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 Mary Ita Heffernan from Health Service Executive to give some advice for people considering this job:

Mary Ita Heffernan

Social Worker

Health Service Executive

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Mary Ita Heffernan

Whilst in secondary school, I changed my mind many a time regarding the career path I wanted to pursue! I always knew that I wanted to work with people but was unsure about the profession which would most suit my interests and skills in this regard.

While in school, I definitely found that being unsure about the type or area of work you want to pursue is a very difficult and confusing position to be in, especially given the array of career choices now available and the pressure one feels in trying to make one’s mind up.

To this end, I would strongly advise anybody in this position to research courses and job descriptions well in order to make the most informed decision possible at that time in your life. 

I recommend one tries to gain as much work experience as possible as it will provide you with valuable insight into your skills, ability, likes/dislikes for certain areas of employment!!!!

Also I would research the courses and job areas as much as possible so that you can make an informed decision regarding your choices. If you can't gain enough information in school, contact the college directly or arrange to talk to somebody who facilitates the course. In particular, it would be really valuable to talk to somebody in the profession to gain a realistic and practical insight into the job.

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Social
The Social person's interests focus on some aspect of those people in their environment. In all cases the social person enjoys the personal contact of other people in preference to the impersonal dealings with things, data and ideas found in other groups.

Many will seek out positions where there is direct contact with the public in some advisory role, whether a receptionist or a counsellor. Social people are motivated by an interest in different types of people, and like diversity in their work environments. Many are drawn towards careers in the caring professions and social welfare area, whilst others prefer teaching and other 'informing' roles.
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A day in the Life of a Computational Physicist

"Instead of warding off evil trolls or jumping plumbers with a joystick, I get to create the game, the physics, to help see how the real world works". 

My work day begins around 9:00, depending on the number 10 bus. Sometimes there isn’t one for a half an hour and then they come all at once. I always wonder if five 10s come in a row is that the same as one big 50?

As a physicist, I always think about systems and how they work, whether I am at work or, as usual at 8:45 in the morning, waiting for a bus. For example, when the buses get bunched together, should the drivers wait for the lead bus to get ahead before continuing? But, by waiting, no one goes anywhere. And how does the system work when affected by outside influences (traffic, rain, an accident) or, in the language of physics, perturbed by external forces?

Thinking about how things work, from buses to quantum physics, to laser-produced plasmas, are the hallmarks of all physicists.

Having arrived at my office, I start as almost everyone does by turning on my computer. As a computational physicist who specialises in modelling laser-produced plasmas, I couldn’t work without an extremely fast computer, capable of performing more calculations than imaginable. If I am developing a model, I spend the day ‘running’ and testing my program. All the equations get coded into the program. I have to check for bugs, removing anything from typos to correctly coding an algorithm which is the exact ‘recipe’ for how to calculate a solution.

Then the program is ready for field testing, comparing the theoretical to experimental results. In the Spectroscopy lab, there are experimental physicists, who record spectra, a picture of the light radiation given off at different frequencies. By comparing theory to experiment, we can understand more about the system, in this case the interaction of light and matter. Today, models are at the core of computational physics.

Modelling physical systems is great fun. It’s like a computer game, but instead of warding off evil trolls or jumping plumbers with a joystick, I get to create the game, the physics, to help see how the real world works.

What could be more interesting and challenging than trying to predict the outcome of an experiment before the experiment?

At the end of my day, I walk the three miles home. It’s nice to give atoms and buses a break. Alas, as I walk, I wonder how the traffic button at a pedestrian crosswalk works. That system I may never understand.

Article by: John White ~ via Institutute of Physics in Ireland