Jayden Ilter ANSTO Graduate

Jayden Ilter

University of Sydney
ANSTO Graduate, Physicist
Jayden studied Bachelor of Science (Honours) at University of Sydney

What's your job about?

I work at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), home to Australia’s only nuclear reactor. ANSTO undertakes research in numerous areas, provides trusted advice to the Australian Government and is also central to the world’s nuclear medicine manufacturing capabilities. My work mostly resides in the research and development area of ANSTO. The work I am completing in my current rotation of the Graduate Program revolves around radiation detection. This involves a constant mix of hands-on and computer-based work. As part of the radiation detection group, I am able to enhance my skills in coding through gaining practical experience when building and testing  detector systems.

A typical day involves implementing and testing scientific concepts into a real system by coding, including optimising detectors throughelectrical and circuity work. A rewarding part  of this job is that I am able to see the code I have written, or equipment I have helped build, be made into something that has real world applications outside of the lab. Major government bodies are also in constant contact with my group at ANSTO, asking for advice, assistance and information about any new technology we have developed that can help with their radiation detections needs. The reliance these bodies have on my group motivates me, as it helps me realise how important the work is that I do here.

What's your background?

I grew up in Sydney, Australia, and have lived here my whole life. I went to Caringbah High School, and it is there that I discovered my passion for physics. I then went on to complete a Bachelor of Science (Honours) at the University of Sydney, majoring in physics and mathematics. My Honours year was the first time I was part of  a real research project, and it was during this year that I found out how much I enjoy the research side of physics and science as a whole. I was also fortunate enough to spend a month at Nanjing University in China, gaining further experience in research.

Throughout all of my uni degree, and the end of high school, I worked as a Lifeguard and Duty Manager at the local council leisure centres. This job provided me with excellent leadership experience working in a position with a lot of responsibility. I obtained my current job by applying online for ANSTO’s Graduate Program. I was fortunate enough to be offered a position as a physicist. I have now been working at ANSTO for approximately 10 months and hope to stay here for many years to come.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

In terms of my specific job, a background in physics and coding would be pretty essential. In saying that, a background in nuclear physics is not essential. While I knew the basics of radiation through university, it was never a big area of focus, but this has never been an issue since starting at ANSTO. Instead of having the exact background for the job, it seemed what was more important was having the capacity to learn the background. By far the most important skill someone should have to do my job, and almost any job in physics, is skill in computer coding. Having this skill has opened many doors and has allowed me to get where I am today.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

What I love most about my job would have to be the coding. In this job, the coding I do produces results in a real device. My previous coding experience had mainly involved number crunching and applying statistics to data. Now, however, I am able to implement certain scientific theory through code and then see this theory in action.  When I am doing this type of work, the day seems to go too quickly because I am enjoying the work so much.

What are the limitations of your job?

One limitation I have found with this career path is that any research or work you undertake is not of your own (or your managers) choosing and is usually for an external company/business. While I have been very lucky in the area I have worked in for my first graduate rotation, almost every other area I know at ANSTO does not have the freedom to perform research in an area they have chosen. Therefore, if you want to perform research more in line with how it is done at university, this may not be the career path for you.

3 pieces of advice for yourself when you were a student...

  • Try to obtain as much research experience as possible, even before your Honours year. There are definitely opportunities available at university for this
  • Start learning to code as early as possible, and try to constantly improve your skills and knowledge. Even having a basic understanding of the main languages will put you miles ahead of others.
  • One interesting thing I found through the other graduates that work with me at ANSTO is that many of them had previously worked here (as a student) or had some previous experience here. Therefore, my last piece of advice would be to show an early interest in a place you are considering working at, and try to obtain some experience at this place, if possible.