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Schools About the University of Leicester

  1. Aug 15, 2005 #1

    I took part in the last International Physics Olympiads that was held in Salamanca Spain, and I got a honourable mention there. After that I received an invite about two scholarships, one in Physics and the other in Astronomy that are being offered to the students who participated there. I am just leaving the High School at the end of the year and want to attempt to a Physics undergraduate course. I would like to know about this university in Leicester UK. I never heard about it, I just looked at its site in the internet, and didn't find it too much interesting for me. I know the books they use and don't know if it is a good university. I am looking for a place where I can have a really good course in Physics, that prepares me to either work or go for an academic career. How much do you think that the university I undergraduate will be important? And also, I plan to take higher degrees, like PhD., but I wanted to look for those in the fastest way as possible. Or have the opportunity to turn to any other course in the Engineering area, in the same enviroment of study.
    Hope to hearing opinions and places where I can find more information about it all.
    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 15, 2005 #2
    Hi, I live in England and go to the university of Warwick. The University of Leicester isn't one of the most renowned universities however it does have a good astronomy department whose faculty works closely with the european space agency. If you're plannning on persuing a career in astronomy then it could be for you.

    I wouldn't worry too much about graduate studies and PhD's at the moment, you may find the field you would like to specialise in will change during the course of your undergraduate studies.

    Just out of curiosity where was the other scholarship that was offered to you?
  4. Aug 15, 2005 #3
    Whoa the guy attended the IPO, hes one of the best in his country!

    Lemme just ask about warwick, looking at the grades it is almost in the same class as cambridge and oxford. How do you as a student in warwick think? Does it hold up to its reputation.
  5. Aug 15, 2005 #4
    No..just one.

    Thanks for your opinion.
    It is rather good to hearing from a people who is near of the things. Like for a guy like me from Brazil, it might be quite diferente from things here.
    Just by the way, it was just one. The only point is that they offered two places, one for studying astronomy there and the other for Physics.

    About my career. Yeah, I don't know. I am thinking that the best opition for me is Physics. But as I said, I do want to have contact with Engineering. So I am looking for a college where I can have those both things. And moreover a good one. Cause I have some lessons with guys from a local university preparing for IPhO, and I didn't like it. I thought a would have more in a Physics course then that. And they use the same books of that in Leicester. Of course I know the lessons play a big hole in it, as a friend of mine use it in other university here, and his course is much better.

    Then I am just a little lost with it.
    If any of you could help me more about universities in Physics that sounds good.

    Also, if you know somethins about the Imperial College in London, I heard that it is so good as Cambridge and Oxford too, just they are more inventive or modern. A guy who is going to study there said me. I don't know..

    Once again, thank you all.
  6. Aug 15, 2005 #5

    Its funny I came across your post actually - I never usually look in this section.

    I am at graduate school now in the USA doing theoretical physics but I did my undergrad. at Leicester. I took the 4 year Physics with Space Technology degree.

    Sadly I would absolutely NOT recommend Leicester.

    The courses are superficial and will not give you any real understanding of physics.
    The expectations from you are far too high.
    The books they use are TERRIBLE.

    Let me expand a little.

    Your mathematical training will consist of 2 weeks per important subject.
    eg - 2 weeks on ODE's, 2 weeks on PDE's, 2 weeks on Fourier Analysis. Each 2 week period you will meet a math grad student ONCE and he will ask you if you had any problems with the work and noone will admit it and you will leave after 30 minutes.

    In the states they devote ENTIRE courses to things like ODE's. I hadn't even heard of linear algebra or a complex integral until I came over here and realized how insanely behind my American colleagues I was. I have spent the last 3 years trying to go over all the mathematics I should have had at Leicester.

    I think its safe to say that when I left Leicester I didn't have the first clue what an eigenvector was, I couldn't dot 2 vectors together and I couldn't for the life of me solve an ODE - even the most basic. Oh, and forget learning any new integration techniques.

    Now - at the same time you will be taking a plethora of courses. eg, atomic phys, QM, SR. The lectures are terrible. They take you through the formal development of the theory. There is NO homework and NO problems to solve. I don't remember anything from any of those course. The books they reccomend for us beginners (most of us where 18 and very new to physics) where terrible. Instead of something sane like the Griffiths books for EM and QM they recommended Linus Paulings book on quantum chemistry and Paul davies Book on QM (which is way too challenging for a beginner in my opinion).

    Oh - let me tell you about the labs. Those too are far too demanding. I'd barely written my first Fortran code when I was asked to write a bloody java based code which is something to do with objects and classes. I was still new to 'do' loops for goodness sake.

    For the GR course I took the prof. decided to go through 11 classes talking about GR and then in the 12th lecture he gave us a brief 1 hour intro to tensors! Wrong way around...

    Ah, and the exams. The exams are cycled through. For a small cost you can purchase from the physics department secratary the past 10 yrs exams and their solutions.
    These questions are largely repeated year after year - thus, passing your exams becomes an exercise in memorization.

    So - with no homework, no real exam study structure other than memorization and completely poor expectations of what an 18-22 year old can realistically understand I would give Leicestere a big NO.

    Believe me, I went their and I REALLY wanted to learn physics. But without the correct guidance, good suggestions of books, a homework load designed to give you a working knowledge of calculations and with no real training in advanced mathematics I can safely say that I left that place with very very very little.

    As I said - I was fortunate enough to make it onto a PhD program. I came to the states as I knew it was a 5 yr program with courses in the first 2 yrs. I knew I needed these badly. It has been a huge struggle. Obviously the PhD program expects you to know things like the expansion of [tex] \frac{1} {1-x} [/tex] or how to dot 2 bloody vectors together - or how to solve and ODE (errr the schrodinger eqtn). Sadly I could do none of this and spent the 1st year having a nervous breakdown, and the rest of the time realizing how poor my undergraduate training was thus forcing me to sit in on undergraduate classes and learning everything I should have known for the first time.

    Since I've been in the states I've sat in on, or audited the following extra UNDERGRADUATE classes:

    Cal 2, Cal 3, Advanced Cal 1, Advanced Cal2, ODE's, PDE's, Complex variables, Linear algebra.

    I've also spent a lot of time teaching myself undergraduate Quantum mechanics, Electromagnetics and particle physics thanks to Griffiths who has been my saviour.

    Needless to say I did not get much out of Graduate classes due to having a poor foundation and I will probably end up sitting in on most of them again.

    You may argue that I did take a course in physics 'with space science'. But believe me, the 'with space science' part was in fact something small like 1 elective class a semester - very insignificant. It was really a physics degree with a little extra flavoring.

    I am very angry with Leicester and often wander how much much better a physicist I would have been today if I had been given a decent undergraduate education. Instead I have been forced to sit in on classes like calculus 2 which is aimed at 18/19 year kids and I am a 27 yr old Phd candidate. Very embarrasing.

    Fortunately I am catching up on lost ground slowly but surely - but I am still far behind my American peers.

    Last edited: Aug 16, 2005
  7. Aug 16, 2005 #6
    This is why the states produce so many damn Nobel Laureates, despite our "poor" educational system that moves at a much slower pace...

    Maybe it's a good idea to move through the material at a slower pace, instead of cramming it all down the students throats in a rush! Maybe it's a good idea for students to understand the concepts, instead of just memorize by rote. MAYBE our educational system isn't as bad as the world seems!

  8. Aug 16, 2005 #7
    Maybe you're generalizing to the entire world based on one example of one very poor experience at one school?

    There are, I suspect, schools just this bad in the US, too.
  9. Aug 16, 2005 #8
    I can backup everything robousy said lol :D

    A lot of english universities are like that.. Warwick is as well I have to say. English universities rush through everything and rarely I come across anyone who actually followed everything what the lecturer had said. When it comes down to it.. i think I end up teaching myself rather than being taught properly by the lecturers.

    In fact we had a guest lecturer from Leicester who came and taught Stellar structure classes and he was probably the worst lecturer we ever had. We had 15, 1 hour classes and everything he taught us could be written on only 10 sides of A4 paper. also I remember one time a girl raised her hand to ask a question about a particular step in a derivation and he really put her down basically calling her and idiot and she ended up crying. While i guess they aren't all as mean you'll find a lot of the professors only care about there only research interests and pay little regard to teaching.

    "Ah, and the exams. The exams are cycled through. For a small cost you can purchase from the physics department secratary the past 10 yrs exams and their solutions.
    These questions are largely repeated year after year - thus, passing your exams becomes an exercise in memorization. "

    Sadly that is also true.. Suppose a student followed all the lectures and did all the weekly problems and spent a good 2 weeks studying for an exam and got a score of 85/100.... Another student who didn't follow the classes or work on the material during the course can with only 3 days of memorizing past questions can easily get the same score... Trust me I've had this happened to me where I spent ages studying for an exam and my friend just memorised the previous years questions. It's absolutely rediculous! There is no justice for the geniune student these days :(

    Aronh as far as which universities in the UK are good well the obvious two are Cambridge and Oxford. Though many will argue that they are over rated and are only among the elite due to prestige. Last time I looked at the league rankings I beieve Cambridge, Oxford, imperial, Warwick and Durham occupied the top 5.

    Imperial is a nice university I don't know too much about it but they have a very good reputation nationally and internationally, and I believe they are also closely linked with MIT. My cousin went there to do comp sci and she was offered to do a masters @ MIT and apparently a few others were too.
  10. Aug 16, 2005 #9
    Thank you very much..

    Oh! That all really sound horrible guys!

    Thank you both so much for advising me. Nothing better then knowing it from someone who have been there. Certainly I do not consider it for undergraduating.
    In this way I see that there are quite good universities here, compared woth those.

    Well, after this, I don't know which universities should I try to apply. I have been thinking of an American one. But I haven't many references of them. Like I heard just about Harvard and MIT, because of the prestige and everything. I would be glad to know, about the undergraduating oportunities. Also in places where I can have a great schoolarship help.

    Mainly, of you know places where they apreciate students who have participated of international competitions, like IPhO. (in my case IYPT, less known, too)

    Hope that robousy can get with his buddies from US.

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