Database Endeavours

Hi everyone,

I have just finished my five week summer project with the Career Development Service/ Physics Department. I am now the designer of two databases (or ‘MY CREATIONS’ as I referred to them after a particularly long stretch of coding in VBA), the author of a nifty 17 page-long user guide and the proud member of a Microsoft Access Forum. In all seriousness it was the most fun I have had during a job; partly due to my lovely supervisors Valerie Matthews-Lane and Dr Richard Ambrosi and also due to the project itself.

It is a fantastic feeling to be given a task you have no idea how you will complete and to finish five weeks later with a working solution. During week 1 I was asked to create two databases to store, collate and analyse the data from a final year survey and a first year survey handed out to Physics students. I decided I liked the user-friendliness of Access almost immediately, however having used the tool very little (and certainly not to create a database) the task seemed very daunting.

The project did require a bit of perseverance (particularly due to the coding) however it also gave me the chance to get a bit creative. For example, I invented a numbering system to categorise the survey answers into ‘Red’, ‘Amber’ and ‘Green’ (where ‘Red’ requires attention and ‘Green’ is good). A Physics degree definitely gives you the ability to break down the problem into manageable chunks and also to not let the enormity of a task frighten you (once you have faced the third year Quantum Mechanics and Further Relativity courses you can take on anything…).

The most interesting thing the project taught me is how much maintenance must go into the databases behind the big banks as you carry out card transactions, or behind those police databases that help Inspector Morse match a fingerprint to a murderer. We are talking about vast amounts of data storage, into the terabytes, along with lots of complicated coding maintained by entire workforces. If making alteration to a database coding is not restrained I can easily understand how there could be major problems!

During the rest of summer I will be researching the PhDs I want to apply for and perfecting my CV. Scary stuff! And speaking of nerve-wracking experiences; I understand A-level results are out next week therefore I would like to wish everyone in year 13 good luck with their A-level/ IB results!

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Lilian

About Lilian

Lilian has now graduated from the University of Leicester and is no longer blogging for this site. Lilian was blogging as a fourth year MPhys student, explaining how Physics can be rocket science – but then it can be chemistry, nanotechnology, biology and astronomy too.

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2 responses to “Database Endeavours”

  1. Bobby

    HI, Lilian. Nice to read your blog on database. Wishing you all the best for you Ph.D. When I read your profile, I could reminiscence the days of old, when my elder brother was doing his MSc in Physics. I could see a book on Quantum Mechanics on his table authored by people called Landau and Lifshifts – I am not sure whether I have spelled them correctly.

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