My name is Padraic Morrissey and I’m a Photonics Researcher at the Tyndall National Institute in Cork. I work in one of the widest ranging research areas, Photonic Packaging. In my job, I develop new ways of combining photonic and electronic components into miniaturised modules. These are used in everything from eye imaging, smart phones, aircraft sensing and telecommunications for faster internet. I’ve always been very interested in science and technology, so a career in Photonic gives me the opportunity to be involved in state of the art research that can make our lives better.
In your opinion, what is the biggest myth about STEM careers?
I think one of the biggest myths about STEM careers is that all researchers work in a laboratory and wear white coats! There are definitely some areas where this is the case but in general, careers in STEM are extremely varied and you don’t often see lab coats anymore!
What do you love about your current role?
In my role as Photonics Researcher I find the diversity and variety of the work the most rewarding aspect. We work with some of the biggest companies in the world to develop technology solutions, this means there are constantly new problems to solve and exciting cutting edge research to get involved in.
Do you get to work with any new technologies?
Constantly! In my job, we work on technologies that use light (usually lasers) for new applications. We work with some of the biggest companies in the world to develop new imaging systems for VR headsets, cameras for smart phones, radar systems for space applications or new types of lasers for high speed internet connections. One of the best parts of the job is being involved in creating these new technologies.
Do you ever get to travel abroad for work?
Because I work with other research groups across the world on new photonic technologies, I regularly have to travel to project meetings and make lab visits. I usually make about 2 trips per month to central Europe and maybe every 6 months I travel to the USA. There are lots of opportunities to travel within Photonics Research!
What kind of other experts do you work with on a day to day basis?
Because I’m involved in a variety of different projects, I’m constantly working with experts in different fields on a daily basis in Tyndall. These include mechanical engineers, process engineers, material scientists, photonic design engineers, chemistry experts and biologists. Our work is very varied and needs inputs from several different departments.
Is your current job, and the work of the wider team, making a difference in the world?
I definitely think we are. My research team are heavily involved in Medical Photonics projects, where we are using light in new ways to help patients stay healthy for longer. One project I just finished developed a new system that used lasers to detect the early indicators of heart disease. We worked with doctors and patients in France to get the system working. In a project like this, you really feel like you are making a difference to people lives and making the world a little bit better.
What do you hope to achieve in the next year in your current position?
I’m currently working on a project that involves eye imaging using lasers. In the next year, I would hope to take the system we currently have in development and actually get it made into an early stage prototype that could be used on patients. Apart from this, I hope to start writing more research proposals so that I can get funding to research particular areas of Photonics that I’m interested in.
If a young person told you that they would like to get into your role, what advice would you give them?
I would encourage them to study Physics for their Leaving Certificate, since this great background in problem solving and critical thinking, which is useful for any career in research. After that, I would suggest they do an undergraduate degree in a Physics or Engineering discipline in college.
Did you complete any sort of placement or internship during your studies? If so, did it prepare you for what you do now?
I took part in two summer work placement programmes while I was an under graduate in UCC. These were in very different research areas to my current role, but it did give me a very good idea what they day to day life of a researcher was. I thought it was a very beneficial experience and a great way to spend 8 weeks in the summer!
Name one thing on your bucket list.
See the Pyramids of Giza
What television series are you currently watching?
I’m currently watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine while waiting for the final season of Game of Thrones to start!