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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 Sinead Kenny from Smart Futures to give some advice for people considering this job:
|If it is possible to get some work experience during the summer holidays or weekends, it would be great. Find out if there are any positions (voluntary or otherwise) available in your local IT or University. Get involved in a hobby such as model making, this would be very helpful as it would help with dexterity & impart an understanding of the ways in which different materials interact when assembled together.|
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Caitriona Jackman, Planetary Scientist
Caitriona Jackman went to secondary school at Crescent College Comprehensive in Limerick. From there, she did a degree in Applied Physics at the University of Limerick. During that time she did a 9-month co-op placement at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Surrey. After graduation she moved to the University of Leicester to do a PhD in Planetary Science. She is now working as a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College London.
For Leaving Certificate I did the usual English, Irish, Maths, then Physics which I loved, Chemistry which I wasn’t great at (kept breaking stuff in the practicals), French, Geography and Music as an extra. I really enjoyed English actually, and even though a lot of my job involves computer programming and some hard maths and physics, I still rely heavily on my writing skills.
As important as it is to have technical ability in my job, it is still crucial to be able to communicate any results I find. One of the main tasks for me is to write papers for scientific journals, and occasionally to write articles for a more general audience.
My French is also useful because I collaborate with several people from a lab in Paris and they like if I make an effort to speak a bit of French, even though my accent is very embarrassing!
I went to secondary school at Crescent College Comprehensive in Limerick. Following on from there, I did a degree in Applied Physics at the University of Limerick.
During that time I did a 9-month co-op placement at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Surrey, and after graduation I moved to the University of Leicester to do a PhD in Planetary Science.
My PhD took me just under 3 years, and then I moved down to London to start my current job, as a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College London.
For me, my co-op placement was definitely the major stepping stone to my current career. It was my first chance to work with data from the Cassini spacecraft, which I then continued during my PhD.
I knew that I enjoyed physics while I was at university, but I would really urge people to try to arrange a work placement in the “real world” to get a feel for the day-to-day tasks that you might be doing in the future.
I have gone on several public speaking and media training courses. Also, because my job requires a reasonably high level of computer programming skill, I am always learning on the job.
I may at some point do some further training, but I’m less than two years out of my PhD, so I think I need a little bit of a break from exams!