Compared to other universities, the Mathematical and Theoretical Physics course at Sheffield offered a lot more freedom of choice

Alice Cullen
Alice Cullen
Masters student
Mathematical and Theoretical Physics MSc
Alice worked on a quantum information project while completing her masters, which led to a PhD here at Sheffield.

What made you decide to study your course in Sheffield?

I chose the course because of its flexibility and the breadth of module options. I wanted the ability to study topics from mathematical physics, as well as statistics. Compared to other universities, the Mathematical and Theoretical Physics course at Sheffield offered a lot more freedom of choice. My undergraduate degree also meant that I developed a strong interest in quantum mechanics and quantum information and this course gave me the opportunity to continue studying these subjects. 

What are you doing for your MSc project? 

For my MSc project I am looking at quantum repeaters and entanglement. My supervisor is Pieter Kok from the physics department, however I also had the option to study an MSc project in the mathematics and statistics department.

When quantum information is sent over large distances it can be affected by noise and losses, meaning that communication is not possible. Quantum repeaters allow for quantum communication over large distances using entanglement. We are looking at how entanglement is shared and distilled for use in quantum communication.

What have you enjoyed most about the course?

I have really enjoyed the academic stimulation of the course. Even though I came to the course with a mathematical background, I have enjoyed the more challenging physics modules because they have allowed me to learn about many new concepts. I have also really appreciated having regular online meetings with the current cohort of students and our course coordinator, Sam Dolan, for us to discuss our progress and answer questions together. This allowed us to build a sense of togetherness, despite the unusual circumstances of lockdown and online learning. 

What scientific and transferable skills have you developed during your course?

The module on Physics Research Skills allowed me to choose skills to develop so I chose to improve my writing, which was particularly useful for the Literature Review and Dissertation. Furthermore, I improved my programming skills through the Machine Learning module and learnt another programming language independently for the Physics Research Skills module.

What do you hope to do after your degree?

After my masters, I’m staying at Sheffield to do a PhD on Quantum Information with the same supervisor as for my MSc project, Pieter Kok. My MSc project will provide a good foundation of knowledge for this as we will be studying entanglement and quantum communication to a deeper level. There is also potential that we will look at other areas such as quantum error correction.

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