Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) – Oxford
"Each part of education is a stepping stone to a dream job"
What do you do in your job?
I work on ISIS, a particle accelerator that produces ‘beams’ of particles to look at materials on a microscopic level. Beam diagnostics is described as the “eyes and ears” of a particle accelerator. During machine operation several parameters such as beam intensity, beam profile, beam position and beam losses have to be monitored. Using a number of monitors we measure these different parameters and feed this information back to the physicists controlling the accelerator. My role specifically is designing and programming the electronic systems that acquire and process the data from these monitors.
How does your work have an impact?
Without people working beam diagnostics, particle accelerators would not be reliable enough to work. ISIS has been used for many scientific discoveries, without staff keeping the accelerator running, these would not have been possible.
What’s the best thing about your job?
In my job, my projects are presented to me as problems that need solving. In the world of electronics there’s a number of ways to solve any problem whether it be using analogue electronics or something like a microcontroller or a Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). Here, I’m allowed to decide what way I want to implement a solution, this gives me a lot of creative freedom to learn new skills, but it also keeps the role very interesting and a lot more fun.
What did you study at school?
After GCSE I went to college to study a Level 3 Advanced Diploma in Engineering. After this I went to Portsmouth University where I spent 5 years getting an Undergraduate Master’s Degree (MEng) in Electronic Engineering (including a year’s work placement at National Instruments UK).
What inspired you into a career in science / engineering?
I was always a curious child; I remember always asking my father (who was a chemist) about how different things worked, and I also remember taking different things apart, and normally failing to put them back together.
When I finished GCSEs I had little or no idea what I wanted to do, and I essentially took a year out deciding what I wanted to do with my life while I was working a part time retail job. My best GCSEs were maths and physics and I always loved electronics and gadgets so I thought I’d try and build them for a career. Eventually I signed up for a Level 3 Advanced Diploma in Engineering course at the local college, after that I went to university, and the rest is history.
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