Meet our students: Amber Whale

Student working at the Beacon Observatory

Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics MPhys

Amber is an Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics MPhys student. We caught up with her to find out why she chose to study at the University of Kent, and how she’s found her time here.

What was it about the University of Kent that appealed to you?

Studying Physics at Kent sounded extremely interesting and something I could really enjoy. I loved the fact that the campus has good transport connections and the convenience of a city, but with the feel of the country with the campus being known for its greenery and trees. With the added benefit of the sea being 15 minutes away, for me it ticked all boxes.

Tell us about your course

I initially selected the BSc in Physics with a Foundation Year for two reasons. The first was because I was unsure how much I wanted to specialise, and the second was because I didn’t have the maths grade requirement for direct entry. I feel I was able to use this year to gain not only the maths skills but also the confidence and discipline needed to tackle the full degree.

At the end of my Foundation Year, I could choose either the MPhys Physics with Astrophysics or MPhys Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics, and I chose the latter.

It’s great that the course allowed me to do this, as up to the start of Stage 2 the course contents are identical, so you have time to experience the subject and make an informed decision about the next stage of your degree.

Are there extracurricular activities?

Several – just check out Kent Union. Specifically, for my course, I am a member of two academic societies, PhySoc and SpaceSoc and for the last 3 years, I have held a committee position within SpaceSoc.

Societies are a great way to socialise with your cohort, those in different stages of the course, and others in the uni that are interested in the subject. Both societies hold a mixture of social events and specific subject talks from academics and guests, which is a great way to see just where your degree can take you.

SpaceSoc has its own dome and telescope on campus with the opportunity to be trained to use it. This is amazing as telescopes can get very expensive, and since there’s no charge for membership to the societies you get to indulge in a hobby for free!

*In stage 3 there are course-specific labs, in which students get the opportunity to work with data collected by the on-campus research telescope. During the year, there is often an opportunity to sit in on the collection of this data, with the observer explaining the different instruments, functions, and how and why the data is collected.

Have you engaged with the university’s support team?  

I arrived at the university with a confirmed diagnosis of anxiety and was immediately provided with a mental health adviser and an Inclusive Learning Plan. The plan afforded me extra time during my exams, a smaller exam room, and extended book borrowing among other things.

The mental health advisers have been extremely supportive particularly as I have also been diagnosed with a chronic disability. The Student Support and Wellbeing team were invaluable in helping me to navigate both getting that diagnosis and supporting me afterwards.

What do you do as an Ambassador for the University of Kent?

Being a Student Ambassador for the university is great fun and very diverse. l regularly support the university at Open Days and Applicant Days along with visiting schools, helping to deliver outreach programmes. Visiting schools with our Astrodome programme is where I get to teach people about space, which reminds me of why I chose to study for the degree in the first place! This is not like a standard job as the hours are flexible, and I’m paid to use my degree and help promote science to the next generation!

What would you tell 18yr old Amber looking to go to university?

It’s important to know that there are alternative paths to achieving your goals that are not always widely advertised. Personally, I only learned about foundation year programmes when I was in need of one. When I was 18, I believed that I had to obtain specific qualifications and follow certain routes to get my dream job, but I have come to realize that this is not always the case.