Mechanical Engineer – Matt
Name: Matt Dodds | Age: 23
Degree & University:
Aeronautical Engineering, University of Glasgow
nucleargraduates, Mechanical Engineering graduate.
What do you actually do?
I’m currently on a six month secondment with Magnox North, and I work at a nuclear site in Scotland called Hunterston. Here I’m involved on a few projects. In one, I’m looking to see if it’d be possible to introduce a new system to deal with the waste. Trouble is, it’s an old building that was never designed to cope with changes like this. It means researching the different ways the waste would need to be remediated and working out if it’s feasible. If my idea is deemed possible, I’ll have to put forward some design proposals for any changes I recommend, and a plan for implementing them.
Did you contemplate a career in the nuclear sector while at university?
Not at all! When I was at university it was the Airbus, BAE Systems and European Space Agency graduate schemes I was checking out. I didn’t really know anything about nuclear other than from what I’d seen in The Simpsons. unfortunately there aren’t any doughnuts, just great prospects!
What was it that attracted you to the sector?
Initially it was the nucleargraduates scheme that was attractive to me rather than the industry itself. It was a new scheme, it seemed exciting, and gave me the opportunity to try a lot of different things which was good for me as I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I left uni. It was only after I did some research into the industry that I started to get into it. I realised it was quite similar to the aerospace industry in that we are still using much of the same principles that we’ve been following for the past 50 years.but there is research going on all the time, and it almost feels we are on the brink of some major breakthroughs (an economic supersonic passenger jet for aerospace, nuclear fusion for nuclear.)
Would you undertake further training to progress your career?
Yes. Between each placement we head off on development zones. Here we learn soft skills like how to give presentations. We even had to do a Dragons’ Den style pitch to a group of top businessmen. Our idea was a washing line that didn’t need pegs! (Needless to say, we didn’t secure an investment!)
What do you like most about what you do and are there any downsides?
Dealing with nuclear waste…just seems pretty cool! Downside would be that most nuclear sites are located in the middle of nowhere like Cumbria or Kent. It takes a bit of getting used to after living in cities during university.
Has anything amazing happened on your placements?
I worked on developing a strategy on what some newspapers called the “most dangerous building in Europe” and even managed to get a visit inside. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you where it is!
What skills do you need to succeed?
You need to be willing to challenge the status quo. Working as a graduate in this industry, you come across a lot of people who have been working in nuclear for 30 plus years. I like to think I bring a fresh pair of eyes to work.
What advice would you give other graduates wishing to come into this sector?
Don’t be afraid to ask what seems to be a stupid question. You hear this advice all the time, but it wasn’t until I heard quite a senior member of staff ask what a certain acronym (which I thought was common knowledge) meant that I really took heed of it. It’s as Chris Tarrant says – it’s only easy if you know the answer.
Are you planning to stay in the nuclear sector?
I’d like to stay in the nuclear sector. With new build coming up there has never been a better time to be getting into the industry – especially for engineers it seems. So I’d be stupid not to consider it and see what’s out there! Most of the companies that will be involved in nuclear in the UK are huge multi-national companies.so I’d like to look into the opportunities for spending some time living abroad in the future.
What would you say to any graduates who are still unsure about nuclear?
You don’t need to be involved in nuclear for long before you realise just how ridiculous the sensational tabloid headlines are. It really is a very safe industry, and nothing like The Simpsons! Also, a fact I read the other day was that you would have to live near a nuclear plant for 2000 years to equal the radiation exposure received from one medical X-ray!
Is there anything you would like to add?
What did one Uranium-238 nucleus say to the other? “Gotta split!” Who said scientists were boring?