The course enabled me to conduct research in the field I am most interested in

Phattharaporn Singkanipa
Phattharaporn Singkanipa
PhD student, University of Southern California
Mathematical and Theoretical Physics MSc
Phattharaporn followed her masters degree with a role as a quantum scientist in Singapore, and is now doing her PhD in quantum computing at the University of Southern California.

What did you enjoy most about your degree in Mathematical and Theoretical Physics?

I really enjoyed my dissertation. Professor Pieter Kok was an amazing supervisor and he guided me from the initial reading stage, all the way to turning the dissertation report into a paper. The course also allowed me to learn a lot more about quantum optics and gain invaluable research skills.

At times, online learning during the coronavirus pandemic made communication more challenging than it would have been in person. However, learning online encouraged me to be self-disciplined, work independently, and to summarise information effectively in advance of weekly meetings with Professor Pieter Kok. 

What are you doing now and how did you get into that role?

I have been working as a quantum scientist in a Singapore-based start-up company developing quantum algorithms for real world optimisation problems. This is thanks to machine learning knowledge I obtained during my time at Sheffield, which allowed me to work with some of the world’s quantum computing pioneers including Professor Pieter Kok, my MSc dissertation supervisor, and Dr Earl Campbell, who gave me a lot of advice on my MSc literature review.

I now have a PhD position in quantum computing at University of Southern California, Los Angeles. Two of my references were provided by Professor Pieter Kok and Dr Sam Dolan, my MSc personal tutor. I am immensely grateful for the support I have received throughout, and since completing, the course.

How has your degree helped you in your career?

The course has enabled me to conduct research in the field that I am most interested in. The MSc Mathematical and Theoretical Physics course provides a broad list of physics modules to be chosen in both classical and modern physics. Consequently, I was able to utilise knowledge I had gained at undergraduate level, which provided a strong foundation for me to specialise at postgraduate level. 

The department of Physics and Astronomy at Sheffield has many well-known quantum computing experts, from whom I was very fortunate to receive advice and guidance. I was able to ask them questions directly, as well as having the opportunity to have them explain any concepts that were unclear to me. Working with them was a truly invaluable experience to me.

What scientific skills did you develop during your course?

The most important scientific skill I developed on the course was machine learning. The machine learning module was very well structured. It started with no expectation of previous knowledge, which was very helpful for me because I had no prior experience of machine learning.

What transferable skills did you develop during your course?

Writing in the software LaTeX. I didn’t know LaTeX before coming to Sheffield. The 101 LaTeX session was extremely helpful. I really loved the fact that the course started from the most basic steps such as installing the software.

What do you miss most about Sheffield?

I miss the student experience of Sheffield prior to the pandemic. I loved exploring food around Sheffield. There are a lot of pubs and restaurants that serve amazing food at very reasonable prices – anything from European to Asian cuisines. Unfortunately, I was only able to enjoy Sheffield for half a year, while the rest of my course took place online. I look forward to attending the in-person graduation ceremony, which will give me the opportunity to visit the city again. 

What would you say to a prospective student considering studying MSc Mathematical and Theoretical Physics at Sheffield?

I think it is very important to know your end goal in life and see which course is likely to get you the closest possible to that goal: look at course syllabus, potential supervisors, and the university’s careers service. 

Even if you don’t know yet and still need to explore, this MSc is a great choice. It offers a wide variety of modules outside of physics including finance, machine learning, mathematical biology. Additionally, Dr Sam Dolan, the course coordinator, is very supportive and understanding. I am really glad I chose to study the Mathematical and Theoretical Physics MSc at Sheffield. 

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