Portrait of Paul hellen

Paul Hellen

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

I’ve chosen to return to my studies after a few years working as a secondary school physics teacher. I studied Physics with Philosophy at the University of Manchester, graduating in 2014, and completed my PGCE in Secondary Science from the University of Nottingham the following year. Working with young people in the classroom was a true privilege and hugely rewarding, but at my core I knew I fancied a return to academia. I definitely had days where I actually envied my own pupils when they were studying, wishing it could have been me instead – I think that was when I knew it was the right time to apply for a master’s degreePlease tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
I am a very creative person and I apply this mainly to painting, martial arts and philosophy. When I was younger, I studied A-level maths, physics and art, but I couldn’t decide what to do from there. I developed a strong interest in philosophy in my early twenties and I came to Leeds as a mature student to follow up on this interest.

What made you want to apply to your MA course and to Leeds?

My undergraduate course was in theology and philosophy, and I became particularly interested in logic and belief. I decided that since these topics are valued greatly by scientists, I would focus on the philosophy of science. We have some world-class philosophy of science tutors at Leeds and continuation here was the obvious choice.  Additionally, the University were incredibly supportive academically and financially during my BA, and this support continued into my MA.

What is it that makes you passionate about your area of study?

I feel strongly that sensible beliefs lead to good actions, and as such my passion for the study of belief is sustained by my desire to promote good actions. At the same time, I am fascinated by the fantastical nature of space-time physics. I feel that there is something important to be said about the popular scientific view of space and time and this sense of importance underpins my passion for the subject.

What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most?  

I have really enjoyed the investigative aspect of study. Working toward the resolution of a debate, or the discovery of a debatable topic is itself really rewarding. I have also enjoyed contributing, in a small way, to a much larger collection of knowledge and ideas. The many people who are interested in my subject are spread all over the world and it is nice to be part of such a disparate but likeminded community. 

What would you say about Leeds as a city?

Leeds is just the right size for me, it is big and active but not so big that I ever feel lost. It is constantly under renewal and development, and this is reflected in the university as well. I also appreciate its proximity to the Yorkshire dales, as I enjoy walking and visiting landmarks and historical locations.

What has been the most surprising thing about coming to Leeds?

The most surprising thing has been the friendliness of the staff and students. As a mature student I was a bit wary about fitting in, but every single person I have met has been lovely.

What would you say about the learning facilities in your School and at the University in general?

The learning facilities have been excellent. In every module, I have had lots of support and feedback. I have also had many one to one discussions with my tutors, who have always understood me and helped me to develop my ideas. I have also capitalised on some of the general University services. During my master’s degree, for example, I attended maths ‘drop in’ sessions, and the tutors there were always happy to help me with whichever bit of maths or physics I was stuck on at the time.

What other activities are available for students to take part in outside of their studies, and which ones have you tried out yourself?

The University has a huge, modern gym which I go to, and the student union features loads of different clubs and societies. I have practised karate for a long time so when I came to university I wanted to try some different martial arts. The University has a full range, from Krav Maga to Aikido. The clubs I have tried have all had a great ethos and atmosphere, I have particularly enjoyed Wing Chun Kung Fu.  

What would you say to anyone thinking of applying to your course?

I would recommend the course to anyone thinking of applying. For me, philosophy is about thinking clearly, and this can only ever be a good thing. It deals in the big picture, encourages lateral thinking and relates to almost any branch of academia.  As such it prepares students for work and study in any field. I can recommend the philosophy of science master’s degree in particular because it is taught by extremely well renowned academics and offers a complete education in the most recent topics in the field.  

What do you plan to do now you’ve finished your course, and how do you think the skills and knowledge you’ve developed at Leeds will help with these plans?

I am currently working on a research proposal and I hope to do a PhD. By studying philosophy at Leeds, I have learned to think clearly, but I have also improved the way in which I explain my thoughts to other people. I hope that these skills will help me to develop a career related to education.