Graduate of the month
Tiago Sarmento – MPhys Physics

Choosing a university

At the time of application my ideal university was one:

  • With a strong school of Physics, which supports its students and has the resources and variety to offer a rich degree
  • Located in an equally rich and diverse city with a lot to offer in and out of the student bubble.

After a lot of research and visiting the university, I saw that the University of Manchester and the city of Manchester offered everything I wanted.

Choosing a course

Although I was and am very interested in many subjects and courses, I ultimately chose physics because it amazes me just how much we can learn about the world using our observations and maths. I wanted to be able to understand the bizarre theories that so accurately describe the universe.

Again, variety was very important to my decision. A Physics degree combines practical work with maths, computing, and writing, all backed up by critical analysis, in a way few courses do. I didn’t know how I work best and what areas interested me most, which is why it was important to do a course with variety.

Transferable skills

The critical consideration of evidence I developed by studying physics is the most important skill I learnt. To believe, for example, what Quantum Physics and Relativity tell us, you have to put evidence before your own intuition. The deeper I got into Physics the truer that became!

Being able to recognise when I was wrong or when I made a mistake was also an important skill I learned. As a result, I learned to question what I thought, to put the evidence first and to keep researching until I was satisfied with the information.

This treatment of evidence and accepting how often I’m wrong helped my job search because it led me to find out about all of my different options and methodically consider what I wanted before applying. The same methodical approach made my applications thorough and relevant to potential employers.

Most importantly I (think I) have the habit of questioning and understanding things in all aspects of my life, and I’ve found that a really satisfying and interesting frame of mind to have.

Current role

Luckily I was offered a job in January before graduating in July. I spent a long time looking for something I really wanted to do, and speaking to lots of people in different careers to get an idea of their day to day.

I will be working with a team of more experienced people to improve components of the ‘Negative Ion Source’ on the ISIS Neutron source, a particle accelerator. My title is Graduate Accelerator Physicist Trainee. That means working in the lab to build new parts and test them, simulating and analysing results on a computer, but mainly learning to do those things – ‘Trainee’ is the key word there!

Getting a job

It was important to me to be clear about what I wanted to apply for, and to be sure that’s what I wanted. Without understanding why or if the job suited me, I couldn’t tell the employer why I suited the job. For example, I contacted STFC before applying to ask about the job. Their reply hooked me and I tried to make my application the best it could be. My enthusiasm was apparent in the application and in the interview because I knew what the job entailed and I was sure I wanted to do it.

Working life

My time will be shared between my office, several labs, and occasional travel for conferences or courses. I’m told I can expect to sometimes get my hands dirty and break a sweat cutting through metal, but I will mainly be programming. I’ll be working with other people a lot too through various projects so the ‘routine’ will vary a lot! Ultimately my responsibility will be to contribute to improvements in the hardware, present developments at conferences, and learn to do those things better.

My contract states 40 hours a week, but on ‘flexi time’ , which means if I work more than that in one week I can take time off in another week.

Future career

It’s too early to say in detail! I want to experience a variety of work environments and projects. From there I hope to realise which ones I work most effectively in and naturally progress onto things in which I can offer my best. As long as I am able to do that, am contributing to a good cause, and am fairly rewarded for it, I’ll be happy with my career.