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Physics A-level: Helping me understand how the world works

Studying physics at A-level has inspired Vhytal to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering. She wants to help develop more sustainable transport systems and reduce our impact on the natural environment.  

"You might find some topics harder than others, but there will be a topic which you fall in love with and which you may find forms the basis of your future career."

First name: Vhytal | Age: 16 | A-levels: English Literature, Maths and Physics

What made you choose your combination of A-levels?
I chose my combination of A-levels because I enjoy the challenge presented by the combination of mental and practical work. I decided to take English literature as it helps stimulate my inquisitive nature while also strengthening my analytical skills, which I believe are a vital for both understanding and enjoying books. While I find it at times challenging, it's a deeply satisfying course as it helps us understand change and history. I really enjoy being able to take a text and find the themes to connect it with other texts.

I chose mathematics as I find the relation to my daily life restoring. A-level maths engages a range of skills as both statistics and mechanics require you to demonstrate precision and accuracy. Taking both A-level maths and physics is important in allowing me to get a clearer understanding of the physics course, as maths allows me to learn and engage with the principles that a lot of physics formulas and laws are based on.

And what do you enjoy about physics specifically?
Studying towards a physics A-level has allowed me to gain an understanding of some of the basic principles of the world. Physics seeks to develop your understanding of how the world works from the smallest point to our largest understanding. Of all the topics we’ve covered so far, I enjoyed studying mechanics and materials the most, as they revitalised my interest in why and how things work.

In mechanics we've studied materials at the atomic level and modelled the characteristics of materials at a level of understanding I wouldn’t otherwise have grasped. I particularly enjoyed learning how mechanics has allowed us to develop safer vehicles. When engaging with materials I learned that in cars crumple zones deform plastically using the car’s kinetic energy, so less is transferred to the passengers. Learning the importance of physics in design allowed me to understand the complexity of something as simple as a chair.

How are you finding it so far?
I've really enjoyed engaging with the range of texts and new theories I've encountered while studying towards my A-level. There are some topics I find more challenging than others – for example electricity. For the topics I find more challenging, I’ve made use of online resources and revision guides, to help develop my understanding.

What do you find most interesting about it?
I've enjoyed learning new theoretical ideas and being able to apply them to my understanding of the world. One example would be efficiency, which is a principal that affects the design of all products. When we were learning about astrophysics, I could see how the design of telescopes is dictated by a desire to maximise their efficiency. This led to me becoming more interested in the materials component of my A-level and ultimately to my desire to study mechanical engineering.

What do you want to do with your A-levels?
After my A-levels, I want to apply to university to study mechanical engineering. This course is attractive to me as I believe that advances in sustainable energy infrastructure are critical in the development of both more efficient and innovative design for transport hubs, and this is an area that really interests me. My hope is that after I graduate, my degree will allow me to have a direct impact on the way we treat and interact with our natural environment.

Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years?
In 10 years I hope to see myself pursuing a career in mechanical engineering. I hope to be maintaining my sense of responsibility to our planet and its health by using my skills to design and develop transport infrastructure with a focus on pollution reduction.

What advice would you give to someone considering physics as an A-level?
I would remind them that the course is composed of a number of different topics, all of which develop and rely on different skill sets. You might find some topics harder than others, but there will be a topic which you fall in love with and which you may find forms the basis of your future career. Additionally, I would highlight the importance of strong maths skills, as it’s a basis for a large percentage of the course. But above all, I would say go for it – you won’t regret it!