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 Maria O'Neill from STEPS to give some advice for people considering this job:

 

Maria O'Neill

Civil Engineer

STEPS

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  Maria O'Neill

If you like working with others, and like problem solving then its definitely worth considering. Do you ever look at a bridge/skyscraper etc. and wonder how they did that? Or better still, are you looking at the way the road at home is laid out and thinking if they had of done something differently it would have been better.

Engineering is not a career people think about and say its helping people, but in many ways it is rewarding and just as much about helping people. Engineers design things used everyday that help people get to work, provide clean water, provide sewerage systems, care for the environment....

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Administrative people are interested in work that offers security and a sense of being part of a larger process. They may be at their best operating under supervisors who give clear guidelines, and performing routine tasks in a methodical and reliable way.

They tend to enjoy clerical and most forms of office work, where they perform essential administrative duties. They often form the backbone of large and small organisations alike. They may enjoy being in charge of office filing systems, and using computers and other office equipment to keep things running smoothly. They usually like routine work hours and prefer comfortable indoor workplaces.
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A day in the life of a Nanosystems Researcher


"At present we are trying understand how we can tailor the structure of zinc oxide nanorods so that we get nanorods growing on top of a network of nanowalls, than simply growing as separate little pillars" - Enda McGlynn, Nanotechnology Researcher 

8.45am – a rushed start this morning with a 9.00am lecture followed by a teaching lab session at Dublin City University.

My job description is a university physics lecturer. However, I am involved in an active research group in studying nanostructured semiconductors. 

Certainly that is a mouthful, and not a good thing to try to rhyme off the cuff on Monday morning! Nanostructures are materials systems, which have structured features on the scale of 100nm or less (less than 1000 times the width of a human hair!).

After lunch I meet with my research group (one postgraduate student and one postdoctoral fellow). 

At present we are trying to understand how we can tailor the structure of zinc oxide nanorods so that we get nanorods growing on top of a network of nanowalls, as shown in the left hand panel of the figure below, rather than simply growing as separate little pillars (shown in right hand panel). The width of these little pillars is less than 100nm. 

The problem is; none of us know how to do it so that it works every time. We discuss the possible options, what might be going on and how we can control it. 

Actually this is the key to our research, trying to develop control of the growth processes so that we are confident in our methods. We need to understand the physics, some chemistry and some engineering to do this: we are at the interface of a number of disciplines.

Zinc oxide (yes, the stuff in skin creams) has great potential for use in next generation UV and white light sources for data storage, energy efficient lighting and displays. Nanostructures based on zinc oxide may produce exceptionally efficient device structures. Hence the large mouthful used earlier in describing my research work.

By 4.00pm I’m ready to have a cup of coffee and a chat with my friend and colleague, Paul van Kampen, whose research is concerned with the best ways to teach physics. We talk about everything, physics, research grants, families and football and everything in between. Paul often has useful insights about my work, and occasionally I can repay the favour.

At the end of the day, when things have quietened down I will do the usual things, answering emails, clearing forms on my desk, trying to finish off writing a research paper for a journal on some previous results from our lab, and prepare for the next day’s challenges!

Article ~ iopireland.org 


Article by: Enda McGlynn ~ Institute of Physics in Ireland