Initiative, research and critical thinking, and time management

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m Stuart, and I am living in Cardiff at the moment. I studied MPhys Physics with Astrophysics at The University of Manchester. For the past 8 months, I have been working as a Project Scientist at a small company building cryogenic detector systems. My job involves assembling cryostats, testing their operation, and troubleshooting problems, as well as communicating with customers and suppliers.

How are initiative, research and critical thinking, and time management important in your current role?

In my line of work things rarely work first time, so I have to use my knowledge, experience, and critical thinking to understand what is happening in a physical system, propose hypotheses, and test them.

As my role is very open-ended, I have a lot of freedom to work how I see fit. I manage my time by deciding when to prioritise urgent jobs and when to work on ongoing research projects, which, long-term, may help improve our products or our workflow.

How did you develop each of these skills during your degree?

My university degree covered a wide variety of general physics topics, giving me a broad knowledge which helps me find novel solutions to problems. I had to manage my time between studying for various exams, and it was important to take the initiative and reach out when I got stuck on something. My lab work taught me not only practical skills, but also the ability to follow the scientific method, and expand my research in new directions to keep learning.

How did these skills help you get your first graduate job?

My Master’s project in cryogenics was a big help in getting the job I have now. In fact, I repurposed my project presentation slides to demonstrate expert knowledge at the interview. I was also able to demonstrate that I had taken my research in new directions, showing initiative. At the interview, I had a small assembly task involving electronics, which I completed using skills I gained in University labs. I was also asked some physics questions, which I worked through using my lecture knowledge.

What were the main factors that influenced your choice of first graduate job?

When looking for a job I wanted something that was still closely related to physics. I had a preference for a small company as I would have a wider variety of day-to-day duties. The job gives me experience in a field that I enjoy working in, and there is the opportunity to travel occasionally to places across the globe. I did not mind where the job was (I ended up moving over 200 miles in the end), although now that I am in Cardiff I appreciate the location as I greatly enjoy the city.