Physical and Mathematical Sciences is a broad sector, with many potential career paths for those with qualifications and suitable skillsets, including medical work, engineering, teaching, finance and technology.
The engineering sector itself is made up of a wide range of companies providing a diverse range of products and services.
The most usual route is through taking a degree at a third level college, often following this with a post graduate qualification.
Students can study mechanical engineering at Level 6, 7 or 8 in colleges across Ireland or they can study a general engineering degree then specialise in mechanical engineering in the final year.
Physicists want to understand how the world works, in every detail and at the deepest level. This includes everything from elementary particles, to nuclei, atoms, living cells, solids, liquids, gases, living organisms, the brain, supercomputers, the atmosphere, galaxies and the universe itself.
There is a whole host of career opportunities for mechanical engineering graduates.
A wide range of opportunities exist in both electrical and electronic engineering.
Smart Futures is a government-industry programme providing science, technology, engineering andmaths (STEM) careers information to second-level students, parents, teachers and careers guidance counsellors in Ireland.
Rachel Bennett is an Industrial Pharmacist with Abbvie. She works with a team responsible for making chemicals safely, and in a manner that meets all quality standards.
Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
My placements throughout school and university. You don’t know what a job is like until you can experience it. It’s as much about finding out what you don’t want to do – I was set on studying medicine or veterinary science and then decided after placements and after working in hospital pharmacy that I’d prefer to study pharmacy.
Describe a typical day?
I start my day with a shift handover from the previous shift to get an update on process status for each product. I have a team of six pharmaceutical technicians reporting to me so I try to spend time with them to plan their day. We then have update meetings with other department managers, and spend the rest of the day ensuring the smooth running of each process, answering technical questions, scheduling maintenance work, troubleshooting, and report writing.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
Currently I am working as an Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) Technical Shift Leader – we are part of the manufacturing group, and make the chemical that goes into tablets and capsules so that it has an effect. Our group is responsible for making these chemicals safely, and in a manner that meets all quality standards – both within the company, and those laid down by regulatory agencies in different countries where we sell our products.In this role in addition to a technical background, I need to have good attention to detail, methodical problem solving skills, and good report writing skills. There’s also a people management side to this too so I have to work well as part of a team, while being a strong but balanced leader.
What are the main challenges?
Every day is different! I never have time to get bored, and there’s always something to learn; new equipment, unfamiliar processes, technical challenges. Great for a curious mind! I also get to work with most departments on a daily basis: Lab, Quality, Technical Operations, Site Services, IT, Engineering, so get a good awareness of what is happening around the site.
What is your education to date?
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
My PhD taught me how to work through a problem independently with minimal guidance. In the middle of the night, there may be nobody else onsite to advise on a problem so the ability to work through a problem and make an informed decision is critical. Independent learning is also key. A Pharmacy degree opens doors to many career opportunities most people have never thought about in addition to community pharmacy – clinical, research, medical writer, and industry. Pharmacists in industry are qualified to work in almost any area of the business.
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
I currently work fixed 12 hour shifts, so if I work two days, I get two days off and then can have a lot of time to focus on my own hobbies, and get shopping etc. However, I’ve only every other weekend off so it can be difficult at times to catch up with friends and family, and to fit in around sporting activities. Hospital and Community Pharmacy have more ‘normal’ hours in general although being on-call is still expected as is the case with most clinical roles.
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
Internships in a Pharmaceutical company – most companies offer internships, and an increasing number of pharmaceutical companies are now offering 6 month Pharmacist pre-registration training if a Pharmacist has an interest early on in their career. Clinical and research experience is also a critical part of becoming a well-rounded pharmacist.