Be Outstanding! Beyond the PLUS Award

Update: The Outstanding Award process closed after the 2020/21 academic year. Current students who have made an outstanding contribution to their PLUS Award activity may consider engaging with the Outstanding PLUS Award, which launched in the 2021/22 academic year.  

Last academic year, a record 50 students applied for the Outstanding Award. Christy Howarth Nunns received a distinction, and below tells us about his project and the benefits of doing the Outstanding Award.

What activity did you do for your Outstanding Award?

For two years I was the president of the University of Bristol Physics Society, ‘Chaos’. As my chosen award theme was ’Innovation and Enterprise‘, the main focus of my submission was the way I transformed Chaos by shifting our business model away from simply breaking even on all our events. My initiatives to increase cashflow, included sourcing sponsorship, allowed the society to thrive, and run more activities than ever before. The following year Chaos won ‘Best Academic and Careers Society’ among other awards!


A specific example I used in my Outstanding Award submission was an academic event I organised for Chaos: the inaugural ’Chaos Conference‘. This provided a platform for students to present their own work from summer research projects and placements – an opportunity that undergraduates hadn’t had before. The conference had over 100 attendees and was even supported by the Institute of Physics!

How did you benefit from achieving the Outstanding Award? Why would you recommend it to others?

As most of my work experience to date has had a research focus, the Outstanding Award’s structure, which was designed to mirror a more typical recruitment process, was a very helpful insight for me – particularly the formal interview at the end of the award process. The interview was initially the most daunting part of the award, but it ended up being the most fun! It was great practice for the real thing, and the feedback really helped me understand my own strengths and weaknesses.

I would definitely recommend the Outstanding Award to others. At first, I didn’t think I would have the time to complete it, but one of the great things about the award for me was its flexibility,  – the activity you use can be something you have already done –  so the award process can take as much or as little time as you let it! I had very limited spare time in my final year, but I still managed to complete both the Bristol PLUS   and the Outstanding Award in the same year by backdating my examples. This made the award a great exercise in prioritisation and time management. My advice would be to start preparing as early as you can!

What is next for you? What are your career goals?

I’ve always wanted to be a Physicist, and that’s still the plan now that I have my Master’s, and I have a much clearer idea of what it means to be a Physicist than when I was a kid. As for long term goals, quantum computing is coming, and I want to be a part of it! The field is evolving rapidly, so the best plan looks like a PhD for now, and we’ll see what the field looks like in a few years’ time. I tend not to think of it in terms of “career goals” – rather, making choices that allow me to continue doing what I love.

In the mean time I run my own business, which I started during my studies; so I have had some time to grow that since I finished my course in September. Who knows, maybe I’ll let myself have a rest one day too!