J a c k  I r e l a n d
Solar Physicist
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

In fact, I liked physics so much I decided I would do a Ph.D. as well, again at Glasgow University. A Ph.D is very, very different from any other kind of studying. For a start, you are more or less learn everything by yourself--usually, nobody else is doing exactly the same kind of work as you, and so you have to be more independent. Also, there are no tests to sit (other the final oral presentation, where you have to defend and explain your work to a panel of experts) and so the only way you know you are making any progress is from talking to your supervisor (a person who guides you through your work) and by checking up on what everyone else around the world is doing. A Ph.D. also gives you the chance to find out something no one ever knew before, and that can be exciting!


Having done my Ph.D. I knew I wanted to stay in some form of research. I like the process of research. It is immensely satisfying to notice something that no one has seen before and explore it fully. Science is a very creative discipline--if you see something that you think is new then trying to come up with an acceptable explanation really tests your creativity and stretches your thinking, or at least it should. It's also fun to see the personalities that go behind the latest thinking. Very often the person backing a particular theory is as important as the theory itself. Personalities play a far bigger role in the development of science than outside appearances suggest.

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