Androula Alekou - Postdoctoral Researcher CERN and University of Manchester

androula_alekou_photo

Why Physics? If the most frequent question you ask is “why?” or “how?” (even if that drives other people crazy) then you should think of being a Physicist. In a Physics degree you’ll learn how the fundamental laws of the Universe work from the smallest scale to the largest, have lectures that span from Newton’s law to Quantum Mechanics to the theory of relativity of Einstein and the wonderful world of Cosmology. Physics is absolutely fascinating! Above all though, the most important thing you’ll learn is this: how to solve problems. It sounds trivial but it’s not. As a physicist, when presented a topic you’ll learn to see the big picture, spot the problem and then find the best way to solve it. And this is something that will open doors for you in many fields. When I first started as an undergrad, I thought what I wanted to be was a professor at a school teaching Physics, or a private tutor. Little did I know the range of fields I could choose from: you can be an aerospace engineer in NASA, an Accelerator Physicist at CERN (that’s what I currently do!), or work at the “brain” department of a bank finding smarter algorithms to calculate and reduce risks, or work at a company that makes a weather forecast. All these occupations have one thing in common: they solve problems.

There’s one more thing though that can top that: solving problems as a part of a team. And that’s what I learnt to do at the University of Cyprus (UCY). UCY only accepts ~30 students/year. This small number makes it easy for the students to know each other and be friends. I remember the four years of my undergrad as nothing else but team-work. We would all meet together and pose questions to our fellow students about topics we didn’t fully understand. Studying with our peers helped us all progress much faster, and together. The small student number also means that the professors at UCY know you by your first name. You don’t get lost in a huge audience; you instead have a good personal relation with the staff. What I loved was how approachable many of the professors were. We could arrange and meet them for questions at their office and they would help us tide up all that was uncertain in our heads. I especially connected with the professors whose smart approaches to solving problems, as well as their good character, inspired me. To date, I remember them as the people who motivated me and helped me pursue my doctorate studies. Apart from the rich academic program, UCY offers an ample of opportunities to socialize with your fellow students thanks to the sport activities it offers as well as its excellent central location in the capital of Cyprus.

What I would advise people who want to study Physics is:

- don’t leave gaps in your knowledge: study every day, and make sure you understand what’s not clear to you by: i) trying alone, ii) asking your fellow students, iii) ask the Professor.

- find a mentor: find a person you respect and admire and ask for their advice and help, during your undergrad and your future steps!

- one of the best advices given to me from my UCY Professor and mentor was: you might feel you don’t know anything; you might feel stupid: just keep studying hard and it will go away (he was right!)

- finally, learn about the imposter syndrome, it will help you understand why you feel that way and how you can overcome it.

B.Sc. (2008)
Postdoctoral Researcher CERN and University of Manchester

 

My dad wanted me to be a Doctor, I wanted to be a Physicist. I ended up being a Doctor in Physics and now we are both happy.