When will I be asked ‘Why physics’?
This is a common question on job applications, or applications for physics apprenticeships or courses. It’s a chance for whoever’s interviewing you to understand why you are interested in pursuing a physics career, and whether your reasons align with the values of the organisation.
Aside from this more formal application, there will be times when you feel overwhelmed by your work or are confused about a particular topic. Having a concrete reason (or reasons) for why you chose physics can help boost your motivation.
How to answer: ‘Why physics’?
Your answer should show that you’re passionate about physics, and are genuinely interested in learning more. For this reason, avoid generic statements like ‘I’ve wanted to become a physicist since I was 4’ or ‘I’m interested in physics because of the salary.’ While this may be true, these answers are commonly used and won’t impress the interviewer.
Instead, try and provide a specific example of something that lead you to pursue a physics career. For example, if you were inspired by a famous physicist (think Marie Curie or Katherine Johnson), you could talk about how their work inspired you to pursue a physics career.
Or, you could talk about a piece of science-related media you particularly enjoyed. For example, if your local science museum has a fascinating physics exhibit, you could talk about how you were inspired by it. There also might’ve been a thought provoking article or TV segment which you found interesting.
Bear in mind that if you’d like to talk about a famous physicist or a specific media piece, make sure you understand what they’re about, and are prepared to elaborate further. That way, if your interviewer asks further questions, you can easily engage in discussion.
How can I cultivate my interest in physics?
It’s a good idea to develop an interest in physics beyond the classroom. This provides you with talking points for interviews, and will help you confirm that physics is the career for you. Ways you can do this include: attending online or in-person lectures, conducting experiments and doing further reading into a topic you’re interested in.