UCC Physics Graduate Profiles
Laura Horan, Technical Project Lead and Sensor Specialist
I had the opportunity to learn how to become a hands on scientist, trained to think outside the box and grasp complex concepts and ideas both quickly and easily. In a way, my degree at UCC retrained my thinking processes. I also learned never to be intimidated of things I don't at first understand, because I know that after a little effort I will understand. This has applied to every aspect of my life outside of work, such as learning new languages and cultures when I have moved to different countries for work and travel.
Cuttent job title:
Technical project lead and sensor specialist.
What appeals to you about your current role :
My job consists of two roles, to research and develop new sensor technologies and also to lead customer projects from concept to start of series production. In my role as sensor specialist I like being given the challenge to create a concept and follow the sensor development through from beginning to end. Reaching and achieving the solution to a technical problem gives me a real thrill. Plus I habe the opportunity to always learn new skills and learn new concepts. Also in my role as a technical project lead, I find it very interesting to work both with the end customer and with the team to find solutions for the customer needs. I also like being so closely involved with the decision making process, the feeling of responsibility is also highly rewarding, and helps me to feel like a valued member of the team.
Course/subjects studied in UCC and year of graduation:
I studied Physics in UCC and graduated in 2009 with a BSc(Hons) in Physics. Afterwards I did a PhD at Tyndall (joined with UCC Physics department) and graduated in 2013 with a PhD.
What influenced or helped you decide to study this degree?
As I was finishing secondary school, I knew I wanted to pursue a science subject but I was unsure where i wanted to specialise. However a visit to the UCC open day convinced me that a degree in Physics was the right decision for me. I had the chance to meet the lecturers at UCC and their passion for Physics and their own topics of study really impressed me. From then on I made up my mind to study Physics at UCC.
Most relevant main or subsidiary topic studied:
Throughout my studies at UCC I got a taste of all different aspects of physics topics. However the ones that have helped me the most in my career is the Optics and mechanics modules, plus the maths and programming modules.
Best memory of UCC:
I think the best part of my experience at UCC was joining the clubs. I was part of the squash club during my studies at UCC, and it felt like being a part of a small family
What role do you feel UCC played in getting you to where you are today?
The Physics courses i studied at UCC gave me a wide appreciation of the field of Physics. I had the opportunity to learn how to become a hands on scientist, trained to think outside the box and grasp complex concepts and ideas both quickly and easily. In a way, my degree at UCC retrained my thinking processes. I also learned never to be intimidated of things I don't at first understand, because I know that after a little effort I will understand. This has applied to every aspect of my life outside of work, such as learning new languages and cultures when I have moved to different countries for work and travel.
Brief overview of work history (to highlight the path to where you are now):
After my undergraduate degree, I moved to the Tyndall National Institute and worked as a PhD student on fibre optic sensors. In 2013,after I finished my PhD work, i moved to Southampton in the UK and worked as an R&D Engineer at CooperVision (a contact lens manufacturer). There I worked to develop the optical metrology systems, investigated new lens designs and worked for children's clinical trials to prevent Myopia. In 2016 I moved to Konstanz in Germany and began working as a Technical Sensor Specialist for BCS Automotive Interface Solutions (an automotive company). For over two years I worked on lens development for new sensor solutions. In 2019 I was assigned as the Technical lead for one of our automotive customer's sensor solutions.
What advice would you give to current students that are about to graduate/enter the job market?
I think the most important part of job happiness and satisfaction is in a role where you can continue to grow and develop yourself, your skills and your interests. When you can see your progression you will naturally be happier with your day to day tasks. I would also look for a manager or more experienced professional who can act as a mentor for you, sometimes in a big company and team, it is good to have a voice that can back you up, particularly as a female engineer working in an all male team.