Andrew Cooper, BSc (Hons) Physics with Nuclear and Particle Physics (2007)

Degree - BSc (Hons) Physics with Nuclear and Particle Physics

Graduated - 2007

Current Employment – Cavendish Nuclear Limited - Senior Shielding Analyst (Daresbury, Warrington)

What are your main responsibilities in your current job?

I specialise in shielding assessment of dose rates and doses to operators and the public for construction, operation and decommissioning of facilities on nuclear sites.  These assessments can range from the dose profile of a single drum of radioactive waste, to the dose profile of a large facility with multiple sources of radiation. When shielding is required to decrease dose rates I advise on the most appropriate shielding materials and thicknesses, based on their effectiveness, cost and physical characteristics.

Which skills are important for your job?

An understanding of nuclear physics is essential. I need to have a detailed understanding of the interaction of radiation with matter and the characteristics of radiation emitting materials and activation of materials from neutron bombardment.

Computer programming is a vital tool. I use visual basic in Excel to do a lot of difficult number crunching – the computer programming module in my second year at Keele helped a lot with this. I also work on extremely complex software models capable of accurately simulating an entire nuclear fusion torus like JET.

I found the dissertation and communication skills module in my third year good preparation for explaining concepts like Compton scattering and pair-production to the engineers I work with.

I get asked the question “How thick does this shielding need to be?" at least once a day. I need good mathematical and analytical skills to be able to answer this question, which may be a quick calculation based on a few basic facts or a complete analysis taking into account every detail.

What are the highlights of your job?

Using the knowledge and skills I developed at university to solve and investigate complex physics problems. I get to travel all over the country and there is also scope for overseas travel. The starting salaries for graduates within Cavendish are very competitive. A Senior Shielding Consultant could expect to earn £40-60k depending on experience, company and location.

How did you find your current job?

I found out about jobs in the nuclear industry by searching for physics careers on the internet. I landed this particular role by having my CV on the jobsite recruitment website.

Does your employer have a graduate recruitment scheme?

Cavendish offer an excellent 2 year graduate scheme in which you will be put through a professional development programme.

You can choose from a huge diversity of careers on offer across seven different divisions, including submarines, power generation and transport. You will have a decisive say in your own direction as you grow. Your ideas will be listened to, and your experience valued. Graduates are trusted to meet clients, develop solutions and make business-critical decisions in their first year. In short, where you can become one of the new generation of managers and leaders, equipped to drive forward the next generation of multi-million pound, nationally important projects.