Sebastian Williams ANSTO Graduate

Sebastian Williams

University of Western Australia
ANSTO Graduate, Engineering
Sebastian studied Electrical and Electronic Engineering at University of Western Australia (UWA)

What's your job about?

ANSTO is Australia’s centre of nuclear science and expertise. The organisation manages some of the country’s key scientific infrastructure, including OPAL, Australia’s only nuclear reactor, the Australian Centre for Neutron Scattering (ACNS), the Australian Synchrotron and Centre for Accelerator Science (CAS). For the first 9 months of my gradute program, I am working in the electrical and control systems engineering team within ACNS. We facilitate the amazing science that is undertaken within the Centre, maintaining and improving the 14 (soon to be 15) scientific instruments in use. Our work involves motion control, PLCs, control systems, and much more.

I’m working on two projects while with this team. The first, an investigation project, is to perform a vibration analysis on two neutrons choppers. This involves research, data collection and analysis, chairing meetings, liasing with vendors and the purchasing of equipment. I have already been given the opportunity to contribute to the organisation’s knowledge about its equipment and protect the choppers from damage.

My second project is a design project and involves retrofitting an existing motion control system to be controlled via a handheld remote. This is to improve the process that scientists use for setting up their experiments. I have consultated with scientists, investigated possible solutions and built a benchtop prototype. Making sure the system is safe and reliable has been a large part of my work. As the project progresses, a full commissioning and field installation process will be completed.

What's your background?

I grew up in Perth, Western Australia. My family moved to Mandurah, where I attended high school, and then back to Perth shortly after I started studying at UWA. In 2013/14 I studied for one semester in the UK at Queen Mary University of London. My partner also studied in the UK, and we took the opportunity to travel around Europe and see some of the amazing cities in that part of the world. This was a key developmental stage in my life, one where I gained a lot of independence and confidence to operate outside my comfort zone.

During my final year at UWA, I worked part time at Telstra as a radio engineer. This position was a huge opportunity to develop as a professional engineer. I developed good work habits, organisational skills, and learned how to talk and hold myself in a professional manner. In fact, my entire attitude towards my work shifted. I started off being fairly passive, preferring to only do what I was told. By the end, I had gained a lot more initiative and took a lot more responsibility for my own work.

Could someone with a different background do your job?

In a graduate position, lots of experience or field-specific knowledge is not required. In this sense, anyone with a technical background could do well in the role, as long as they have good research skills and take a proactive approach to learning. There has been a few specific skills from university that have sped up my progress with the projects I am working on. The first is a basic understanding of process and motion control. The second is an understanding of digital signal processing and Fourier transforms. The third is a basic aptitude for programming.  Aside from these, a general understanding of good engineering practice with regards to risk, reliability, and maintenance has also been very helpful.

What's the coolest thing about your job?

The coolest thing about this job is the highly specialised and often unique equipment that I get to be involved with. The projects are challenging, exciting, and require creative solutions. I would be surprised if any other graduate in Australia has had the oppurtinity to work with neutron choppers. While the equipment may be specialised, there are still opportunities to learn more general skills. My vibration analysis may require specific knowledge of the neutron choppers, but I am also learning much more general vibration analysis theory which can be applied to many other pieces of equipment such as motors, couplings, fans etc.

What are the limitations of your job?

In order to maintain safety standards and apply due diligence to tasks, internal processes can sometimes take time. To overcome this, you will need to develop strategies to keep progress moving.

I work at the Lucas Heights campus which is located in Southern Sydney, ANSTO  is appromxiately 45-minutes from Sydney CBD.  Whilst ANSTO also has campuses in Camperdown and Victoria, I need to commute to do my role.

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

  • The most valuable skill you can have, and the most transferable, is the ability to self-evaluate. Get into the habit of thinking about your performance and learning from your mistakes.
  • Estimations and back-of-the-envelope calulations are important. While some situations require a high degree of precision, others require you to produce rough figures. It will show people that you have a good understaning and can help you handle those unexpected questions.
  • I found the workplace to be a barrage of information. Have a system for recording information, sorting emails and remembering lessons learnt. University is a good time to experiment with what works for you.