`It is absolutely fascinating - and at the heart of everything'

Case notes: At least one student believes physics is just the victim of bad PR. By Diana Appleyard
Physics degree courses may have problems attracting students, but to Greg Innes, physics is the one subject which has always appealed to him. Greg, who was brought up in a remote town in the highlands, says: "It's like a second language to me. It is absolutely fascinating, and I cannot understand why it's perceived as boring. Physics is at the heart of everything."

Twenty-one-year-old Greg is just about to begin his fourth year at the University of Aberdeen. He took his highers in maths, English, physics, craft and design and graphic design.

He says: "It's such a shame that physics gets such a bad PR. When I tell people I'm studying physics at university they look at me as if I'm some kind of boffin, but actually I think that my friends who are taking courses such as biology and chemistry work far harder."

As with most Scottish universities, the first and second year (Greg is now doing a four-year degree) covered other subjects as well as physics. Greg opted for management skills, computer studies and geography - subjects he feels will stand him in good stead when it comes to looking for work.

In physics, he began by studying electricity and magnetism, classical theory and cosmology. In the first and second year most of the work was based around lectures and tutorials, but in the third year he got the chance to put a great deal of what he was learning in theory in to practice. "That was great fun." he says. "In the third year we did around six hours of lab work every week, and it was exciting to actually get our hands on the materials!"

A large part of the course relies on home study, and Greg reckons he studies for about three hours every day - usually at night.

"But I'm not studying all the time. People have this impression with physics that you have to study all day and all night, and that's not the case at all. I've had lots of time for socialising and sport."

He has thoroughly enjoyed studying in Aberdeen, which is an extremely attractive and wealthy city because of the proximity of the oil industries.

"The nightlife is okay," he says. "But if we want a really good night out we tend to go to Edinburgh, which is not that much of a trek." Greg plays hockey and football, and is currently president of the Physics Society. "We started it up about two years ago and we've organised trips to planetariums, and have got outside lecturers to come in. There's a big social side to it as well, as we tend to meet in pubs!"

Greg is hoping to go on and take an MSc and PhD in physics, hopefully on the medical side. He is very interested in imaging and scanning, and would ultimately like to work in cancer research. Most of his fellow students, he says, are aiming for the lucrative oil industry.