Diarmaid Mac Mathúna, Video Producer
"I had a very enthusiastic physics teacher at secondary school," says Diarmaid Mac Mathúna, head of production at Dublin-based independent TV company Agtel.
"He really crystallised my interest in the subject." So after taking physics and maths as part of his Leaving Certificate (Irish equivalent to 'A' Levels), Diarmaid chose experimental physics as a specialist subject during his four year science degree at Trinity College Dublin. He graduated with a first class BA Mod in physics in 1999.
"For my third year project I had the chance to go to Germany and study with a research group," he recalls. "That was a lot of fun and opened up the whole world of real-life physics to me. I was very lucky in that we made a few insights that got published, and that encouraged my enthusiasm further." Diarmaid was equally interested in the media, and during his MSc - in which he investigated magnetism in materials that might provide data storage in the next generation of hard disk drives - the native Irish speaker began writing about technology for an Irish language newspaper. "I also had a science show on a local community radio station that broadcast in the Irish language. I started to realise my interest wasn't solely in fundamental research but also in telling people about it and trying to get them interested in it as well."
As TV "seemed very exciting", Diarmaid asked to be shown round Agtel, who produce corporate and educational DVDs and podcasts as well as programmes for broadcast. On the advice of one of Agtel's employees, he took an intensive three-month video production course, returning to the company for the work experience phase of the course. He has been with Agtel ever since, gradually moving through the ranks from researcher to head of production.
"An average week sees me dealing with clients to plan shoots, going out on shoots and editing the resulting footage, as well as developing ideas and putting in tenders for new work," he explains. As many of his commissions involve science, Diarmaid finds his physics background invaluable. "Two of our biggest projects at the moment are making educational DVDs for the European Space Agency, and working with the Irish government's Discover Science and Engineering Programme (DSE) to get more physical science, engineering and technology on television. Physics training is very important as it gives you credibility when you're trying to establish networks and get stories from scientists."
He equally values his IOP membership. "I joined when I was in my first year at college because I wanted Physics World. I still enjoy reading it, as it helps me keep abreast of what's happening in the world of physics. Another advantage of membership is finding out about the events being organised by the Irish branch of the IOP because with the DSE project we are trying to promote the science events that are happening in Ireland. Also the on-line training courses [available to IOP members] are extremely useful. I recently signed up for one on coaching, which is relevant in my job when I'm working with a team of people. Some of the training is free or costs very little, so you can't complain about that!"