Choosing a degree subject is one of the most important decisions of your life. It is a decision that many people find very difficult to make, and understandably so, as your choice will have a great impact on the career that you will pursue, which may be the career you will stay in for the rest of your working life. Nowadays there is such a wide range of possible degrees, even in subjects that appeared to be only one subject at school.
For example, a physics-based degree might be ‘physics with theoretical physics’, ‘experimental physics’, ‘chemical physics’, [there is also ‘physical chemistry’!] and so the list goes on. If you don’t know what you enjoy most, maybe you might ask yourself, well what is the most worthwhile? English? No… History? Maybe… Languages? Again, maybe…
Well, without a doubt, in my blinkered view anyway, the most worthwhile area is Science. Obviously, at this point many of you will strongly disagree with me. Please read on if you wish to be convinced by my reasoning!
The three core sciences have brought us everything that we appreciate most – and everything that we take for granted. Biology has brought us medicines, vaccines and the controversial GM foods, the first two greatly increasing the time which we will spend alive, and the last, although controversial, having the potential to solve the immense injustice of world hunger.
Chemistry has brought us new materials and industries; the plastics industry alone produces 100 million tons of this useful product per year. It is hard for me to imagine a world without plastic. Perfumes are all a result of the study of organic chemistry. The chemicals that fuel our cars, petrol and diesel, are available to us by the chemical process of ‘cracking’ crude oil. These discoveries are just a few of the successes in the field of chemistry.
Yet, surely, the most worthwhile of all the sciences has to be physics. It provides the most fundamental explanations for almost all of the processes that govern the universe. The birth of quantum physics in the early 20th century has led to computers, genetic engineering and nuclear power.
You might ask why genetic engineering is on that list; genes are to do with biology aren’t they? You would be correct, but biology is really just a branch of physics, one that involves a large number of atoms in complex molecules, which themselves are made up of the fundamental particles, the behaviour which can be described by theoretical physics.
Computers have made life so much easier in so many ways. There are so many uses to which computers are put that if I were to attempt to describe them I would fill all the pages required to print hundreds of copies of our student magazine Identity. Genetic engineering has led to many lifesaving vaccines, and it has been around for too short a time to have shown its real potential.
In just a few examples I have shown how the three most well-known sciences have immeasurably improved all of our lives in just a short space of time. And even though science has contributed more than its fair share of benefits to society, it still has so much to offer. One day, probably within many of our lifetimes, scientists will offer us computers that will perform complex tasks almost immediately; tasks that now take even the fastest computer months to perform. One day nuclear fusion will provide cheap, clean fuel, a solution to a problem which is on everyone’s mind right now.
So if you are undecided about your choice of subject at university, why not choose to study one of the three core sciences? In this way you will be helping shape the civilisation of the future.
This article first appeared in one of Worth School’s publications, Identity, a magazine entirely written and produced by Worth students.