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Somerville Physics finalists find success through teamwork

11th August 2017

This year, we are delighted to report that Somerville students across all subjects received a record number of firsts and we will be celebrating their excellent exam results with a sequence of subject-based stories to highlight their achievements.

Somerville Physics finalistsSomerville’s Physics finalists have performed exceptionally well this year. The group of five students achieved four firsts and one upper second and their rankings ranged from first to 13th out of the 88-strong Oxford Physics cohort.

Eduardo Rodriguez ranked first and was awarded a Scott Prize for the Best Performance in the MPhys Examination, a Gibbs Prize for the Best Use of Experimental Apparatus in an MPhys Project and from the College, a Principal’s Prize and a Mary Somerville Prize. Michael Hutcheon was awarded a Principal’s Prize and a Mary Somerville Prize and will begin a PhD at Cambridge in Condensed Matter Physics. Jakob Kastelic was awarded a Physics Prize for an MPhys Project in Atomic and Laser Physics, a Principal’s Prize and a Mary Somerville Prize, and is now doing a PhD at Yale in Molecular & Laser Physics. Kenneth Hughes was awarded a Mary Somerville Prize and will begin a PhD in Experimental Solid State Physics at Imperial College, London in October. Richard Brearton will begin a DPhil in Condensed Matter Physics with Professor Thorsten Hesjedal at Oxford University.

Their Tutor, Professor Roman Walczak, attributes part of their success to the group’s ability to work together. He says, ‘they have worked very well as a group and they have supported each other in an exemplary way. They have formed a fantastic team and are a role model for our students.’

In Trinity term, the team invented a unique and hugely successful revision tactic they dubbed ‘Bar Physics’, whereby they would all individually work on an agreed past exam paper during the day, and then gather in the Terrace Bar in the evening to go over it together. This was repeated almost every single day.

‘This was the most effective way I have ever revised,’ says Kenneth Hughes. ‘It set a schedule automatically, it meant we did almost every single past exam, it allowed us to practise exam technique, and it left the rest of the evening free so that we didn’t destroy ourselves by working all night. Forming a good relationship with the other physicists improved my whole university experience, and no question improved my academic performance.’

‘The support we gave each other is that of discussing solutions, and of holding each other accountable to do the work every single day,’ says Jakob Kastelic. ‘The experience has been fun! While physics problems can often be challenging and frustrating, once we got together in the bar, we would commonly be making all sorts of jokes about it.’

Photo (from left): Kenneth Hughes, Jakob Kastelic, Eduardo Rodriguez, Michael Hutcheon and Richard Brearton

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