Alexander Robinson, Physics Student
Undergraduate physics student and 2008 chair of the IOP's Nexus committee Xander Robinson can clearly remember the day that ignited his interest in physics.
"I was twelve years old and had stayed over at my friend's house. In the morning I got chatting about quantum physics to his older brother who was about to go off and study physics at Oxford. He was saying how a cat could be dead and alive at the same time. So that was my first introduction to Schrődinger's cat, and it all sort of exploded from there really," he recalls.
Despite his clear love for physics Xander found himself torn between applying for business management or physics at University, as he enjoyed working for the family retail business and taking business studies at 'AS' Level alongside his physics, maths and religious studies 'A' Levels. "I couldn't make a decision at all. So my head of sixth form sat me down one day and said 'It's a cold miserable February morning, and you're wrapped up in a nice warm bed but you've got to get to a 9 o'clock lecture. What course is going to motivate you to go to that lecture?' I knew at that moment that I'd never be out of bed for a business management lecture," says Xander.
Not that he has left his interest in business behind. "I'm now in the second year of an MPhys (Enterprise) at the University of Manchester, which includes business management and entrepreneurial skills components. I have an enterprise course at the moment in which we have to create a business idea and write a business plan for it. This has actually tempted me to set up my own business," says Xander, who is equally enthusiastic about his main degree subject. "I was expecting to come here and learn all about quantum mechanics, and for it to be fairly simple. You soon find out it’s not simple at all!" he laughs. "Physics is definitely a hard course, and it does take a lot of work. But at the same time it gives you a real sense of gratification when you've used up four or five sheets of A4 working through a very difficult problem and suddenly you get the right answer."
In fact he is keen to recommend physics to potential students. "You'll get a degree that's worth more than most degrees, and people underestimate how broadly trained a physics degree leaves you. They think if you're doing physics you have to go into physics, but that's certainly not true. Forty percent of physicists go into finance after graduation," says Xander who joined the Nexus committee - which assists University physics societies throughout the UK and Ireland - after the IOP's Student Liaison Officer visited Manchester to recruit new members.
"The main things I value at the IOP are the Nexus activities. Last year we organised a trip to the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. It was great fun going on an international excursion with a load of like minded people, and the networking opportunities were good," he says, adding that he intends to remain a member of the Institute in the future. "The IOP will be a key way of keeping me in touch with modern developments in physics," he states.