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 Louise Lynch from ESB to give some advice for people considering this job:

Louise Lynch

Structural Engineer

ESB

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Louise Lynch
If you always want to know how things work and are fascinated by structures like grandstands or bridges then a career in civil and structural engineering may suit you. If in school you enjoy subjects like maths and physics, and since these would be the foundations to the engineering college course, you will probably enjoy the course. If you like the idea of working for a company where you could get to travel, then international companies such as ESB International would suit you well. Engineering is a good and challenging career so you have to want to be challenged in your work, to solve problems and to come up with ways to improve designs.
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Investigative?
Investigative
The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with clever technology. They will often follow the latest developments in their chosen field, and prefer mentally stimulating environments.
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A day in the life of a Medical Physicist

"When injected, this radiopharmaceutical will travel to certain parts of the patients’ anatomy. Then we can use a Gamma Camera to image that part of the anatomy" - Una O'Connor, Medical Physicist

It’s only 8:00am but in one hour patients will be arriving for their Nuclear Medicine scans, so need to get those injections prepared. This is my first task of the day, combining pharmaceuticals with radioactive tracers to make up all the different patient injections.

When injected, this radiopharmaceutical will travel to certain parts of the patients’ anatomy. Then we can use a Gamma Camera to image that part of the anatomy. The images are used for diagnostic information and to help make clinical decisions.

I work at a specially designed cabinet in the Radiopharmacy. The cabinet is shielded with lead, which will attenuate almost all the radiation that I’m working with. I have to manipulate vials and syringes of radioactive material but it is all contained in lead pots and lead syringe shields so I am very well protected from the radiation.

Some of the radioactive material needed for today’s clinic comes ready-prepared in capsules from the manufacturer, in which case I don’t have to prepare the injection. Instead, I measure the activity of each capsule in a dose calibrator and make sure it is the correct dose for the patient.

I know it has decayed since the manufacturer measured it, so I calculate the expected activity and this matches well to what I measured in the dose calibrator, so I’m happy with my results.

I’m finished in time for a 9.30am meeting with a consultant dermatologist to review our progress on a research project we’re undertaking in Ultraviolet Phototherapy. UV radiation is used very successfully in hospitals to treat skin conditions, but the dose has to be very carefully controlled.

We are investigating the different methods for testing the patients’ skin before treatment starts – there’s always room for improvement and new devices coming on the market all the time. The project is progressing well so we decide to submit our results for presentation at an upcoming scientific conference…. it will be good to share the results from our study and hopefully get some feedback from other physicists.

After lunch, it’s over to the university part of the hospital to give a lecture to a group of doctors and nurses about laser safety and the hazards they might encounter in the course of their work. The group is full of questions and we have a good discussion afterwards about their practical experiences with lasers.

I drop into the library after the lecture to download a new report on X-ray image quality as I’m testing a new digital X-ray room next week - no more films! Will have a read of it for any new recommendations, but I’ll have to leave that task until tomorrow.

Una O’Connor ~ www.iopireland.org

Article by: Una O'Connor - Institute of Physicists Ireland