"It's ok to be unsure of where you are headed in life and, in fact, it can even be a good thing."

Name: Nick Davies PhD

Studied at CHS: 2003 - 2010

Current Role: Trainee Patent Attorney

Route after leaving CHS:

After graduating from Congleton High School and Sixth Form, I made the short trip to The University of Manchester to study physics on a four-year Masters Degree programme. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at university, which allowed me to learn about the fascinating world of physics, from the bizarre quantum world (for example, lookup Schrödinger’s cat) to the Big Bang Theory, as well as making loads of great friends!

I was drawn to Manchester due to the Physics Department’s world-class reputation and because of the lure of a vibrant city. I found that attending university open days and talking to current students gave me a valuable flavour of what life is like at university and where I would best fit in. Importantly, university also taught me how to live independently and provided me with many valuable experiences that pushed me out of my comfort zone, for the better! One of these experiences was an opportunity to participate in the Study China Programme, where I spent a month of my summer holidays at East China Normal University in Shanghai studying Chinese Business Marketing and Mandarin.

I came back to Manchester for my third year with renewed energy and a taste for more international travel. During my next summer holidays I decided to teach English at a school in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. This was a wonderful opportunity and I have many fond memories of my time there - as a teenager, I would never have thought I’d be living on the other side of the world only a few years later!

After graduating from The University of Manchester, I decided to continue my education by studying for a PhD in climate change at the University of Exeter and Met Office. I should emphasise at this point that part of the reason I decided to pursue a PhD is because I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do - even at age 22! I remember enjoying learning about fossil fuels and climate change at school, so I was excited to be able to discover more about this subject from experts in the field.

The start of my PhD was tough and it took me a couple of years to fully understand what I was supposed to be doing. This involved measuring the properties of atmospheric particles, known as aerosols, by flying on a special research aircraft - see www.faam.ac.uk for more details. My highlights include flying over India and Ascension Island, sometimes at just 20 metres above the surface!

After a lot of persistence and many of cups of tea, I’m now writing up my thesis and contributed, in a small way, to our current understanding of how Earth’s climate is changing. As part of my PhD, I was invited to the STEM for Britain event at the House of Commons to highlight the importance of climate research to parliamentarians. I have thoroughly enjoyed my PhD, which has allowed me to travel all over the world for fieldwork and to discuss my research with scientists at international conferences.

How does your present role compare with what your teenage self thought you'd be doing now?:

I’ve recently accepted a job to train as a Patent Attorney, which will involve learning about how things work to help protect inventors’ inventions. This is certainly not what I thought I would be doing in high school or, for that matter, even one year ago!

What are your memories of CHS?:

I’d like to mention some of the teachers who were instrumental in my journey and without whose help I would certainly not be where I am today. My Physics teachers, Mr Barker and Mr Tyrrell, who inspired me to pursue Physics at university and my Maths teacher, Mrs Hindle, whose patience and reassurance enabled me to pass my Maths exams and give me a head start during those first few months at university.

What advice would you give to your younger self?:

Based on my experience, it’s ok to be unsure of where you are headed in life and, in fact, it can even be a good thing. I would love to tell my teenage self to take every learning opportunity available to me, try something new and to push myself out of my comfort zone, as this is when you really start having fun (and you will have lots of great experiences to highlight when you come to apply for your dream job)!

The Learning Alliance