Simone Eizagirre Barker

MChem Phys 2019

Your Time at the University

I chose to come to Edinburgh primarily because it offered a Chemical Physics degree. In high school I knew I wanted to study physics, but I also wanted to continue to learn about chemistry, because the science that lies at the interface between the two fields was what interested me the most.

Edinburgh is an amazing city to live and study in, particularly because of how many outdoor spaces there are around. Want to get away from the library? Just go for a stroll in the Meadows, or hike up Arthur’s Seat. There’s also plenty of cosy cafes and interesting galleries around to go for a study break.

The Chemical Physics community also became a big part of my life at Edinburgh, as we were typically ten students or so in each year, so it is very easy to get to know others after seminars, social events, and lectures. It was great to get advice from those in years above us, and later be able to play that role for those in the year below, as well as becoming good friends with my own cohort.

Simone Eizagirre Barker

In fourth year, I went on a research placement to Eindhoven, in the Netherlands. Being fully immersed in research full-time was a very rewarding experience, and I was able to present a poster at a conference and write my first first-author paper. It definitely made me confident in my decision later on to pursue research as a career.

In terms of the student experience I was very active in the Edinburgh University Science Magazine and the Debates Union, through which I met some of the people who became my closest friends during my time here. Looking back, both societies taught me a lot about analytical thinking and communication, and it was good to have a non-scientific activity to do besides the degree!

Your Experiences Since Leaving the University

My placement year in the Netherlands definitely focused my research interest in photonics, or how we can use light to study and manipulate matter. However, when the time came to apply to PhDs I felt my interests were still very broad and a lot of different projects excited me, so I joined the Doctoral Training Centre for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology (NanoDTC) at the University of Cambridge for an MRes+PhD. I got to spend the MRes year exploring a variety of nanoscience-related topics, meet different supervisors, and carry out rotation projects in various labs on topics ranging from perovskite nanocrystals to DNA nanotechnology. Now, I am doing a PhD in the Quantum Optical Materials & Systems group in the Department of Physics, investigating the optical and magnetic properties of materials that emit light as single photons.

I’ve also continued with science communication and am one of the hosts and producers of the Cambridge University Science Magazine (BlueSci) Podcast, as well as writing freelance articles for various science magazines such as Massive Science and Chemistry World.

Alumni Wisdom

Both the university and the city have a lot to offer – there are so many student societies and volunteering groups you can get involved with, as well as plenty of professional opportunities and scholarships to undertake internships or placements in other countries. It can be overwhelming sometimes to think of all the possible things you could get involved in, and be a bit lost at what to do. My one piece of advice would be to choose one thing that you like, and start there. You can always change your mind or take on more later on. I think that ensuring a balance between studies, social life, health, and any activities you want to get involved in is essential to making the most of your time at university.