All posts by Tom Horner

I work in the School of Physics and Astronomy. My Job involves finding new ways of telling people about how great physics is, both as a subject and degree choice.

A day in the life of a first year physics student

By YinYi Liu,


I get up and start the day with breakfast before going to classes. Going to university is my first time living independently, this means I have to wake up at a reasonable time and cook for myself every day. All first-year students can apply for accommodation on campus, my room is a single study ensuite room with a shared kitchen between six students. Living on the main campus is really convenient for going to school and library. It only takes 5 minutes for me to walk to the GO Jones physics building.


In the first semester, we have Professional Skills for Scientists Lab in the Bancroft Building. The class starts with a quiz aboutlast week’s lecture, whichreviewsthe new concepts introduced. This week, we continue working on the programming group project, which will take four weeks to complete. Programming is a new experience for me, I have found it’s very interesting and useful for data analysis. In this project, we analyse climate change by programming Matplotlib using python 3.6 to plot temperature anomalies data files into different graphs.


Classical physics is my first physics module, the lectures take place at the Graduate Center Peston Lecture Theatre. This week’s lecture is about waves in linear media, we look specifically into group velocities and the doppler effect. Many key ideas and concepts are introduced followed by mathematical derivation for group velocity equations.

Walking around campus, our house in the side of the canal.


After the morning classes, I go back to my room, cook myself lunch and take a short break. The student union café is also a great place to have a lunch break and meet with friends.

Before going to the lab session, I always take 5 minutes to read through the pre-lab report prepare for the experiment I am going to do.

After the morning classes, I go back to my room, cook myself lunch and take a short break. The student union café is also a great place to have a lunch break and meet with friends.

Before going to the lab session, I always take 5 minutes to read through the pre-lab report prepare for the experiment I am going to do.


Practical work in lab is an essential part to understand and illustrate basic concepts in physics. As a first-year I have six hours of labs each week at GO Jones laboratory. I am continuing with my first long experiment on thermal radiation this afternoon.

In this experiment, I have to decide exactly how the experiments will be setup, taking measurements, analysing the results to verify the inverse power law and Stefan-Boltzmann law. My favorite part so far is building the amplifier circuit. It was challenging when I first started out building the circuit with breadboards but there are always demonstrators on hand to help if I get stuck. The most important thing I learned from lab is to pay attention to errors and write everything down in the lab book. A physics degree is not only doing calculations, writing good reports and analysis are also an important part for physicists.

Our experiment: Leslie’s cube


Living and studying in London gives me the best opportunity to enjoy the wonderful Christmas time. I meet with my friends at Mile End station and take tube to the central London. Tonight I am going to Hyde park Winter Wonderland and the Christmas market.

Christmas lighting on Regent Street
A ferris wheel at the Winter wonderland visitor attraction
Winter wonderland

PsiStar: The Physics and Astronomy Student Scociety

Who are we?

The Physics and Astronomy society welcomes anyone with an interest in Physics, Technology or just Science in general, to come together in both an entertaining and educational environment allowing members share their experience and interests with each other. We welcome undergraduates, postgraduates, academics, and any other Queen Mary associates into a cohesive network, engaging people from all kinds of backgrounds and levels of expertise.

PsiStar visit the new Institute of Physics Facility down the road in Kings Cross

What do we do?

We do a variety of enjoyable activities open to all members. These include:

  • Socials: From pub crawls to recreational activities, we have a range of events that surely will interest you. This is a great opportunity to make new friends and also get to know the other members from different years.
  • Academic: Every so often we host evening lectures by our academics on current affairs in the science world, from particle physics at the LHC to discovering new star systems beyond our Solar System. The academics at Queen Mary are at the top of their field, and it is a fantastic chance to see them and discuss any questions you may have. We also offer networking events, working alongside our department. Here, you can explore the different career paths available post-studies. With the help of our alumni or external workers in your desired field, you can gain an insight into the opportunities available to you, helping the transition from degree studies to the industry become smoother.
  • International trips: That’s right! Every year we set on an adventure abroad to places in their prime in science, whether if it is research facilities, or even just observing phenomena like the northern lights. What is better than this you say? We offer these trips to members at a subsidised rate!

Committee Members:

Azib (left) and Beltran (right), members of the PsiStar committee

Azib – President

Hi! I’m Azib, the President of PsiStar. My duty is to make sure that everyone feels at home. We host a lot of activities for you guys to get involved. We’ve been playing football, ice skating and even pub crawls! But we don’t do just socials. As physicists, we always like to be on the forefront of science and so we host talks by our well-renowned academics, hopefully to inspire us one day to be on the cutting-edge of science. Whether you’re a fan of particle, astro or theoretical physics, we have the best academics to keep you pumped.

We do pretty big things too. Over the years, we have been to several countries such as Switzerland to visit the LHC to chasing the northern lights in Iceland! This year, we will be visiting the brand new ESA facility in The Netherlands, and will be one of the first of the public to see it!

Beltran – Academic Social Secretary

Hello! I’m Beltran and I’m the Academic Social Secretary. My aim for this year was to increase the interactions between the different members of the department and expose our members to different branches of Physics and Science in general. The PsiStar Lecture series, where we highlight the areas of research within department, have been a main focus this year, becoming a weekly event from this year.

Our visit to the Institute of Physics

On a recent trip to the Institute of Physics (pictured at the top of the post),  we learned about the different approaches each student society has taken to tailor their events and activities to the interests of their members. For example, Manchester SEDS and Imperial AstroSoc were very involved in UK competitions like CanSat and launching weather balloons with instruments to measure different parameters of our atmosphere. Other societies took advantage of being in less light-polluted locations by organising regular star-gazing nights with hot chocolate, and some of us shared the international science trips we have done in the past years.

The new IOP building was breath-taking. Built in a modern design and fitted with the latest technologies it is without a doubt a geek’s paradise. There is a study room available for members similar to our very own physics museum. Being a member of the IOP has many potential benefits, including employability prospects, careers events, networking, social events and engaging with the broader UK physics community.

Find out more about PsiStar, including upcoming events on their Facebook page.