Thomas Dack

Graduate Trainee within Scientific Computing, Science and Technology Facilities Council
BSc Physics with Particle Physics & Cosmology 2015; MSc Computer Science 2016

I am now just under a year into my time with STFC (Science and Technology Facilities Council) working on a Graduate Scheme within the organisation’s Scientific Computing Department (SCD). SCD provides large-scale computing facilities, computing data services and infrastructure in order to support some of UK's most advanced scientific facilities. The Department also works to carry out its own research and development within scientific computing in order to drive improvements across the scientific research landscape. As a graduate within SCD I have spent my first year working on two six-month projects, working on the systems and software used within the Department. My first project contributed to the operation of one of our high performance computing clusters. My second project has been working on software deployment as part of the INDIGO DataCloud project, an EU project which aims at developing a data and computing platform targeting scientific communities.

How has your career developed since graduating from the University of Birmingham?
I started at STFC only a week after my dissertation deadline and so my career path so far has been directly from Birmingham to where I am now. However, it is clear to me that my time at Birmingham provided me both skills and knowledge which I have found incredibly valuable in my job thus far. Without my time at Birmingham and the knowledge I gained from my degree there, I know I would not be in the career I am now.

What is the best thing about what you are doing now?
Working with STFC provides a hugely flexible working atmosphere and has given me the opportunity to get involved in the organisation's public engagement and outreach activities. Being able to contribute to the dissemination of knowledge within local communities and schools is immensely rewarding, and a huge highlight of my job.

What motivates you?
The work I do at STFC enables the development and progress of scientific research, and being able to contribute and be a part of this process is a huge motivation for me.

Why did you originally apply to Birmingham?
I made my application to Birmingham after visiting for an open day. After being able to explore and see the campus and meeting the staff within the School of Physics, I left with the feeling that there was no other university I could see myself spending the next few years at more than Birmingham. After that, it was a simple decision where to apply.

What are your fondest memories of the University?
I think some of my fondest memories are the time I spent as a committee member for the Poynting Physical Society, PPS. As President in my third year and as a year rep for my other 3 years at Birmingham, it was immensely rewarding knowing that the events you worked so hard to organise – such as the annual Spring Ball – could be some of your fellow students fondest memories of Birmingham. The sense of family within the department was incredible, and something I will never forget.

How did you grow as a person by coming to University?
My time at the University of Birmingham helped me become much more outgoing and confident as a person. Getting involved in activities such as the PPS committee and organising the first ever EPS Societies’ Awards ceremony challenged me to grow my communication and self-confidence in thoroughly rewarding ways.

What did you think of the learning experience within the University?
I know that I would not be on the career path I am without the education I gained from Birmingham. The software engineering skills and computing knowledge I learnt during my MSc underpin my day-to-day work, but the writing, presentation and personal skills I gained throughout my university experience are invaluable.

What inspired you most during your time as a student?
I think the atmosphere of learning within an institution that contributes to my subject area on the global stage was a huge inspiration to me. Learning from lecturers who worked as part of the Large Hadron Collider experiment at CERN or who were involved in advances in the early days of home computing was incredibly inspirational.

What advice would you give to current students studying on your degree programme?
I would say to make sure to get involved in the societies at university as much as you can. The memories I made within societies at the University of Birmingham are some of my fondest, however they also help you to develop a vast array of personal skills and challenge you to develop as a person.

Is there anything else you would like to share?
I would just like to wish good luck in your future to any and all Birmingham students. The four years I spent at the University are some of the best and most rewarding I've had, and I hope that you can come away saying the same.


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