Whitehead High School 1979-1985 University of Ulster Jordanstown 1986-1989 Queens University Belfast 1990-1991
9 GCSE 3 A levels ( chemisty Biology Maths) BSc (hons) Chemistry MSc Chemical Engineering MBA
I have worked in both the public and private sectors. I started work for an electroplating company that made circuit boards for mobile phones, I then worked for Northern Ireland Environment agency tested water and effulent samples, I worked for a aircraft manufacturer as a chemist. Then moved onto a sales rep for a cement maunafactuer before taking my current position as analystical chemist for a water utility company
I am an analytical chemist for a water utility company
Northern Ireland Water
Favourite thing to do in my job: My favorite thing to do in Science is to really get stuck into a problem and find a way round it.
I test drinking water samples to see if there are any dangerous metals in it that would affect people’s health.
I work for Northern Ireland Water as an analytical chemist. I have been here for 7 years and still really enjoy my work. I analyse drinking water samples from all over Northern Ireland. Mostly I use an instrument known as an Inductively coupled Plasma- Mass Spectrometer or ICP-MS to find out the level of a range of metals within the samples. This is down to parts per billion levels which is very small. I test for metals such as Aluminium, lead, Arsenic, Mercury, Nickle, Manganese, Iron, Cadmium etc which have been linked to causing health problems in large amounts. I also am allowed to go out to local schools and colleges and tell the pupils about my work as a scientist. This is almost the best bit because it lets me show them that science is exciting and fun not just book work. Dont tell my boss cause he thinks working in the lab is more fun !
My Typical Day
My day involves setting up the instrument, calibrating it and analysing up to 200 water samples.
Each day I come in and usually start the ICP-MS and allow it to settle for 20 minutes. Its a bit like me and needs a while to get ready for work. ( I need a coffee first ! ). I then calibrate the instrument which means putting samples of a known concentration of each metal through the instrument so that it has something to measure the unknown samples against. I get the samples out of the oven where they have been “cooking” all night. This is to make sure that I get every last bit of metal out of the solution. I then build a worksheet of the samples to be analysed. I should be good at working in TESCOs as this involves a scanner. The samples are then put onto the instrument, I programe it and its analyses the samples and prints me out lots of results. I have to be able to look at these results and tell if they are above the health limits for each metal.
Before I go home I have to get all the samples that have been arriving throughout the day and add acid to each one. They then go into the oven for the next day.
Other things that happen during the day could be meetings which are usually a bit boring as I am the Deputy Quality Mananger. I am also a health and Safety officer so I have to check that the labs and offices are safe to work in.
I sometimes get to go to conferences and workshops to see whats new in the world of water science. That can be really hard work !
What I'd do with the prize money
I think I would buy some new equipment for my science roadshow.
I go out to local schools to explain what I do as a water scientists. I have a powerpoint presentation which shows what happens within our labs but no-one just like looking at pictures. So I bring along a few experiments so that the pupils can get their hands on some science. This kit consits of a filter unit so that we can try to clean up some dirty water and we make our own filters using plastic bottles. I would like to spend the money on buying a few more pieces of kit such as a hand held pH meter so that my presentation might encourage a few more budding scientists.
How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
Chatty Fun enthausatic
What's the best thing you've ever done in your career?
I like comming up with solutions to problems
What or who inspired you to follow your career?
My chemistry teacher said I wouldnt pass my GCSE so I did and the degree and the masters degree
Were you ever in trouble at school?
yes got caught in town by a teacher when I should have been in school
If you weren't doing this job, what would you choose instead?
A teacher or a nurse
Who is your favourite singer or band?
Manic Street Preachers
What's your favourite food?
Steak and chips
What is the most fun thing you've done?
Absailed off the Europa Hotel in Belfast for charity – it was a long way down
If you had 3 wishes for yourself what would they be? - be honest!
Loose weight, win the lottery, and buy a farm
Tell us a joke.
I wanted to tell you a good chemistry joke but all the good ones Argon