Physics degrees and the Physics of trees

TreeHug

Hi, I’m Sam Henderson. I graduated with an MPhys from the University of Edinburgh about six months ago. In this career orientated post, I’m going to let you know about my EngD. Importantly, I’ll let you know how I got the job, as well as what I see as the pros and cons.

So, I graduated, hoorah. Like many people, I didn’t manage (nor did I want to) jump straight into a graduate scheme or PhD. As a reaction to five years I had spent hunched over a desk solving differential equations, I initially spent just looked for jobs that would get me outside. After a few discussions, I settled on criterion for the jobs I would look for.

Primarily, I wanted sensible hours. I know who I am, and there are too many books, films, games, mountains, valleys and people to read, see, play, explore and meet working entrepreneurial hours. Additionally, I didn’t want to spend the next few years of my life in front of a screen. So, I applied, and applied and applied and… nothing, until I saw a position in Forest Research (Forestry Commission’s research division) on the civil service jobs website.

I applied for it even though I wasn’t confident I met the criteria (I was right, I didn’t get the job or even an interview). However, my application was seen, spotted by the person who would become my boss. A few days later, I got an invitation to come to an interview, which turned into an offer, which turned into my job.

My EngD is a collaboration between the University of Surrey and Forest Research (the research division of the Forestry Commission). For those who don’t know, an EngD is a doctorate, but one where you primarily work in industry. This means that you get an amazing qualification, experience working for an employer, and, you get generally get paid more (roughly £18-24K tax free).

For those interested, in my project, I’m studying if and how changing water conditions can cause cracking inside living trees. To do this I’m using a combined experimental and computational approach. Experimentally, I’m using a custom-built MRI machine to look at the water distribution inside living trees. I’ll use the data from experiments to help me develop a computer model of the tree cells, which will incorporate realistic fluid dynamics.

I’ll admit I have had to make some compromises. Truthfully, a large amount of my work is desk-bound, and I have had some long days writing reports for deadlines.

On the other hand, I get to work in a scenic location on a project I care about, I get to cycle to work, I get to grow/perform experiments on real trees, and I generally have a regular 38 hour working week.

Something that is important to remember about EngDs, is that each project, and each company is different. Do your research, and, if you have the luxury, think about what is important to you.

My experience of reading a stranger’s words on the internet has been that I can only take one point away. If you feel the same, take with you the comforting fact that with some time and planning, and a bit of work, physics can probably get you where you want to go.

I’m totally happy to be contacted by email, if anyone wants any advice from a student who was in a similar place to them.  Sam Henderson j.s.henderson@surrey.ac.uk

SCI Day of Science and Careers

Organised by  School of Physics academic Dr Tiffany Wood, Director of Edinburgh Complex Fluids Partnership and Chair, SCI Scotland Group

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Calling UG and PG students across all scientific disciplines

SCI’s Day of Science & Careers , University of Edinburgh, 5 April 2017

Explore a wide range of careers in science-based industries. Speakers from industrial, academic and independent backgrounds will present their career pathway and offer insights in to what to look out for, and what to consider when choosing your next steps. Plus sessions on interview skills and CV writing, with opportunities to network with speakers and fellow delegates.

Talks will include the following areas:

  • Working in Analytical Chemistry
  • Intellectual Property & Patents
  • Life in an SME
  • Scientific Publishing
  • Academic Careers
  • Regulatory Affairs
  • Academic/Industrial Partnerships
  • Scientific Marketing

For the full timed programme and to book online please visit: http://bit.ly/DOSCS17

Day of Science and Careers Scotland 2017 flyer_final

Scottish physicists win five IOP medals

Five out of sixteen IOP awards went to Scottish physicists this year.

IOP Awards recognise teams and individuals who have made a substantial contribution to the development or reputation of physics in the UK or Ireland. You can find out more about their work in academia and in industry on the IOP news website

One of the winners is Dr Graeme Malcolm received the Swan Medal award for his role in founding M Squared Lasers, and his contribution to the design and manufacture of transformative award-winning photonics products. The IOP’s president, Professor Roy Sambles said:

“the revolutionary technology M Squared develops has global impact” and that this was in no small part due to Malcolm’s drive and commitment to his work.

Malcolm has created two multi-million pound companies. Together, they generate more than £300m and employ around 150 high-level graduates and PhDs, designing more than 25 world-class products and exporting high-value laser systems all over the world.

M Squared Lasers is now one of the UK’s highest-growth technology companies. with more than 70 staff specialising in the development and manufacture of high-performance lasers for aiding research into quantum technologies, chemical sensing and biophotonics. You can find out more about it and Malcolm’s work here.

Previous winners of the Swan Business & Innovation medals include those working in KP Technology, IBM Research, Renishaw, Oxford Instruments Nanoscience, Cambridge Display Technology, Andor Technology.

Space scientist and science communicator

You may recognise Maggie Aderin-Pocock as she is a familiar face and voice on television news and science broadcasts. Maggie’s first role was with the Ministry of Defence, combining knowledge from her first degree in physics with her doctorate in mechanical engineering. She returned to academia to work on building an instrument to bolt on to the Gemini telescope. She is currently working in both industry and academia as a space scientist and science communicator.

 

From CERN to medical imaging to intellectual property

Elizabeth Vorkurka gained a scholarship to undertake a PhD in high energy physics, and completed her research at Cern in Switzerland. She began her career as a research associate in the medical imaging department at the University of Manchester, and from there moved into intellectual property protection for a medical imaging company in Edinburgh. She is now working as an intellectual property management and innovation consultant.  Find out more about her career path below:

Do you have a strong understanding of physics fundamentals including analytical, theoretical, experimental and creative capabilities?

…then TTP The Technology Partnership want you. They have internship and graduate opportunities for physicists.

As one of a cluster of independent technology consultancies in Cambridge, they use their expertise in science and engineering to help other companies, large and small to create and exploit new technology. There is a good profile in the latest issue of Physics World which focuses on Andrew Baker-Campbell, a physics PhD  graduate now working for TTP.  In his first year he:

  • helped to improve an ultrasonic air pump (an invention that won an Innovation Award from the IOP)
  • printed electronic circuits
  • made high-speed videos of drug particles in an air flow for research on inhaler technology

He said he was looking for a career with lots of variety where he could:

  • use his physics on a day-to-day basis
  • face real-world challenges and make an impact on them quickly
  • be involved in all aspect of a product’s development
  • be able to develop his own ideas

You could find out more about his role in Physics world magazine and more about TTP here: