Heather Guy

After changing from a three-year degree to a four-year MSci and spending a year abroad, Heather has tailored her course options to specialise in physics and environmental science, combining the two disciplines into a final year project on climate modelling.

Naturally versatile

With a variety of interests spanning a range of different science subjects, Heather Guy chose to study Lancaster’s Natural Sciences degree as it gave her the freedom to pursue the subjects that fascinate her. “I chose Natural Sciences because I knew I wanted to do a physical science, but I couldn’t decide whether to do straight physics or to try and commit to a science I had never tried before such as geology or meteorology,” she says. “Natural Sciences gave me the opportunity to do both, and to adjust my course as I went along when I realised what interested me the most.”

After changing from a three-year degree to a four-year MSci and spending a year abroad, Heather has tailored her course options to specialise in physics and environmental science, combining the two disciplines into a final year project on climate modelling. “In my first year I took physics, maths and earth & environmental science,” she says. “From my second year onwards, I have taken 50% physics and 50% environmental science. I have been able to take most core physics modules as well as some specialist themes such as fluids and space physics. I have tailored my environmental science courses towards meteorology and hydrology which has been really complemented by my physics.

I am now doing my 4th year dissertation on climate modelling, which draws on all aspects of my degree and would have been difficult to do from either a straight physics or a straight environmental science degree.”

When asked whether she would recommend studying Natural Sciences to other students, Heather replied: “I would recommend Natural Sciences to people who really want to take control of their own learning. It is not an easy degree; you have to be conscious of where you want your degree to go and often have to do extra study to keep up with the students who are just taking one subject. But it is a rewarding programme which provides you with multidisciplinary skills that make you stand out from single-discipline scientists.”

An outstanding environment

As well as the versatility of the Natural Sciences degree, the community feel and excellent support provided by Lancaster helped to convince Heather to study here. “When I went to visit, I was struck by the friendliness and approachable nature of the departmental staff - it was the only open day I attended that was in no way intimidating,” she says. “The final deciding factor was the location - Lancaster is a lovely town and the proximity to the Lake District is a bonus!”

Heather particularly appreciates the help and support provided by the departmental staff within Natural Sciences. “In my opinion, there are two key things which stand out about Natural Sciences at Lancaster: the total flexibility of the course, and the dedication and support from the departmental staff,” she says. “I have always been able to do the courses I want to create my unique degree programme, even when there have initially been timetabling clashes or other complications. I have been able to change from a three-year BSc programme to a four-year MSci with a year abroad – a programme which didn’t even exist when I started. The departmental staff know all the students personally, and I know that I can approach them at any time with any problem, or just for a chat!”

A year abroad

An aspect of Heather’s degree that she particularly enjoyed was the opportunity to study abroad in Canada for a year. “My year studying at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver has definitely been the highlight of my degree,” she says. “I was able to study courses I wouldn’t have been able to take at Lancaster in a spectacular location, surrounded by some truly fantastic people and knowing that I had support from Lancaster when I needed it.

“As well as being immersed in a different culture and studying hard, some of the highlights from my year abroad include: doing some spectacular hiking and back-country skiing, having a season pass for Whistler ski resort, travelling to the Rocky Mountains, the Yukon, Alaska and down the west coast of the US, seeing a lot of wildlife, the Northern Lights, running a marathon and making contacts and close friends from all over the world.”

Heather’s year abroad has inspired her to explore the world further after she graduates, with the possibility of settling in another country. “After I graduate I am planning to do some more travelling, try working in some different countries and visit the friends I made on my year abroad. I’m hoping to eventually find somewhere I want to stay and perhaps do a PhD in climate modelling or meteorology.”