Pile of textbooks and lecture notes just to prove to you guys that I actually do work sometimes. On top is my Crystalline Solids course which is technically quantum chemistry and is really weird.
First we had to rank a list of topics based on preference, then get put into a group of four and split up the topic to write an abstract and do a presentation on it, before writing a proper dissertation by ourselves. For example, I was in the group for 'semiconductor nanowires'; researched 'the applications of semiconductor nanowires' in the abstract and presentation; and will write my own dissertation on 'nanowire photonics.' So I guess it's good in that you start off with a big topic and narrow it down to something you're interested in.
While writing the abstract was fine, the presentation was terrifying. I made the mistake of working the night before when I had to get into uni at 8am, so I was trying to educate my pub regulars on the growth of nanolasers to make myself a bit more confident. Growing lasers that are in the scale of 10−9 metres is pretty damn cool to me, but turns out it's super hard to explain a scale that small to people. Each individual nanowire can have the ends cleaved off to function as a teeny tiny laser cavity. I can't wait for them to actually make these.
An array of ZnO nanowires, which can be made less than 100nm in diameter (ie. fitting 10 trillion wires into a square cm). This is what I love about physics: at one end you've got the impossibly small, and at the other you have the vast incomprehensible expanse of the universe.
These zinc oxide nanowires in the photo above are actually used on some solar panels that are getting really, really efficient. Nanotechnology could be the future! My individual dissertation is going to be the photonics applications (photonics=photons=light=lasers and LEDs and optical fibres and stuff) so I get to delve even further into the crazy things nanowires can do.
But anyway, the presentation turned out going really well. I knew all my stuff and answered some complicated questions and they seemed impressed with us. My boyfriend was such a rock throughout the whole thing and me getting stressed and antsy about talking in front of people. He bought me coronation chicken sandwich fillers to munch when it was all over and drove me there early and told me "I'm so proud of you, little one". That's often all I need to get through something, just to know that someone is proud of me and rooting for me to succeed.
Getting back into physics has been so great. It's what I'm meant to do in my life; I've been feeling productive and useful and it's lovely.
Just give me a few years and you'll be talking to a proper physicist!