In June, I took part in a Headstart Material Science Course at Oxford University.

Headstart organises residential university courses across the country for STEM-related subjects and degrees, as part of the Engineering Development Trust. I have always been interested in Maths and Science, but as I started thinking of University, I didn’t know which courses to look at as potential degrees. I applied for various courses to get an idea of the different degrees on offer and Material Science caught my attention.

I stayed for 5 days in Mansfield College, Oxford, with the 30 other students taking part in this course. The timetable was jam-packed with lectures, lab work, industrial visits and university sight-seeing. The lectures covered a wide range of topics and gave me an insight into the teaching at University, which is quite different from school lessons. I particularly loved the practical work, as we did various undergraduate experiment and used a lot of exciting new apparatus. I liked how the work we did in lectures and in the lab extended further from A level as it challenged us all and improved problem solving skills and the application of our knowledge to real life situations.

One day, we visited the JET Nuclear Fusion Facility in Culham, which definitely showed me a practical application to the Physics and Chemistry learnt in the classroom. It was a brilliant opportunity to meet engineers and scientists who were in my position and are now working in an exciting and quickly developing industry.

As well as academic work, we had time to visit colleges and departments of the University. This allowed me to get a full insight into life at Oxford, and I could get more information to help me in my university choices. After finishing this course, I know that I want to apply to Oxford University and I would like to study Physics or Material Science. This shows how helpful and enjoyable the course was, and how it gave me such a good impression of the course and the University.

It was an excellent experience, and I would definitely recommend a Headstart course, or any university course. If there is anyone who is not completely sure about the exact degree they want to do, it is a brilliant way to gain more information whilst staying in university accommodation, making friends and enjoying the activities on offer.

Serena Conn