Diana Nikolova

Diana Nikolova

Diana wanted to study at a high-ranking university in a city, but not somewhere as busy as London for example. Although she didn’t have a chance to visit Leeds before coming to start her degree, taking that chance paid off and both the city and the university have lived up to all the great things she had read and heard beforehand. 

“I’ve always been drawn to physics in different ways throughout my life – documentaries, interactive museums, sci-fi movies – and learning about it in high school only made me want to study it more. I found myself wanting to know more and more about the way everything in the universe works, so physics felt like the correct choice.”

Originally, Diana wanted to study astrophysics but she chose the physics course because it gave more flexibility on what classes to take in the first few years. As a result, her interests have diverged into the realms of soft matter and materials science.

The best parts of this course

The course’s laboratory work is very robust and takes students through plenty of different aspects of physics research. One of Diana’s personal favourites was the mechanical workshop, where students are taught to solder, weld and 3D print, amongst other things. As she says: “I still have the keychain I engraved!” 

Students can also try a wide variety of things through the modules – including more theoretical physics as well as very hands-on research – and delve into a number of topics to discover what they are most interested in. 

For Diana, one of the most interesting parts of the course has been the fourth-year research project, which involved a lot more independence in lab work.

“My fourth-year research project has been the most exciting so far, since I have a lot more time to work on it and delve deeper. My project is about developing composites of liquid crystal elastomers with the purpose of impact absorbing applications (among others). I’ve been allowed a lot of freedom in what direction to take it in, while still keeping to the main aim of the project.“

“A lot of my time is spent either in the lab synthesising the elastomer composites, or performing tests and analysis on them. Learning the different bits of machinery and getting this insight into materials research has been endlessly fascinating.”

To further build her knowledge, Diana did a summer internship at the university where she developed a virtual laboratory framework to aid lab experiments that cannot be done in person. She found it very interesting to see all the equipment and analysis procedures.

Leeds is a great place to live

The biggest advantage Leeds has is that you can walk everywhere, but it is still a very large city – so there’s an endless amount of things to do. There are several really cool shopping areas, lots of restaurants and bars, and no shortage of public spaces in which you can just sit and relax when the weather is nice. 

The university is very much part of the city, so students don’t feel like they’re far away from everything when on campus. 

Future plans

Diana is hoping to continue working in research, developing materials and technologies that can improve people’s lives and have a real impact. She is aiming to start a PhD next year.

“This course definitely has a really good structure. It prepares you for a lot, and the flexibility and independence we’re afforded in our last year is especially important for our futures. I’ve also learned to be a lot more organised and keep on top of things to keep up with the workload and do well.”

“Working hard and figuring things out on your own is important, but you should never be afraid to send the academics an email and ask them questions. They’ll be more than happy to answer and to see that you’re showing interest in what they’re teaching! Additionally, make sure you explore Leeds and have fun!”