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How to build your own nuclear science career

Nuclear Science Career - ANSTO

What’s your nuclear science + X? Combine this exciting field with another passion or interest to find your dream job!

Do you love physics and chemistry and want an exciting, future-proof STEM career that can make a real difference? You should consider a career in nuclear science. While this branch of science is all about looking at the world on a very small scale – think: the scale of the atom – its potential applications are huge. Nuclear science can be used to understand and address issues ranging from climate change to cancer.

Start with a Bachelor of Science majoring in nuclear science or medicine, and add a nuclear science postgrad qualification later on.

Below, we’ve highlighted seven ‘nuclear science + X’ areas to get you thinking. Plus you’ll get to know some real-life role models (or future mentors).

About ANSTO

ANSTO is one of Australia’s leading scientific institutions, employing more than 400 scientists and hundreds of others in nuclear industry professions. Researchers from around the world come to use its state-of-the-art nuclear science facilities in Sydney and Melbourne.

Nuclear Science + Food & Agriculture

Nuclear scientists use irradiation techniques to combat pests and disease. Nuclear techniques are very useful in studies to increase crop and livestock production and monitor
water resources. ANSTO scientists are also working at the forefront of food science, for example developing food products that are lower in fat and higher in resistant starch, which is good for gut health.

Nuclear Science + Environment

Nuclear science has many applications in environmental studies. ANSTO facilities are used to study ancient climate variability, pinpoint sources of pollution, understand the impact of human activities on aquatic ecosystems and contribute to sustainable water use.

Nuclear Science + Space

Want to reach for the stars? Researchers at ANSTO study materials from our Solar System
and beyond, and test how Earth materials might withstand the high-radiation environments
in space. They also investigate the impact of space radiation on human cells to help keep astronauts healthy. ANSTO’s startup accelerator, the nandin Innovation Centre, is home to some cool space tech startups, like Ouranos Systems – an innovative Aussie company
designing nuclear-based power systems for space.

Nuclear Science + Defence

Want to use your STEM skills to keep our nation secure? Nuclear science can be a great pathway into defence, for example through advanced materials science used in ships and protective clothing for military personnel. ANSTO is supporting the special task force responsible for delivering nuclear-powered submarine capability in Australia. The Department of Defence offers high-performing STEM students scholarships of up to $20K per year to skill up in nuclear science and engineering.

Nuclear science + Energy + Resources

World-leading nuclear scientists and engineers at ANSTO are working with industry to find new ways to extract and process critical minerals such as lithium – used in batteries in electric cars and electronics. Nuclear science also has many applications in the mining sector, for example nuclear scanning techniques have been used to detect precious metals and critical minerals in drill cores samples.

Nuclear science + Ancient Worlds

If you’re interested in working with ancient civilisations or fossils, chances are you’ll need nuclear science. That’s because nuclear science can be used to determine the age of ancient artefacts. ANSTO scientists have dated Aboriginal rock art in the Kimberley and Kakadu, and they’ve helped investigate the history of the armour worn by the infamous Kelly Gang bushrangers.

Nuclear science career role models

Raya Tasnim, Silicon Irradiations Engineer

Raya Tasnim studied both science and engineering at uni – and landed a job that
combines all her STEM skills

Raya Tasnim, Silicon Irradiations Engineer at ANSTO

Raya is a silicon irradiations engineer at ANSTO, which means she’s involved in the production of the semiconductors used in high-end electronics, such as satellites and bullet trains.

In her STEM career so far, Raya says ‘imposter syndrome’ has been one of her biggest hurdles. And while she reckons a little bit of imposter syndrome can be ok, too much self-doubt can stop you from stepping out of your comfort zone.

While Raya loves her current role, she has big dreams of getting involved in space exploration. And with all the space research going on at ANSTO, that’s a goal she might not even have to change employers to achieve!

Don’t stress about having it all figured out right away – some people specialise and stick to one field for their entire lives, others try something new every year. You can be successful and make an impact both ways.

– Raya’s top career tip

Raya’s study and career path

  • Bachelor of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering (Honours) / Bachelor of Materials Science, UNSW Sydney
  • Intern Mechanical Engineer, Arup
  • Graduate, ANSTO
  • Silicon Irradiations Engineer, ANSTO

Keen on a nuclear science career? Read Raya’s full STEM story here.

Joshua Yi, Electrical Engineer

Joshua Yi likes learning and working with his hands, which makes his job working with ANSTO’s state-of-the-art facilities and tools the perfect fit!

Joshua Yi, Electrical Engineer at ANSTO

Joshua works at ANSTO’s new nuclear waste treatment facility known as Synroc, which processes nuclear waste from the production of nuclear medicine.

“I currently work at the Synroc demo plant which serves to prove the feasibility of the technology,” he explains. “I work with other engineers to deploy, maintain and implement the electrical systems.”

Joshua’s favourite project so far has been working on Coris360, a radiation imaging camera, which helps keep workers safe by detecting invisible radiation.

“I was able to further improve my programming skills, as well as get more practical hands-on experience working with analogue electronics. Overall, the project was a good mix of the skills I want to continue developing in the future.”

Get involved with events and student teams as early as possible. Just putting yourself out there and talking to people can lead to unexpected opportunities.

– Joshua’s top career tip

Joshua’s study and career path

  • Bachelor of Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering / Bachelor of Science
    (Applied Mathematics), Monash University
  • Software Engineer, Monash Connected Autonomous Vehicle Team
  • Electrical Engineer, ANSTO

Inspired to build your own nuclear science career? Read Joshua’s full STEM story here.

Jennifer Harrison, Leader, Nuclear Stewardship

Jennifer Harrison, Leader, Nuclear Stewardship at ANSTO

The job: Jennifer leads ANSTO’s Nuclear Stewardship Research infrastructure team, which advises the Australian Government on nuclear science and technology, and ensures Australia’s use of nuclear science and technology is safe, secure and sustainable.

The pathway: Jennifer joined ANSTO as a radiochemist over 20 years ago and has worked on lots of cool projects, including using nuclear science techniques to track pollution in the environment. Now she uses her skills in leadership roles.

Coolest thing about your job? “ANSTO is the only research facility with extensive capabilities to apply nuclear technologies to improve our world. And I am a part of it”.

It takes time to gain confidence in your scientific abilities. Be patient with yourself.


– Jennifer’s top career tip

Jennifer’s study and career path

  • Bachelor of Applied Science (Chemistry), UTS
  • Bachelor of Science (Geoscience), UTS
  • Radiochemist, ANSTO
  • Senior Radiochemist, ANSTO
  • Leader, Nuclear Stewardship, ANSTO

Andrew Propp, Manager, Radiation Protection Services

Andrew Propp, Manager, Radiation Protection Services

The job: Working with radiation and radioactive materials is risky business. Andrew’s team oversees radiation safety and protection for all of ANSTO, as well as its customers around the country. This includes radiation monitoring, safety and protection training, emergency
response preparedness, and general advice and leadership.

The pathway: Andrew studied physics and worked as a physicist in nuclear safety roles in the UK before joining ANSTO in 2010, working in radiation health and protection roles.

Coolest thing about your job? “I feel like I have the most important job at ANSTO. It’s a lot of responsibility but I have confidence in our processes.”

Don’t feel pressured to try mainstream employment. There are some amazing opportunities in the nuclear industry that you won’t find anywhere else.

– Andrew’s top career tip

Andrew’s study and career path

  • Bachelor of Science (Honours) (Physics with Nuclear Astrophysics), University of Surrey, UK
  • Physicist, National Nuclear Security, Atomic Weapons Establishment, UK
  • Consultant Health Physicist, ANSTO
  • Senior Health Physicist, ANSTO
  • Manager, Radiation Protection Services, ANSTO

Looking for more ANSTO role models or mentors? We’ve got more CVs and career stories over here!


Start your career here

Nuclear science study

UNDERGRAD

  • Bachelor of Medical Radiation Science, Charles Sturt University
  • Bachelor of Radiation Sciences, Monash University
  • Bachelor of Science (Nuclear Science and Space Radiation Technology), University of Wollongong

POSTGRAD

  • Master of Science in Nuclear Science, ANU
  • Master of Engineering Science (Nuclear Engineering), UNSW Sydney

VET COURSES

  • Certificate III in Science

Nuclear science jobs

  • Medical physicist, $115K–$209K
  • Nuclear engineer, $103K–$184K
  • Nuclear medicine technologist, $59K–$123K
  • Nuclear reactor physicist, $82K–$145K
  • Radiation safety officer $127K (avg)

Salary info according to payscale.com and salaryexpert.com

This article was brought to you in partnership with ANSTO and was originally published in Careers with STEM: Science.

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