Dr Darren Groombridge
I did a PhD in experimental nuclear physics at the University of Edinburgh from 1998 to 2001. This involved using an experimental technique (particle-accelerator beams and a gas target) to measure nuclear reactions of astrophysical interest. I continued this work as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of York for 2.5 years. I left academia in 2004 to pursue a career in industry and have focused my career in applied nuclear physics and worked in areas ranging from drug development, cancer research and the nuclear industry.
I moved into the nuclear industry three years ago. This was a logical progression given the nuclear renaissance the UK was (and is still) experiencing. As a senior consultant (nuclear safety) at AREVA Risk Management Consulting Ltd, I was responsible for developing safety assessments for clients involved with the UK nuclear industry. I also worked on parts of the safety case for the new fusion facility (ITER) at Cadarache, France.
For me, the transition from academic research to industry was relatively straightforward. In 2003 I was thinking about leaving academia and read a feature in Nature that year, which focused on careers in the North of England. I was amazed to discover that a local biomedical company was expanding and looking to take on nuclear physicists! Hence my experience was directly relevant.
The main challenges of moving into industry were not having the same intellectual freedom and the lack of flexibility. However, one quickly gets used to this.
My academic background has been extremely valuable and provided me with a firm foundation of knowledge and experience that I needed to develop my career. The most useful transferable skills have been the ability to learn quickly and the ability to manage my time effectively.
Think about the skills you have gained from academic training. Employers are usually more interested about transferable skills (e.g. project management, time management, team working etc) than your research specifically. It is also important to network. Go to recruitment events and make use of the university career service. Be pro-active about your career. I found my first non-academic job by contacting an employer after reading about them in a career publication. Although they did not have any vacancies at the time, they kept my details on file and contacted me a few months later.
last edited: October 01, 2012