Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Elva Bannon from Smart Futures to give some advice for people considering this job:

 

Elva Bannon

Mechatronic Engineer

Smart Futures

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  Elva Bannon

I found having education in a number of different areas of engineering to be beneficial to the work I am doing.

There is a whole world of possibilities out there for engineers, and it is difficult to know what subjects are necessary for the industry you will end up in. I was always interested in robotics and environmental issues, but it was not until my Masters that I really knew what I wanted to do.

General entry courses are quite useful, as you get a taste for a few different areas before you have to specialise, a lot of companies offer on the job training, and there is also the possibility of further study.

An engineering qualification teaches you so much more than just the technical subjects, but a way of looking at the world and solving problems in a logical and systematic way.

Engineers are sought after for these skills as much as the technical ones, and it opens up incredible opportunities. Engineering is not an easy route through college, but it is incredibly rewarding.

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Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
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Dr Thomať Kakouli-Duarte - Biosciences Lecturer

Dr Thomaé Kakouli-Duarte is a lecturer in biosciences at the Institute of Technology, Carlow (ITC). She talked to Smart Futures about her career path so far.

What type of scientist are you?

I work in environmental research and focus on microscopic creatures called nematodes that live in the soil. We use nematodes as indicators of environmental change on soil health. They are also used as biological control agents. We also look at the genetic conservation of the bumblebee because bumblebee populations have major problems.

What are your main tasks?

I teach a number of modules at undergraduate level, including molecular genetics and immunology, cell biology, and ecology. I also supervise postgraduate students at masters and PhD level.

What’s a typical day?

Most of my day involves teaching undergraduates or seeing how the postgraduates are getting on with their research.

What is most interesting about your job?

Interacting with students and seeing them doing well is the best thing. The fulfilment you get from watching students progressing is unbelievable. I also really enjoy learning new things.

What are the main challenges?

To complete a PhD is not only a big challenge for the students but also for me, the supervisor. It’s a stamina race for the students and for us.

What subjects did you take in school?

Maths is very important for many scientific disciplines so I did it at higher level. I also took physics, chemistry and biology.

What courses or training did you do after school?

My first degree was a branch of agriculture called crop production. That was in Greece as I’m Greek by birth. Then I did an MSc in crop protection in the UK. I stayed in the University of Reading and did my PhD in biological control using nematodes.

After my PhD, I found a job for 10 months in molecular genetics in NUI Maynooth. That was a new discipline for me. Another contract appeared in Maynooth after this and I was there for three years. You can start somewhere in your career but you can take steps to diversify.

What advice would you give to someone considering this job?

Hard work pays. You just have to wait, be patient, focus and have long-term plans. Break these into smaller bits and do one thing at a time, but have a big target.

What inspires your love of science and the environment?

My father was a forester and he used to take me out to look at plants, animals and bugs. I think it’s a miracle the way our planet functions. Now that our planet is in need of protection, this drives me to do something about it.

Article by: Smart Futures