Francesco Belfiore - Natural Sciences (Physical)
Francesco is originally from Catania (Sicily) and joined St John's College after completing his IB diploma at the United World College of the Adriatic, in Duino (Italy). For his IB he studied Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and English B at Higher Level. He enrolled at St John's to read Natural Sciences (Physical) concentrating on Physics during his BA and specializing in Astrophysics in his fourth year (MSci). He will be joining the Physics department in Cambridge in Oct. 2013 to start a PhD on the study of distant Galaxies and their evolution.
'I still remember very clearly my first time in Cambridge. I arrived there the day before my admission interview. It was already late at night (I blame it on my flight) and I was impressed by the majesty of the place and felt very intimidated. Arriving at St John's for the first time the Porter (kind of custodians of the College) tried to give me directions, but the combination of his accent (it was only my second time in the UK!) and my tiredness made it impossible for me to understand where to go... "I should have applied to a smaller College," I thought, "and one that does not look like a maze!"
I couldn't have been more wrong, as I clearly experienced the day after. The College grounds are exceptionally beautiful, the admission process was intense but friendly and when I joined the College the next October I was impressed at how friendly and supportive everyone is. Being an international student I was lucky enough not to be aware of the stereotypes about Cambridge students, but from my experience I can say without doubts that Cambridge is a very inclusive, diverse and international place, where everyone is bound to find people with similar interests.
My main reason to apply to Cambridge was to be able to join the Natural Sciences program, which allows great breath in the first year of your studies and is ideally suited to students who wish to have some exposure to University-level science before making a final decision. A lot of my friends have exploited this freedom to change their area of specialization, and it is not uncommon for people who thought they wanted to do Physics to decide to switch to Genetics or vice versa. This was not the case for me, and after my first year studying Physics, Chemistry and Material Sciences I confirmed my original idea to specialise in Physics.
Studying Physics at Cambridge is challenging but very rewarding. The subjects gets a lot more interesting after the very general first year and in four years it takes you all the way from the inclined plane (yes, you will spend some time performing Galileo's experiment in your first year!) to the Higgs boson, Superconductivity and the study of the Big Bang. For anyone interested in how the World really works and does enjoy the rigour of Mathematics, studying Physics will prove a fascinating enterprise. The Physics department (the renown Cavendish Laboratories) is one of the biggest ones within the Natural Sciences Tripos and studying there will allow you to interact with the vibrant community of researchers in a top Institution in the World.
St John's College has always provided me with excellent support during my time in Cambridge. The size of the College is a great advantage, making it easy to meet a diverse body of people through College activities and effectively guaranteeing that there will be other people doing your courses, at least in the first couple of years, with whom you can share the challenge of the Tripos. St John's boasts some of the best sport facilities in Cambridge, very good canteen food and one of the nicest and most well stacked College libraries in Cambridge (all great advantages over the neighbouring Trinity, for example). Moreover I have personally benefited from the generosity of College scholarships towards books, academic material and funding of summer research opportunities. During my degree I have had the chance to work in various Physics departments as a summer intern: in Germany (Göttingen), in Cambridge itself and in the USA (at Caltech). The experience acquired there has helped me to decide to apply for a PhD in Astrophysics, which I shall be starting the next academic year.
Looking back I am glad I managed to make my way through "the maze" that first evening...'
Francesco Belfiore, 2013