learning to ride too!"
"Aye, but she's half our age.”

Back in the HFML, reaching low temperatures for our thermometer involved putting it in a cryostat. This was a freezer cooled by liquid nitrogen and liquid helium. We glued the thermometer onto a 2 m long metal rod—a probe—to be placed inside the cryostat, and then soldered wiring to connect the thermometer to a computer where measurements can be read. Emma and I did our best to get it all working, but we would later find that this wasn’t enough.


[Cylindrical cryostat supported by a triangular structure and attached to a liquid helium vessel. Cables connected the thermometer to a computer where temperature measurements can be read.]

On one weekend, we crossed the border to the German city of Düsseldorf. It was like little Japan, so we went to Okinii, an all-we-can-eat Japanese restaurant. Emma showed me how to use chopsticks, but I could have downed more food if I had practice beforehand. We also had drinks at a restaurant 170 m high in the Rhine Tower. Seeing Düsseldorf from up there was most memorable, even if Emma hadn’t shattered her glass by accidentally pushing it off the table. When evening settled, we stopped by a street drummer called Oded Kafri [2]. As an introvert, I find it difficult to connect with others, yet here was a person who used music and theatrics to connect with and entertain the crowd. I was inspired.


[Rhine Tower (Rheinturm) is the tallest building in Düsseldorf, Germany. It’s 240.5 m high with an observation deck and restaurant at 170 m.]

"All hopes and dreams have been shattered", Emma wrote in her lab book. Dramatic, but it's how we felt when seeing a dozen wires had snapped from disconnecting our stubborn probe. It wasn't the first nor last time that snapping wires stopped our progress. Experimental physics was showing us no mercy. Eventually, with practice and patience, snapping wires no longer troubled us. However, the software didn't plot conductance–voltage curves correctly but instead gave scattered data points. This lasted for weeks. Having ruled out experimental errors, we could only conclude that there was something broken inside the thermometer. Alix’s plan was to contact the manufacturer for assistance and possibly get a replacement, but we wouldn’t be around to see the conclusion. Our time in the Netherlands had come to an end. Hopefully, Alix doesn’t have as much trouble when working on the thermometer herself.

It seems that progress can make the difference between a frustrating project and a fulfilling one. Although our project was the former, Alix was sympathetic and reassured us that these things happen. Sometimes, things are beyond our control. We may not have achieved much research-wise, but that doesn't mean the CDT placement wasn’t worthwhile. Far from it.

[1] More about superfluidity and our CDT in my previous blog here.
[2] Feel free to search for Oded Kafri on YouTube!

Second Year Mouse Project


📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph, Second year

Semester 2 for the Department of Engineering at the University of Bath was always going to be busy, but I never expected it to be quite as varied and exciting as it has turned out to be!

At the start of this semester all of the Electrical engineers and all of the integrated IMEE engineers were given a basic ‘mouse’ chassis and told ‘go’! The challenge for us was made very simple- in groups specified by the department, we were to design and build a mouse to follow an electronic track by any means possible. Although the end result may sound fairly mundane, the circuitry required was fairly complex and, as always, having a developed understanding of the underlying theory really helped.

The nature of the task meant that, as a group, we were going to need to spend hundreds of hours in the labs as well as a long time discussing the theory that underpinned our whole design. I really enjoy the group work that is carried out within the department at Bath because, more often than not, you are able to work with people you haven’t ever worked with before and learn about things that you may never have considered if working alone.

Our (unfinished) mouse!

Spending hours and hours soldering and testing circuits in the laboratory spaces may be frustrating from time to time but there is no better feeling than when your circuit works well and reliably, week in, week out. Moreover, the work ethic required has imposed an impressive nine-to-five approach to the degree course. I’ve never seen so many people working so hard all at once. Not only is this really good practice for the real world and placement year, but it means that everybody can work really efficiently in the day, with fewer lectures breaking up proceedings. Likewise, given my busy schedule with the rowing captaincy, as well as all of the other academic work that I am immersed in this semester, the nine-to-five schedule works very well indeed.

Although the mouse project is one of the most exciting things that the IMEEs are doing this year, there is always lots of breadth to the IMEE course. Yet again I have really enjoyed a modelling assignment that we were given. For this assignment we all had to model the heat transfer through a tile on a space shuttle. Although this was daunting at first, with lots of theory work required, the fact that the situation could be related to a real world example meant that it was very interesting indeed. In fact, it was very easy to get distracted by all of the background reading and forget completely about the programming at hand.

The race track with a completed mouse in situ

The race track with a completed mouse in situ

On the whole, as we come into the final few weeks of the year, let alone the semester, everything is speeding up and everyone is feeling extremely busy. There is a fantastic energy about campus as everyone makes sure that things get finished ahead of revision week. For me personally, although nervous about the mouse challenge race day in the final week, I have worked hard to get all of my other reports done so that I can really enjoy my time at Bath in the last few weeks and focus solely upon my beloved mouse!

As you may well know, my life at Bath is made up of two fundamental chunks; my time within the engineering department and my time at the boathouse. Although I am forever busy with my course, being such a big part of rowing this year has helped me unwind at the weekends and gives another purpose for my time at university. Not only is my course ramping up as the end of term approaches but so too is rowing with regatta season just kicking off. All in all, this means I have to endure lots of early mornings and a regular 4.50AM alarm clock. Although miserable at times, early mornings on the river (especially in the sunshine) are often a great way to refresh and energise before a day in the labs on campus. I just hope the sun keeps shining and the rain stays away!


Why I accepted my Bath offer


📥  Eman, Faculty of Science, First year

Making that final choice in your mind about where you’re going to be studying/living for the next 3/4 years is probably the most significant decision you will have to make during your school years. You’ve been in school for almost your whole life, progressing into each year as if it was routine and most likely attending schools that were convenient in terms of where you live or which were influenced by your parents. Choosing a university differs in that it is seen as the beginning of what you intend to do for the rest of your life.

So far this all sounds very serious but accepting the offer from the university you want to go to is actually a very exciting feeling. It makes you start to think about what university life will be like and also gets you motivated to perform well in your exams in order to get the results you need.

When I was researching universities, Bath was not one that I had thought about as much as others so I was quite surprised when it stood out to me. The main thing that attracted me to Maths and Physics at Bath was the course itself. I had looked a lot into what my course was like at different universities and the specific modules on the Bath course were exactly what I wanted to do. I felt that I couldn’t fault the course and this surprised me as I managed to find something wrong with all the other courses that I had looked at.

This played a huge part on my final decision to accept my offer from Bath. I knew that I would be at university for at least 4 years, and I didn’t want to have to spend even a day not enjoying my course. When you already know which exact course you want to study at university, it’s easy to focus on other aspects when making your choice, thinking that your course is pretty much the same at most universities. However looking in detail at which modules you’ll be studying every year of your degree is a must because for me, I found that my dislike for some made me stop considering certain universities.

As well as the course being a major factor for me, I wanted to make sure I made the right choice in terms of “university life”, looking at aspects such as the campus, facilities, what else the university has to offer aside from an education and just generally whether I’ll feel at home there.

When my research into universities first began in year 12 (back when I was curious so before I properly started to look into everything) I ended up really liking another university. I must have been on every part of their website, finding out everything I could about it, which only made me like it even more. There was a time when I was certain that that was where I wanted to go. However, when I expanded my research and went fully into depth, attended open days and spoke to different people, I realised that I became less fixated on that specific university and grew more and more interested in Bath. Attending the open day for Bath showed me that it was the one over every other university as it was the only university I felt at home at. Being on campus, I remember thinking how I could picture myself there for the next few years and it just felt right; something I didn’t experience at any other university.

Marlborough Court: home sweet home

Marlborough Court: home sweet home

When it came to accepting my offer, there was the whole “this is it” feeling for me. I knew that the university provided one of the best degrees in the country so it was really down to whether Bath was where I wanted to be. So many questions crossed my mind, all along the lines of whether this university was right for me. However, even though I thought about all these questions and hesitated before making my decision, I just knew that it was the right choice, especially because no other university felt right the way that Bath does.

For me, choosing a university was a really big deal, which is why I thought of pretty much everything that could potentially influence my decision. However, one thing I would say is that it’s easy to find things you really like about a certain university and because that might be the main thing you want from your university choice, you could overlook so many other aspects which you might not notice until you get there. I was fixated on one university but didn’t realise that I wouldn’t have liked so many small things about it if I hadn’t noticed those same things at Bath when I visited. Make sure you keep your options open so that when it comes to making that final decision, you won’t hesitate as you’ll know it’s just right.


Exploring the beautiful city of Bath!


📥  Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, First year, Ruth

Being at university in Bath has the amazing advantage of living in one of the most beautiful parts of the country (an opinion shared by many). If you’re not already sold by the University of Bath, then the city should definitely do it! Being a first year student I haven’t spent a huge amount of time in the city, mainly because everything I could possibly want is on campus so I have no need to! However, when friends and family visit I love showing them around- so this blog will basically tell you how beautiful Bath is and the best things to do with your time in the city!

The various walks around Bath are the perfect thing to do when family visit and I have also enjoyed them with flat mates. Bath is known as a world heritage site for a reason, and many of the walks combine the stunning architecture of the city with the beautiful countryside and stunning views. Recently, when my family visited, we ‘walked to the view’ a route that starts and finishes right next to Bath Abbey. It was a perfect summer’s day and it was great to sit on the top of a hill looking over Bath in the sun – all we needed was a picnic! I have also completed the ‘Skyline Walk’ which is slightly longer, it took 6 hours for us but then again, we did get lost! It is, however, great to do with friends as it starts from the university and again has great views of the city. One thing my friend from home loved was a casual stroll along the canal whilst having a much needed catch up.

Enjoying the skyline walk with flat mates

Enjoying the skyline walk with flat mates

Another place to visit is the Roman Baths and I feel that this is a must as a Bath student. I took my grandparents here and they loved it. I was unsure (history is not my thing) but actually ended up really enjoying it! The attraction is right in the centre of the city and is therefore incredibly easy to get to. Also, note that as a student in Bath you get in free so definitely worth a visit!  Why not try out ‘The Roman Bath’s Kitchen’ afterwards for a spot of lunch? It is delicious!  Right next to the Baths is the iconic Abbey so make sure to show people around whilst you’re there, the inside of the Abbey is particularly impressive so pop in and have a look.

A trip round the Roman Baths

A trip round the Roman Baths

One other thing that is obligatory as a University of Bath student is a photo in front of the royal crescent. Any friends and family that visit will no doubt want to make a trip to the royal crescent – Bath is famous for it! Just don’t forget the photo! Right behind the Royal Crescent is the Royal Victoria Park which is a perfect place to visit. It has stunning gardens as well as crazy golf and tennis courts to keep everyone entertained!

I saved the best till last, shopping! In my opinion, there is nowhere better than Bath. It has the perfect balance of high street stores and exclusive boutiques. Being a student, window shopping is a regular occurrence, but I still love it! A family favourite is ‘Fudge Kitchen’ every time they visit Bath my family are eager to go and try out some delicious fudge. The well-known Pulteney Bridge also has an array of shops which makes it a great hit with visiting family- especially as it was used in the filming of a Les Miserable scene- there’s a fun fact to tell your visitors! After all of that shopping you will most definitely be feeling like some refreshments. My advice would be to visit ‘Sally Lunn’s’ which is Baths oldest house turned into an eatery, make sure to try out the famous ‘Bath Bun’ whilst you are there.

Pulteney Bridge

Pulteney Bridge

I hope this blog has helped you realise that you will never be bored in Bath, and made you excited to show your friends and family around in the future. One of my favourite things to do is show off this beautiful city that I now get to call home!


How to stay active at university, even if you hate sport


📥  Charlotte (Sociology), Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, First year

As a student here at the University of Bath, I would say that the most heard statements are as follows: ‘Which sport do you do?’, ‘Who’s holding the pre-drinks?’ and ‘I should probably clean my room’. The former is a tricky one for me as I’m at one of the sportiest universities in the country, yet I think my 90 year old grandma is probably more agile and better suited to sport than me… no really.

I’ve never really experienced that ‘runners high’ they speak of, I’ve never fancied starting my morning with a ‘few lengths’ of the Olympic swimming pool here at the Sports Training Village and quite frankly, I only signed up to do cheerleading for the outfit. I’m a guilty of being a sportophobic! I’m sorry #TeamBath (yes, Instagram is riddled with this hashtag, everybody loves Team Bath!).

Even though I’m not the sportiest of sorts, I do think it’s really important to stay active and on your toes at university. Spending hours upon hours cooped up in your room studying isn’t great for prolonged periods of time, and if the only exercise you get is dancing at clubs; it’s probably time you got a little more exercise in. Here are some of my tips for staying healthy and active, even if you’re not fully immersed in every sport here at Bath.

Sadly, I can't say going to the gym is my favourite part of the day!

Sadly, I can't say going to the gym is my favourite part of the day!

My first pointer would be to walk-it-out. The campus at the University of Bath is small compared to many other campuses across the country, but to me and my little legs, it seems rather vast. At least every other day I try and take a stroll around the University site. The edge of campus is actually very woodland-y and provides lovely views while pacing around. There’s even a castle backing onto the golf club here, and that’s a special sight – the view from it, it is utterly stunning. There’s also an American Museum on the University site, as well as a cat and dog adoption centre so walking to one of these places is a great way to get in some exercise, with an engaging reward at the end.

Sham Castle, 4 minutes from central campus. A great location for a stroll and photo-snapping session.

Sham Castle, 4 minutes from central campus. A great location for a stroll and photo-snapping session.

If you like scenic places, or just like to have an Instagram feed packed with nature or a Snapchat story oozing with sunsets and nice rivers, there’s many National Trust sites around Bath, which are beautiful and walking the routes with friends is a great way to keep your ticker going. Starting at the university is an admittedly incredible ‘skyline’ walk around the edge of Bath, looking down onto the gorgeous city and only a mile from Bath Spa train station is another National Trust site called ‘Prior Park Landscape Garden’ which is glorious and has a beautiful bridge plonked in the middle called the Palladian Bridge – a real treasure and an equally good day outside.

Another way to stay active at University is by participating in amateur and recreational sports- clubs are readily available for people who have never done sports before and are welcoming to total beginners. Clubs with basic, beginner branches include Netball, Rugby, Lacrosse, Ultimate Frisbee and Cheerleading. There is also a terrific group called the 3:Thirty Club who arrange sessions based around getting active for those that aren’t particularly sporty: past sessions have included tag rugby, girls self-defence, yoga, improvers swimming and boxercise. Perfect for those that feel a little daunted by official clubs and want to get fit with like-minded people.

The ultimate way to get the most toned calves ever here at the University of Bath is staring you right in the face: Bathwick Hill! This is the rather steep, and slightly ominous hill up to the University. This does have a real gradient, and there should be prizes for those who make it up by foot without being out of breath, even the elite athletes studying here! Walking this hill takes around 20-30 minutes and is a brilliant way to sweat-it-out and get the blood pumping. The reward at the bottom is Bath’s stunning canal, and all the shops along with the historic sites (Bath isn’t a UNESCO World Heritage site for nothing!) in town so I suppose it does pay off!

Walking along the scenic Avon and Kennett Canal is a lovely way to keep fit.

Walking along the scenic Avon and Kennett Canal is a lovely way to keep fit.

There’s a litany of beginner to 5k running programmes here at the University, and the cycling club also offer frequent rides for people new to road biking.

Jumping for joy at how easy exercising can be in Bath, even if Lacrosse or Rugby aren't your calling.

Jumping for joy at how easy exercising can be in Bath, even if Lacrosse or Rugby aren't your calling.

There you have it – How to not be a couch potato at University, even if the ‘spinning’, ‘Zumba’ and ‘hockey’ buzzwords just don’t appeal to you!

Keep healthy!



Hunting for a Space


📥  Faculty of Science, Maeva, Postgraduate

Exam season is upon us. With barely a month between us and the start of exam week, we are all running around trying to find a place to take cover. The next few weeks for many of us master’s students will be spent on the constant look out for the perfect spot to sit and revise. Now at this particular time of the year, it can be harder than trying to find a parking space at midday. Though the student council is doing a great job of addressing the “overflowing Bath” issue, it is a slow moving process.  The increased number of students, both undergraduate and post-graduate has really put pressure on the university’s study space.

If you are anything like me, you sometimes need to get out of your bedroom to be really productive and eliminate distractions. There are only so many hours you sit in a house without feeling stir-crazy. If there is already a little spot on campus that is your go-to place during term time it may be necessary to consider other options during revision period as it may get taken. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself doing what I did last term, coming in to university earlier and earlier to claim my spot.

In anticipation for the stressfulness that trying to find free spaces can bring, I have listed a few suggestions.

1.) The library- Now before you roll your eyes at what seems to be the most obvious answer, hear me out.  The ground floor has recently been refurbished to optimise study spaces.  The new rectangle tables in level 2 allow more people to work on them and in early April, new and improved chairs will be coming in on all levels. Additional silent study spaces were created on level 5 as they are often in demand. These refurbishments were done in response to what the students requested for the revision period, so it would be worth checking it out.

2.)  4 West Café- My friends and I feel we may abuse our rights to sit in the café, as we can spend over 8 hours there a day, sharing only two purchased cups of tea between us. However, the atmosphere is great, if you like the low background noise to help you focus. Plus you can bring your own food in. There are several tables and a decent number of plug sockets allowing us to charge our laptops. The best thing about the café is being able to buy a quick pick-me-up hot drink, or nip across to Fresh to grab some food.

3.) The Graduate Centre- A room specifically designed for master’s students to socialise and study in. It can get quite busy at times, particularly at lunch, but there are a couple of extension leads and plenty of chairs. Revising here is ideal if you want a more laid-back atmosphere. The real perk is that its open really late and it gets pretty quiet from mid-afternoon.

4.) Booking a room- You are allowed to book a room up to two hours a day. This includes group study rooms dotted across campus. Now, if you’re organised, you can form a study group where each individual books a two hour time slot for the same room. This may not be practical as a daily revision method, but it can help on the day before an exam for example. You can book a room by going to the timetabling webpage-

5.) Computer rooms on the 5th floor of the Chancellor building-These tend to be free in the late afternoon and can be a forgotten option. It is practical if you do not want to lug your laptop with you every day.

6.) Bath Central library- Well why not? It is very central, next to Waitrose, and it offers free wifi and quiet study areas. If you live in town this may be an interesting alternative. They also have free computers you can use, including a Quiet PC area which only needs to be booked in advance.

7.) Cafes in town- I sometimes like to get away from very academic settings to trick myself into thinking I’m not actually revising. So I take a quick bus trip into town and head over to a café I fancy that day, Bath has many to offer. One I particularly like is the Boston Tea Party café on Alfred Street near The Circus, not just because it does amazing gluten-free brownies. Like most cafes it has a fast and free wifi, and is a lot less crowded than the campus. Most places tend to not bother you if you purchase one item and stay there for hours, so might as well make the most of it. This is the student life after all.

I like to think that the first thing for a good study session is a calming environment, but what helps me stay calm varies from day to day. Hopefully at least one of these suggestions can help you find a place to work effectively in the coming weeks.


An update on the second semester


📥  Faculty of Engineering, First year, Yousuf

The second semester started off slowly but picked up momentum as it went along. The greatest relief was going onto something new and hopefully more interesting after having to re-read the first semester’s notes a million times. The modules bring additional complexity to what we are learning but also add a design aspect to things. Our lecturers are starting to give us more free reign with some of our work, especially with work that is design oriented. Designing circuits and programmes for things like vending machines and safe locks may seem tedious but I began appreciating the engineering that goes into mundane things that people take for granted.

Designing a counting circuit – Don’t worry it doesn’t work

Designing a counting circuit – Don’t worry it doesn’t work

The second semester did not only bring in new modules but the results of our first semester exams. I was surprised to find out that I did better than I predicted myself after completing the exams, (my handwriting was a disaster) but I am happy to say that I made it in one piece. Just like everything in my first year I learned a lot about myself during the examinations that I can work on for the next time, continuous improvement is essential. The first year marks are not counted towards my degree but I think the emphasis of my first year is getting students on the right track more than assessing their marks.

‘Just turn on the LED’ they said, ‘Its easy’ they said

‘Just turn on the LED’ they said, ‘Its easy’ they said

Spring is also here! Not being from this part of the world I am glad to see sunnier days. I have survived the winter and I am really looking forward to spending some time outdoors as I am tired of crowded canteens and the vending machine area of the library.

Springtime in full swing

Springtime in full swing

The students union has also organised a new set of fairs (albeit less glamorous than Freshers' Week) to attract new members to its plethora of societies, which means it is another chance for me to venture out of my hermetic shell and into the great beyond. I have already tried Pilates (at which I only managed to blubber around unlike my more flexible comrades) and the St Johns ambulance, where I am learning about all the ways people manage to hurt themselves. I’ve taught myself that there really isn’t anything to lose by at least trying, and all these societies are run by students who themselves have hectic workloads, so it’s a very understanding environment where I can put in whatever free time I have.

Luckily for us, Easter holidays are coming earlier this year. This is great because I can finally catch up on some work (and have a break too). Some lecturers have conveniently finished the lecturing part of their respective courses which is great for us because I can spread out my revision more evenly and bring down a lot of the stress that can occur during revision week. Getting a revision-ready set of notes for two of my modules is a goal I set for the holidays.

Last but not least, the legendary summer vacation is getting closer and I have (hopefully) planned myself out to make the most of my free time then. More on that later!


Making the most of Department Open Days at the University of Bath


📥  Charlotte (Sociology), Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, First year

Well done you! If you’re utilising this post, it probably means you have swiped up an offer to study at the University of Bath. Celebrations are in order, although next comes the tricky part: making that daunting decision on which university to firm and which to select as your insurance. You also need to get your head down, as this is where getting the grades becomes very important (don't sweat it, you get out what you put in – work hard, and you’re laughing!).

To help with this tricky decision, here at the University of Bath, every Department holds a ‘Department Open Day’. Yes, we can’t skim past the fact that the free lunch is pretty attractive, as is another chance to stroll around campus and have another nosey at all Halls of Residences; but Department Open Days are really handy in helping you suss whether Bath, and your chosen Department is right for you.

Read on, as I’ll highlight some key ways that you make sure that you get all the wisdom you can wangle from a Department Open Day…

Here at Bath, we usually hold our Department Open Days from October through to April, and most Departments will hold a number of days to make sure they can squeeze in everyone who might be embarking on their course. Department Open Days are packed with prospective undergraduates just like you, wanting to take a gander at the course content, meet people who may be joining them come September and to grill lecturers on what makes Bath so great.

Make sure, whenever you’re waiting for a talk to start, or you’re meandering round campus that you try and chat to fellow potential students. Ask where they’re from, why they’ve chosen the same/similar course to you, what they’re studying at present and why Bath appeals to them. You could even dip into which Halls take their fancy or what societies appeal to them – it’s great to get chatting so you can see what the other people who may be on your course are like and to share your worries/excitements about University.

When attending Department Open Days, make sure you’re organised. You should be provided with a timetable/schedule of the day prior to arriving, so make sure you’re punctual to all talks/lecture tasters or presentations as this means that you can grab all the information available (and make a gleaming first impression!).

For me, when I attended my Department Open Day at the Social and Policy Sciences (SPS) department, I was lucky enough to have a 1:1 conversation with one of the course conveners for Sociology. This was immensely valuable as it allowed to me ask any questions bugging me- I got to intimately meet real academics from the Department and got to hear about all the different areas of cutting-edge research being carried out at the University from the ‘horse’s mouth’. This was really insightful, and it definitely helped shaped my decision to come back to Bath – for good.

I made my decision to firm Bath on my way home from the SPS Department Open Day. I found it very enlightening, making my UCAS response much easier than I had envisaged!

I made my decision to firm Bath on my way home from the SPS Department Open Day. I found it very enlightening, making my UCAS response much easier than I had envisaged!

As embarrassing as it may be when Mum or Dad get out their notepad, or try and engage with other parents at Department Open Days (you don’t have to bring your parents however, it could be the perfect opportunity to spend the day alone, meeting other people without cringing owing to your Mum’s wacky questions!) – it is a good idea to bring your laptop or some paper to jot down key information such as how the course is assessed, semester dates, how many optional/compulsory modules you have to do or when the examination period is.

The long haul to Bath was definitely worth it, so naturally I had to inform Facebook! This seems like an age ago now, considering I'm edging towards the end of my first year!

The long haul to Bath was definitely worth it, so naturally I had to inform Facebook! This seems like an age ago now, considering I'm edging towards the end of my first year!

It’s also favourable to work out how many textbooks you will need to purchase for your course and whether you will be spending time doing practical assessments or having ‘lab time’ as associated with many of the science courses offered at Bath. You can look back in writing when making your mind up on your favourite university, and this means all the information churned out by lecturers doesn’t go straight over your head!

It can also be useful to bring along a copy of the prospectus as from year to year, some parts of the course may change, so being able to edit these on paper will help you out in the long run. Whether it’s a change from coursework to examination, the offering of new optional modules or the changing around of lecturers – take note, so you can be well in the loop when replying to your offers on UCAS Track.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions to whoever you see on campus, as you need your decision to be as informed as possible. Everyone on campus is friendly and should be approachable (a few may have sore heads from the night before, so may appear a touch grizzly!). Every Wednesday between 10am and 1pm, we have a Welcome Point at the foyer of The Edge where you can get answers from Student Ambassadors; on Department Open Days, most departments will pull in current students or Student Ambassadors to fill you in on whatever you feel you may have missed, so take advantage!

One of the mistakes I made when attending my Department Open Day was not plotting enough time for the day: I had to make the long trek from Cambridge which meant that in order to be home by a reasonable time, I had to leave campus at around 2.30pm and I regretted not having longer to explore and ask questions. If you feel it’s necessary, book to stay in a nearby B&B or hotel so you’re not rushed for time due to travel arrangements.

Having an extra hour or two means that you could be able to cram in a visit to the City of Bath which you might have missed when attending the Open Days here. I can’t say it enough, but as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and generally dreamy city, visiting the hub of Bath - the tourist and shopping district, is a must.

To make the day a tad easier for you, remember to print your ticket for parking on site or the for the Park & Ride service before the day. The University of Bath operates a free Park & Ride service from Lansdown, with the number 33 service running from 9am on many of the Department Open Days. Bath also offers a Travel Bursary Scheme to help particular applicants with the cost of attending Department Open Days and interviews.

Finally, following your talks, tours, presentations and sample lectures, make sure you check out the Student’s Union, the Library, and the Sports Facilities at the University of Bath. If you need directions, flag down a student in a red t-shirt, all of whom are ready and raring to help make your day as easy as possible.

Good Luck, and remember to make the most of your Departmental Open Days. We hope to see you at the University of Bath come September!



Things to consider before applying for a PhD

📥  Faculty of Science, Maho, Postgraduate

I’m guessing a lot of you will be exploring options for your future, so I thought I’d make a list of things which I think are important when considering a PhD, and when preparing for a PhD interview.

Do you like lab/computer work?

As you might expect, we spend all our time working on our project, which means being in the lab or working at our computer all day. Now, you have to remember that this is not like doing practical classes, where the protocol is well established. There will be times when you spend months doing the same thing over and over again, with small modifications each day. Other times things will work perfectly the first time! Another thing to mention here is that the results are mostly unknown; I’d guess that majority of practical classes have been run before, so people know what to expect, but for me right now, I do experiments without knowing if the data will match the hypothesis. Therefore, it becomes quite tiring and difficult, and probably the best motivation is your love of lab/computer work! One good way of finding this out is, did you enjoy your final year project?

Do you like the sound of the project?

Ok, I’m not expecting you to know exactly what kind of project you would like! But look at the description; does that sound interesting to you? Do you think you will enjoy working on that project? Is the project in an area which you like? I would say choose based on the project rather than location, which may be difficult for some of you who have family commitments. Also, it doesn't have to be in a similar field to your final year project.

Find more than one potential PhD position.

PhDs are competitive – I have been turned down for two, and am not fully funded. As projects are often tied with funding, adverts will be going up regularly – keep checking! There will be more than one which will be of interest to you. Even if the application deadline has passed, that potential supervisor may get funding for another PhD student. Essentially, don’t give up if you are sure about doing a PhD!

Will your experience fit with the project?

For example, if you are not much of a computer person, will a bioinformatics project suit you? – if you are happy to learn how to code and work on a computer project, then great! But if you would rather be in a lab, then maybe that project is not for you. Also consider the kind of modules you have taken, or are taking; if you enjoy the biochemistry modules more, is an ecology project going to fit you?

Read at least one of your potential supervisor’s publications.

So, you have an interview – what’s the best way to prepare? I think the key is to get an idea of what that lab does, for example are they working on developing new ways of using genome sequences?  Pathogen evolution? Or are they working on animal development? A good way to get this information is to look at the papers your potential supervisor has published. And, you can impress them at the interview by letting them know you have read their recent work!

Meet the people working with your potential supervisor if you can.

The people who work with your potential supervisor, whether they be post-docs or PhD students, will be the people who you will spend most of your time with, so it is good to meet them if you can. This will also give you an opportunity to ask questions; how things work in the lab, what is it like working for your potential supervisor, what kind of experiments are commonly done, what is it like to live there (if you are new to the area)… perhaps take a look around the city/town. You have time, as you will be there for three-four years!


Juggling part-time work at university

📥  Charlotte, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, First year

I am a typical girl. I adore shopping, I love going for coffee with my chums and I love having a bit of money on the side to get my hair snipped, go to the cinema or buy some flowers in town on a Saturday morning. Many of the boys I know are the same; they like to put some pennies aside for grabbing a pizza and some beer when the rugby is on, or to fund a trip to Bristol or to buy the newest FIFA game. At University, having some ‘money for a rainy day’ is really handy.

This is why I decided to get a part-time job to keep up in tandem with my studies at the University of Bath. Naturally, you’re probably grimacing at the idea of getting in from a day of lectures and seminars and shooting off to a job. You also might think giving up that Sunday lie in and flat bacon breakfast for the workplace may suck too. I disagree- working whilst at University has definitely helped me to fund some brilliant Christmas presents for my friends and family, and I’ve met some truly lovely people at work and it’s definitely a release from my studies which is really welcomed at times, especially with those beastly exams looming!

Just to throw another spanner into the works, I’ve actually got two, yes two jobs at University! This sounds a little nutty, doesn’t it? How can I possibly work towards a ‘first’ classification (something I really want to achieve from University), keep up with people socially and have two jobs. Well actually, it hasn’t proved that hard! Stick with me here, it totally works for me!

I decided that the best and most convenient place to get a job would be on campus. This would mean I wouldn’t have to ramble down the hill, or get on a packed bus on a Saturday morning for work and I could be really close to my Halls of Residency. Fact: I did indeed manage to swipe up a part-time job on campus, and it takes me 37 seconds to get there! As barmy as it sounds to time my stroll to work, it really does show just how handy the placing of work is for me.

To get my job on campus, I decided to start job-hunting early. I frequently scrolled the JobLink website and listings provided by the University of Bath for students looking for jobs before I came to University. I did specify when seeking a job that I wanted a post on campus, but I did also send my CV to some cafes, shops and cleaning positions in the City of Bath; this frankly wouldn’t be too hard as it only takes a few minutes to get to town on the bus, and the buses are really frequent. The city is pretty compact too, so I knew that shops and eateries would be easy to find and get to.

I sent my application to a café/restaurant on campus called The Lime Tree and on the first day of Freshers’ week, I got an email inviting me to an ‘informal interview’ at the Lime Tree. I was still a little muddled as a disorientated, frazzled Fresher but I decided to go along and give it my best shot.

The interview was indeed very informal, and just felt like a chat over coffee with the managers, although some grilling questions did pop up. Luckily, it went really well and only days later I got an email saying that they would like to employ me as a member of their casual staff. Many of the contracts on campus are ‘casual’ which means in most cases you won’t have a fixed, rigid contract and you can essentially tailor your hours around your other commitments, picking and choosing when best suits you to work.

This is the 'Lime Tree' refectory on campus at the University of Bath. A place I work, to give me a little money on the side!

This is the 'Lime Tree' refectory on campus at the University of Bath. A place I work, to give me a little money on the side!

I find this really helpful as I don’t have to worry about whether going to a talk, listening in to an extra lecture or going out in the evening clashes with work, as I just choose not to work during those times. Add to this, another bonus of working on campus is that in 2014 the Students' Union campaigned for everyone to earn the ‘living wage’ and this means I earn a very adequate amount and I don’t have to go without a new pair of trainers when I fancy them! Yay!

Another advantage of working on campus is that you’re not tied to a contract in town which may require you to work during Christmas, Easter or over the summer as no one is on Campus at these times and thus I can go home without worrying about working or having to find cover in order to get time off.

If I was to offer some advice on getting a part-time job at University; here are my pearls of wisdom:

  • Prioritise your studies – Even if you’re offered extra hours or premium pay for adding on a few shifts a week consider whether this will affect coursework deadlines, examination revision or even just staying on top of your reading and learning.
  • Hunt around – Don’t settle for the first job as the pay may be poor, the hours offered may be a little skewed or it may be too tiring to return from and then cook a meal, clean your room, make a presentation etc. Avoid manual or labour-heavy jobs so that you are not exhausted when you need to get up for an early lecture!
  • Weekend posts rock – try and aim for places that are looking for ‘part-time weekend staff’, as opposed to only ‘part time’ staff as this may entail more work during the week, which is much less convenient than on a Saturday or Sunday. You don’t want to have to rush off from lectures to work or have work clashing with group work meetings. The weekends are the best time to cram in a paid position, although think ahead if your family are popping to see you at the weekend and try and swindle some time off to see them.
  • Keep tabs on payment – make an Excel spreadsheet or jot down the hours you work and the rate of pay you’re on. Make sure when you’re paid weekly or monthly that you’ve been paid the right amount and carry out some research to make sure that you’ve been taxed correctly.

I also am lucky enough to manage the social media presence of a Tea Business, and find that this too is very flexible around my degree.  Do remember that if you want to have another small job, or some voluntary work, alongside a a part-time job AND your studies then make sure it doesn’t distract you from the reason you’re here- to learn!

Good Luck!