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.
Damien Haberlin is a Phd researcher working in Ecology. His job can involve long days in a boat or in a lab so it's quiet varied.
Who are the people who most influenced your career direction?
Describe a typical day?
It’s difficult to describe a typical day in research, because there are several aspects to what we do. During field work, our day can be dictated by daylight, tides and the seasonality of the species we study. In my case, jellyfish mainly occur in summer so most of my fieldwork is done then, which can mean long days in a boat, sometimes working around the clock. During the winter tends to be when I can focus on lab work, analysis and writing. In addition, we would attend meetings, conferences and workshops to discuss our work and look for new research opportunities.
What are the main tasks and responsibilities?
We are primarily field ecologists and therefore, we cannot setup controlled experiments, which means we must try to understand a species or an ecosystem as it occurs naturally. This means that our data collection must be designed to answer specific questions and so experimental design and a good understanding of statistics are crucial. In terms of analysing the data we collect, an ability to programme is increasingly important. We often use satellite data and GIS in our analyses, so an understanding of different types of data is important. In more general terms, it’s important to be organised, to be able to communicate and present information to other people.
What are the main challenges?
I used to really dislike writing, but as I have developed in my career it has become easier, and sometimes even enjoyable. My biggest challenge is presenting to large audiences; I don’t like this. But it is unavoidable and usually once I begin talking it’s fine, however, I hate the nervous feeling before speaking.
What is your education to date?
What aspects of your education have proven most important for your job?
Many of the practical skills I’ve developed have proven to be essential over the years; driving boats, diving and an aptitude for fixing things and improvising in the field. In a more academic sense, good writing and a strong grounding in math and especially statistics are absolutely essential. Finally, but certainly not least, you must be able to work with people!
Does your job allow you to have a lifestyle you are happy with?
I love the sea and tend to snorkel, dive and surf in my spare time, so you’re never really switched off - work and life over-lap a lot. I don’t buy into a lot of the work-life balance stuff, life is life and you make time for the things you want or need to do. The majority of research positions are contract based and few of us have permanent roles, so job security is certainly an issue in research.
What advice would you give to someone considering this job?
What kinds of work experience would provide a good background for this position?
It’s important to develop academic and practical skills if you can. Experience of field work is always sought after and stands out in a CV. Likewise, a good level of math and the ability to programme are increasingly important. I think project managers often look for a balance between those two aspects.