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Kelly Oakes GBR

I'm an Undergraduate Physics student from Imperial College London, about to start the Masters year of my degree. I mostly write about physics research papers that I find interesting in the hope that other people will find them interesting too. The wordpress version of my blog is here.

My posts are presented as opinion and commentary and do not represent the views of LabSpaces Productions, LLC, my employer, or my educational institution.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Depending on how you look at the question, "this", for me, could refer to several things.

If we're talking literally, "this" is sitting here and typing this blog post. If I weren't doing this there's a load of different things I could be doing at this moment in time. I could be writing the literature review for my project (due in less than a week - I've written what seems like a million plans and spider diagrams, but only one sentence so far). I could be preparing to start new lecture courses by revising old material, or acquainting myself with some introductory material for the new courses. Or I could be wasting my day watching old episodes of Come Dine With Me on 4oD. (I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine which of those is most likely).

Take the question as it was intended and "this" would probably mean my degree. What would I be doing if I weren't studying physics at Imperial? Well, chances are I'd still be at university. Maybe, I'd still be at Imperial, studying a different subject - I always did fancy myself a bit of a fossil hunter, so perhaps I would have been equally as happy in the Earth Sciences department, studying rocks.

Or perhaps, in this hypothetical world, the reason I'm not doing "this" is that I had a bad day when sitting one of my A-Level exams and ended up at my second choice university. I'd still be studying Physics, but I’d be almost two hundred miles away in Leeds. I would have a different group of friends and a different city to explore, and potentially a very different life from the one I have today… I hear that, at other universities, people actually have time to do things other than work work work, sleep, repeat. (Actually I do make time to do things other than work here at Imperial, but this is almost certainly the reason I’m not going to get a first class degree when I graduate).

It starts to get a little more difficult if I try to think of what I’d be doing if I weren’t doing science. I used to swim and dance when I was younger, but I wouldn't have had the discipline to turn either of those into a career. I really enjoyed textiles at school, but there weren’t enough people that wanted to take it for GCSE so I had to stop that when I was around 13. I have a sewing machine of my own now, but I'm yet to make anything half-decent with it!

Most bloggers are taking "this" to mean their career, but because I've not finished university mine has barely begun. I still have time to decide what "this" will be and, although I'm not yet sure what career I’m going to end up with, I know it will definitely involve science in some way – whether I’m doing science, writing about it or teaching it to other people. I just can’t imagine doing anything else.

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Hmm.. I see you as becoming a great black hole hunter who shall discover many new intriguing subatomic particles..

Hey, it could happen. I just recently found out part of my ancestors were fortune telling gypsies who travled around eastern europe, likely originating in Spain. I may carry the insight as well. Never know :)

Genomic Repairman
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Your post adds a really insightful perspective that has past a lot of us by, good job with the post.

Brian Krueger, PhD
Columbia University Medical Center
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You have a sewing machine??  You should start making crafty science stuff and put it on Etsy.  Some abstract black hole quasar neutrino t-shirts anyone??  I agree with GR.  I like the student perspective on this because I remember when I was in your shoes :)

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Sewing machine + neutrinos =

Kelly Oakes
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Thanks GR, and Evie, that sounds great to me - I hope your insight is right ;)

@Brian: Yep I really have a sewing machine! Bought it when I had some spare money from my summer job last year but then term started and I haven't had chance to do much with it since. Should have really started again this summer but I never got round to it... I like the crafty science stuff idea though - may steal that if I manage to find any time in between working this year!

@becca: Ta for the link, I've seen that before but your reminder just gave me an amazing idea (disclaimer: may not seem that amazing to someone who hasn't been drowning in lit review papers for the past two days) - i should make some particle zoo style toys for when I have to present my project next year. i think it would definitely aid the explanation of the decay i'm studying.

David Manly
Freelance Science Journalist
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Loved your post!

I have often thought about what my life would have been like if situations were different as well - What if I didn't move after the end of grade 5? What if I'd chosen a different university to do my undergraduate in? What if I did my thesis on something else, other than frogs?

And you have a sewing machine?? That's awesome! Can you make stuffed examples of subatomic particles, supernova's, blackholes and other physics-related occurances?

If you did, I know I would 100 per cent buy one! :)

UC Davis
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I agree with everyone else that it's great to hear a student's perspective on 'what if'.  Reading all these posts though, and particularly the last comment, is making me a bit dizzy with unexplored possibilities!  I try to avoid 'what ifs', I think that everything works itself out for the best in the end, the experiences we have along the way are simply character building.  That's what I tell myself anyway!  If I hadn't done my PhD, I often rue the day I decided to go down that path, particularly when I am repeating the same failed experiment for the fifth day in a row, then I wouldn't have met my husband and I wouldn't be living in California, two of the most wonderful aspects of my life.  When things get tough I find it's good to remind yourself of all the good things your decisions have brought you.

edward church

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when many people wonder about how the big bang theory began. or " how life was created is still a big mystery, how others want to think which came fist the chicken or the egg?. or go into it deeper about how the universe was created and all .Smile 

the more one studys about space the more further they want to know and dig deeper through Science can explain.

the process of mass and matter reflecks on how things were made. the conclusion well always be to me how we got here. or who gave us the knowledge to discover about what we know about the universe its self.  Can I say what became matter ( E=  Mc ) that Albert Einstein had came up with. or speaking about realitivity "that space was created by the two elements"or can someone one say dark matter.

I had always wanted to know about this how much about space. and how it was created myself the further you go more and more it becomes its self a black hole of digging in it to find out, what is mass and matter" how it formed to make the universe as is today.. and all things are still being created as I speak now.


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I'm pleased to learn that you are one of the few introduced to the lore of sewing machines. Frightfully complicated things those. As for what you would do otherwise:)


Write maybe?

You seem to like it, and it seem to like you.

Anyway, don't feel to bad about missing all those other oportunities, I think you will have a good time with what you're doing now too. And money is far from the most important thing in life Kelly, finding what you enjoy and then doing it is far more important I think. Got to admit that money helps you enjoy it too, though:)


You have a very lucky boyfriend. you will be able to bth explain the theory of relativity to him as you fix his trousers, not much that can beat that.. You're sure you have one btw? I might, quite easily, be persuaded otherwise:)


Good luck to you.


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