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School: St Charles College, South Africa
Studied: Cambridge International AS & A Levels in Physics, History and Maths, and Cambridge International AS Levels in English Language and Literature, Biology, Chemistry and French
Went on to: A BSc degree in Physics and Astrophysics at the University of Cape Town
Career plans: A PhD and then theoretical astrophysics research
Daniel Johnson had planned a career as a research biologist until he began his Cambridge International A Level Physics course. 'I was going to study biology at university, and took Cambridge International AS & A Level Physics and Chemistry because good results in these subjects were important for university placement,' he said. 'However, I also knew I would only be satisfied with a career that could lead to ground-breaking research. The Cambridge syllabus, as well as my own exploration of the subject, convinced me that physics was, in fact, my ideal career path.'
'I would recommend Cambridge qualifications to all students, especially those interested in science.'
The Cambridge programme also gave Daniel the opportunity to expand his studies beyond science – something he welcomed: 'I could take history, a subject I always enjoyed very much, and also French as an additional subject, something which other high school programmes didn’t offer,' he said. 'I was very keen to develop my ability to speak French and so was glad to be able to take it at AS Level.’
After gaining a place at the University of Cape Town, majoring in physics and astrophysics, Daniel found that his Cambridge International A Level studies helped ease the transition into undergraduate life: 'The depth of the physics and maths syllabuses meant I was already familiar with many of the more challenging concepts covered in my first year,' he said. 'The Cambridge emphasis on understanding rather than rote learning was another big advantage, and as a result I did not find the move from school to university as much of a jump as some of my peers, both in terms of volume or difficulty of work. The rigour of Cambridge syllabuses, and the emphasis on a holistic understanding, also prepared me well for degree level study.'
After completing his degree, Daniel hopes to move on to a PhD before developing a career in the field of theoretical astrophysics. 'I would like to research stellar evolution, active galaxies, cosmology and the large-scale structure of the universe,' he said.
So would he recommend Cambridge to others hoping to follow a career in science? ‘Absolutely!’ he said. 'Given the high standards that science undergraduates are expected to meet, I strongly recommend the Cambridge curriculum for anyone thinking of pursuing a scientific career. In fact, I’ve also had the opportunity to give a local high school an insight into my Cambridge experience, and the programme has since been adopted for all their students.'