What do you do at ISIS?
I am an electronic engineer with the Accelerator Controls Group. Our group designs and maintains electronic hardware, some of which is critical to the running of ISIS. I joined ISIS in 2017 on a 2-year graduate scheme and spent my first two years doing placements with different groups so I have only been in my current role for 6 months. I have spent most of those 6 months designing programs to run on FPGAs. An FPGA is an electronic component that you program to behave as you want it to. The FPGAs I have programmed send triggers that turn on and off various parts of ISIS at the right time.
What route did you take to get to where you are now?
I did a Bachelors' Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at University College Cork in Ireland. When I finished my degree, I was unsure what to do, so I did a year long internship at a molecular biology research laboratory. I really enjoyed being an engineer supporting scientific research and this led me to apply to the ISIS graduate scheme.
What key attributes do you need for your job?
Attention to detail – a lot of my work involves writing programs to run on electronic devices. These devices can have a lot of inputs and outputs and it is important to make sure each one is behaving as you expect it to.
Patience\Problem Solving\Methodical Approach – It is rare to write a program or design a piece of hardware that works first time. You usually have to do a lot of problem solving to get things to work. This requires patience and a methodical approach to finding errors and solutions.
Logical thinking – It is no good to design a piece of electronics or write a program that no one else can understand. Even if you are working on an individual project, the rest of your team will need to be able to provide support for that piece of hardware in the future. It is important to think logically about what you are designing to make it as simple and intuitive as possible.
What do you like most about your job?
I love being part of a multidisciplinary organisation and knowing that the work I do contributes to things that matter to me. One day when I was walking back to my office, I spotted a greenhouse. I later learned that the greenhouse was for IMAT, one of the ISIS instruments, to enable scientists to do studies on plants. One of the things they are looking at is how to grow rice with less water. Sustainability is something that is important to me and I am happy that my work plays a part in enabling such research. It also makes me happy to be able to stumble across these things as part of my day to day job.
What has been your greatest achievement in your role so far?
I am currently working on the FPGA program for a project, which when complete, will form part of a big upgrade to ISIS. It's not an achievement yet but it is quite exciting to work on such a big project.