My Woodhouse Physics

Jay Montgomery-Johnson
Jay Montgomery-Johnson
Jay Montgomery-Johnson came to Woodhouse from Fortismere School and lives in Muswell Hill. He studied physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics at A level and graduated in 2018 with ABAA. He is currently taking a gap year.
He spoke to us during his second year of A levels. 
“I have always wanted to understand how things work. I look at everyday things and think ‘How is that made?’, even if I don’t know the answer it’s fun to guess. I’ve been watching those BBC Horizon documentaries about the solar system from quite a young age and have been in awe of them, so physics has always been something that I wanted to do.
Why am I studying physics at Woodhouse? I wanted to study physics at a college where it would be taken a bit more seriously. Before I came here people told me, “There’s no support, the teachers just lecture you, you can’t ask them any questions…” It was quite strange really because it’s not true at all. Plus, my teachers only teach my A level course to people my age.
A level physics is not a smooth continuation from GCSE, it’s a jump. It takes time to understand the concepts in a more rigorous way. The maths isn’t new, because it’s all maths from GCSE, it’s just that there are more complicated.
We do the set number of required ‘practicals’ every year but we also do lots of extra ones. We sometimes come across questions where they may bring up pendulum motion for instance, and once you’ve seen those examples actually working, like water in a tube or an actual pendulum, you can visualize it in your head… so the practicals are really useful.
And if you want more, you can just ask. I have started a physics club and if we want to do any practical work we can just ask the teachers and they will let us use the equipment. The technicians are really helpful and it’s a great chance to begin to develop our understanding of university topics.
In an average lesson, we might discuss a concept first and then have questions, so it’s good if you have flicked through and read a bit about it before the lesson. But you don’t need to because it will all be explained to you, and then of course you need to revise it afterwards. I always try and do 15 minutes after the day where I just run over the concepts again because then I don’t forget it after a week or two. This year I decided to work at college 9am- 5pm, every day.
For extra support, we have tutorials and online homework where they can check up on how many questions you’ve done. Teachers give us plenty of websites that apply to physics and other internet resources like videos that they have spent the time to find, and if you ever need anything explained you can just ask.
We’ve heard lots of guest speakers, many from university departments – because the teachers actually know those people. Recently, an ex-student came to talk who is studying science at Fermilab in the USA, which is a pretty big deal (Fermilab is the host laboratory for the international DUNE collaboration and the proposed Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility). We’ve also talked with people that study Rydberg atoms, and some astrophysicists came in.
We went on a trip to Sussex university and saw their quantum computer labs which was a bit of a dream for me and very cool. I was so excited that I think I spent the whole day with my mouth wide open. There’s been so many trips, experiences and opportunities that I missed some, like the two-day trip overseas to the CERN Large Hadron Collider and a trip about material science.
I’ve been involved in some experiments outside of college at Birbeck University. They are studying neuro feedback to increase performance, so they are trying to make me a better brain. They’ve the got the world Karate champion down there trying to improve his focus when he’s sparing in competitions, and I’ve been helping them – putting electrodes on people and measuring brainwaves.
I’m applying for natural sciences at Cambridge, I want to try because you can choose lots of different modules, especially in the first year, and probably I’ll choose a maths module and a physics one and then you can choose another like materials or computer science. I like the idea that I can do something broader plus you can do pretty much just a physics course if you want because you get to specialise.
Also, I like Cambridge. It’s somewhere I’ve always had a romantic view of – you grow up hearing those stories of Isaac Newton, so it’s like a dream to apply. I went on a school Spanish exchange there a few years ago and just thought it looked really cool, so I went and learned more about their courses and I really want to go. But I’m also applying to Imperial, Manchester, UCL and Bristol.
I’ve have been very impressed with the application support here; it’s been really good. The mock interviews and personal statement help… I was given half a dozen opportunities for summer courses by the physics department and Mr Rubinstein, some of which I was able to go on and they will help my chances of an offer.
The campus is wonderful. I actually came here, partially, because I liked how cool it felt in the Maths block! That dedicated space is like an enclave. 400 people do maths in my year which is just perfect for me, so many people interested in what I’m interested in. I think if you are coming to a well performing college that doesn’t have a lower school it’s probably because you are interested in your subject and you’ll find lots of people like you here.
For an extracurricular activity, I started out playing chess but was then recruited onto the Maths Team. I didn’t actually make it onto the final team because I wasn’t as fast and it’s a bit of a speed game, but it was great fun preparing with the second-year students and I made some really good friends. There were about four people who came here from my old school that I didn’t know too well, but then I made one new friend and within a week I knew all his friends too. It’s wonderful how friendship grows in that sense. It’s a real Woodhouse community”