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Recognition of MSc student excellence

14 October 2020

MSc prize winning students

Cardiff School of Physics and Astronomy has jointly awarded the MSc Certificate of Excellence and Prize for 2019/20 to Rachel Clark and Steven Hughes. Also celebrating recognition of excellence is Ana Contreras Santos, awarded the MSc Certificate of Excellence and Prize for 2018/19.

The MSc Certificate of Excellence and Prize is awarded to the MSc student who has attained the highest overall distinction-grade mark in their year. The criteria are strict - only students with distinctions in both the taught and research components of their degrees and with an overall mark of 75% or above are eligible.

The MSc Certificates and Prizes are making their way to Rachel, Steven, and Ana.

Director of Postgraduate Studies, Dr Richard Lewis, offers congratulations to the recipients:

“Obtaining an MSc with Distinction is a tremendous achievement, but the recipients of the MSc Certificate of Excellence and Prize have all demonstrated dedication, diligence, and talent above even that high level. It has been truly inspiring to see.”

Rachel Clark

Rachel is part of the first intake of students in the School’s brand-new EPSRC CDT in Compound Semiconductor Manufacturing. As a first year CDT student, Rachel studied on the MSc Compound Semiconductor Physics.

Reflecting on her first CDT year experience, Rachel says:

“My first year at Cardiff University on the Compound Semiconductor Manufacturing CDT has been fantastic. On the Compound Semiconductor Physics MSc this year, I was able to choose a variety of stimulating modules suited to my interests, as well as being taught practical research skills in the core modules. I was especially pleased by the range in assessment modality across the modules; this meant that the entire ladder of grades was accessible to all, which was not my experience during undergraduate. This means I have left the MSc with a new sense of confidence and accomplishment in myself as a scientist, which is invaluable to me.”

Rachel’s MSc research dissertation, Simulating Superconducting Nanowire Single Photon Detectors, was awarded the highest mark for an MSc dissertation to date, at 88%.

Head of School and CDT Director Professor, Peter Smowton, observes:

“Rachel demonstrated a strong academic performance throughout and received the highest MSc dissertation score on record. She is a demon quizzer and led social and team events for the CDT cohort of which she is a part.”

Rachel is now studying for her PhD on the CDT. Her project entitled Semiconductor Quantum Light Source Metrology is being undertaken at Cardiff University in collaboration with the National Physics Laboratory under the supervision of Professor Anthony Bennett (Cardiff University) and Dr Ian Farrer (University of Sheffield).

Steven Hughes

After a very strong and consistent performance on the taught component of the MSc Physics, Steven undertook a research project entitled Effect of Oxygen Concentration on the Photocatalytic Activity of Titanium Dioxide. Due to Covid-19, Steven and his supervisor reworked this highly experimental project into a numerical simulation project. This was done to an exceptionally high standard and under significant time pressure.

As Dr Richard Lewis, Director of Postgraduate Studies and Steven’s personal tutor, notes:

“Steven worked with a high degree of professionalism and diligence throughout his MSc studies. He adapted a complicated research project and made it his own, bringing in fresh ideas and approaches in a very short space of time. This award is thoroughly well-deserved!”

Looking back on his time at Cardiff, Steven reflects:

“My favourite aspect of the MSc was the freedom to tailor the course to my specific interests by choosing modules from a range of topics. This allowed me to continue studying the areas of physics that I find particularly interesting, as well as branching out into areas that were previously unavailable to me. Among the topics which were new to me was Environmental Physics, which tied in very nicely with my final project on photocatalytic water purification. The lecturers were very approachable and always happy to help with any queries.”

Ana Contreras Santos

Ana was the top MSc Astrophysics student in the 2018/19 academic year and was awarded the MSc Certificate of Excellence and Prize with a truly outstanding overall degree mark of 86%. Ana’s prize was due to be awarded in-person at the School Graduation Reception, but this in-person event was cancelled due to Covid-19.

MSc Astrophysics coordinator Dr Paul Roche was Ana’s personal tutor throughout her time on the MSc and notes:

“Ana demonstrated a remarkably consistent high level of effort and achievement throughout her academic studies, whilst also managing to represent the University basketball team – a fantastic accomplishment on both counts!”

Ana completed MSc summer research project entitled Consistency between CMB Cosmologies under the supervision of Professor Erminia Calabrese.

Of her MSc Astrophysics, Ana says:

“My time in Cardiff was not only about the MSc, but a whole experience for me. It was a new country, new people and new ways of doing things. However, I felt welcome from the first moment, in the city in general, where everyone was so friendly and helpful, and also in the MSc, where everything was very well prepared and organised.

Everyone made me feel like they were actually happy to have me there. For me, it was a year of hard work and deadlines, but also a year to learn many things, from astrophysics or computation-related knowledge to general skills like time management and teamwork. It was also definitely a year to enjoy, having the possibility to work on topics that I like, and having people to share that with and collaborate.

Overall, this was a very important year in my life, an experience that helped me develop as a person, student and scientist, by broadening my horizons and laying the foundations of my professional career.”

Ana is now a PhD student at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid studying galaxy cluster mergers under the supervision of Dr Alexander Knebe. Her PhD research project is entitled Galaxy Cluster Mergers Using the Three Hundred Cosmological Simulations.

We wish Rachel, Steven, and Ana all the very best for their future scientific careers.

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