We are Birmingham Alumni: Tom Dack

My name is Tom, I studied at Birmingham where I studied Physics which I graduated from in 2015 and then I did a Masters in Computer Science which I graduated from in 2016.

I've been working with the Science and Technology Facilities Council, which is one of the research councils as part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

I'm working on authentication authorisation, which basically means making sure people are who they say they are and they have access to the stuff that they get as part of being who they are. The aim is to give access to researchers from across the UK to access all thedifferent computing systems STFC provides.

The Graduate scheme at STFC (Science and Technology Facilities Council) in computing you do four six-month rotations and so it was almost sort of like doing different course modules at university where I got to spend six months working in a specific area picking up skills to do with that. So be that working on a supercomputer, working out a new testbed for it, be that in the software engineering group doing some new pieces of software for them, working in the Muon Spectroscopy Group doing some muon simulation work, there was allsorts of stuff I could try out all different areas in the computing that STFC does before picking the area I wanted to work in.

Alongside the day-to-day work at STFC I also have opportunities to get involved in the broader work STFC does, so a lot of that is through the outreach work. As one of the Research Councils we do a lot of work to support science in local communities. Even when I was at university I got involved in the open days and stuff like that to talk about the cool things about what was going on the physics and computer science and so being able to do that as part my job it's just super exciting. When school kids come to site and don't know anything about the computing systems or the big experiments, being able to talk to them about them and explain what we're doing to try and progress science it's just really cooland really satisfying.

I came here on an open day as I did with most of the top physics universities and of all the universities I visited Birmingham was the one I could immediately see myself studying, it was something about the campus when I was walking around like even when I left I [remember] immediately telling my parents that's the one for me.

Fondest memory of my time here, well my lecturers would probably like it if I said the classes and the tutorials, but it'd have to be the people I met whilst I was here and that does include the lecturers so no hard feelings! But the friends I made throughout my time here they are firm friends for life, like the people I lived with, people I was in societies with, the people I had classes with.

During my time in Birmingham I did definitely get involved in a number of activities and groups and societies, probably most notable was PPS the Poynting Physical Society. So this is the department society for Physics; I was a year rep in my first year, I was a year rep in my second year, third year I did become President and had a glorious year of leadership being involved in organising events, bar crawls, quizzes, the big yearly ball, just was really satisfying to know that there's something I put my time and effort into was something that a lot of people hopefully viewed as the highlight of their year.

But alongside that I did also get involved in a few other societies as well, I spent some time with the Gaming Society, I also got involved with the EPS Awards committee. I was on the very first committee for that, I was on the committee every year till I left, and I still try and come back and help where I can.

My time at university, the people I've met, the opportunities to present, the opportunities to meet people, the opportunities in society, is to yell at people about coming to our quiz next week. Like without having those chances I definitely wouldn't be able to talk in this way and communicate, and I think that's one of the biggest things university really helped bring out in me. It's helped to develop those sort of soft skills that every business is looking for as well as giving me the actual science and computing skills underneath that means I can do the job I now do.

One thing that's sort of been a constant source of inspiration for me both through my university time and my work time is just working alongside the research, there's been so many exciting discoveries in physics over the past few years - from the Higgs boson to gravitational waves - and studying at a university that's involved in that and working at an organisation that's involved in that, just knowing that even if you aren't directly working on that research the bit of work you're doing supports that discovery even in some small way is just super inspiring.

If I was to give one piece of advice based on my time at Birmingham it would be, well I guess two, go to all your lectures but really what I'd say is make sure you get involved in societies to make sure you meet people. It may sound cheesy but the friends you make at Birmingham will be friends for life, both among the lecturers and among your peers.

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