- Do you like mathematics and/or physics?
- Do you like solving puzzles and other kinds of problems?
- Are you interested in new discoveries in science?
- Do you enjoy working with computers?
If your answer to most of these questions is yes, you may want to explore the Physical and Mathematical Sciences sector for career options.
The biggest myth about physics is that it is too difficult for all but the next Einsteins. This is simply not true. Yes, physics can be challenging, but so is anything that you study seriously. Many successful physicists can tell you that they were not the top students in their schools. What they had was interest and motivation.
Most physicists work in research and development. Some do basic research to increase scientific knowledge. Physicists who conduct applied research build upon the discoveries made through basic research and work to develop new devices, products, and processes. For example, basic research in solid-state physics led to the development of transistors and, then, to integrated circuits used in computers.
Physicists also design research equipment, which often has additional unanticipated uses. For example, lasers are used in surgery, microwave devices function in ovens, and measuring instruments can analyse blood or the chemical content of foods.
Physicists may work in inspection, testing, quality control and other production-related jobs in industry. A science degree with physics will provide an excellent training in problem-solving and computing skills that can be applied in a wide variety of careers in industry, business, government, university and education.
Physics graduates can also opt for applied research jobs in private industry or take on non-traditional physics roles, often in computer science, for example - systems analyst or database administrator. Some physics graduates do a hDip. and become science teachers in secondary schools.
The following are typical areas of employment:
- Financial risk analysis (mathematics)
- Stock market analysis (mathematics)
- Lasers and optics (telecommunications, optometry, holography, etc.)
- Environmental science (weather, oceanography, pollution control, etc.)
- Medicine (medical imaging, radiation treatment, lasers)
- Space science (mission specialists, satellite design, etc.)
- Acoustics (speaker research, hall design, etc.)
- Electricity and magnetism (power management, antenna design, instrumentation, etc.)
- Nuclear science (reactor design, waste management, etc.)
- Materials science (semiconductor devices, magnetic thin films, superconductivity, computer technologies, biomaterials etc.)
Research opportunities are available in the area of Physics and Theoretical Physics in Irish Universities. Holders of a degree in astronomy are qualified to work in planetariums running science shows, to assist astronomers doing research, and to operate space-based and ground-based telescopes and other astronomical instrumentation.
| Useful Career Sheet from Discover Science + Engineering [pdf files]
Nanotechnology refers to a field of applied science and technology whose theme is the control of matter on the atomic and molecular scale, generally 100 nanometers or smaller, and the fabrication of devices or materials that lie within that size range. That's the scale of several atoms and small molecules. It is tens of thousands of times smaller than the width of a hair. Your fingernails grow about one nanometre per second.
There are three major areas involved in nanotechnology:
- NanoBiotechnology - integrating nanotechnology with biotechnology, at the level of molecules and cells. This is a two-way process - it's about using nanotechnology tools to study biological processes at the molecular level, and using biological means to produce technical nanosystems
- NanoMaterials - these are "atomically exact" in a way that traditional materials can never be. This gives them new and useful properties, such as great strength for their weight
- NanoElectronics - electronics at a scale smaller than a micron (one millionth of a metre). Such tiny circuits will mean smaller and incredibly powerful computers
The NanoIreland project is part of preparing Ireland for the nanotechnology revolution. It is helping to shape government policy and aims to assist Ireland to make the right choices around nanotechnology.
Further information can be found on the science.ie website. You can read a full book "Engines of Creation - The Coming Era of Nanotechnology" online by K. Eric Drexler
Much of the work using mathematics is done by individuals with titles other than mathematician. In fact, because mathematics is the foundation on which so many other careers are built, the number of workers using mathematical techniques is much greater than the number formally considered to be mathematicians.
For example, engineers, computer scientists, physicists, and economists are among those who use mathematics extensively. Some professionals, including statisticians, actuaries, and operations research analysts, are actually specialists in a particular branch of mathematics.
Frequently, applied mathematicians are required to collaborate with other workers in their organizations to achieve common solutions to problems.
Mathematics is the oldest and most fundamental of all the sciences. Mathematicians use mathematical theory, computational techniques, algorithms, and the latest computer technology to solve economic, scientific, engineering, physics, and business problems. The work of mathematicians falls into two broad classes—theoretical (pure) mathematics and applied mathematics. These classes, however, are not sharply defined and often overlap.
Theoretical mathematicians advance mathematical knowledge with pure and abstract theories. They may develop new principles or explore existing maths in a new way. Although these workers seek to increase basic knowledge without necessarily considering its practical use, such pure and abstract knowledge has been instrumental in producing or furthering many scientific and engineering achievements. Many theoretical mathematicians are employed by university faculties, dividing their time between teaching and conducting research.
Applied mathematicians, on the other hand, use theories and techniques, such as mathematical modeling and computational methods, to formulate and solve practical problems in business, government, and the engineering industry. For example, they may analyse the most efficient way to schedule airline routes between cities, the effects and safety of new drugs, the aerodynamic characteristics of an experimental automobile, or the cost-effectiveness of alternative manufacturing processes.
Applied mathematicians working in industrial research and development may develop or enhance mathematical methods when solving a difficult problem. Some of the career titles in this area would be actuaries, operations research, analysts or statisticians.
There are many career opportunities for numerate graduates. A mathematical or related degree can open up a whole world of employment opportunities and can keep pace with whichever areas are currently thriving. Graduates of Financial Mathematics and Actuarial Science degrees can look forward to stimulating careers, high earnings and professional status in the financial services industry. Demand for Maths graduates continues not only in Ireland, but world-wide, particulalrly in the financial services and IT sectors.
The most recent National Skills Bulletin reports difficult to fill (DTF) occupations in several Financial roles including:
- Financial risk analysts
- Credit specialists
- Insurance underwriters and
- Claims specialists