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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Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
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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