In this blog article, Julia Huuhtanen, a one-time world class gymnast and now a physics student at Royal Holloway, originally hailing from both Finland and Russia, explains how her time working at IOP has helped her develop her career path.
“I was accepted for this post in the mid-summer and this definitely seemed to be an interesting and challenging experience for me. It wasn’t just any job, but directly related to my degree and something that deals with important and useful issues to the society. I didn’t really know what to expect, as I wasn’t completely aware exactly what IOP does.
“As it turns out, one of my key tasks is to help produce reports on “Physics and the Economy”, which are to be published in the autumn. We are writing these reports to support the statistical evidence on how much society actually depends on physics. It’s critical to raise the awareness about this among the general public and, in particular, members of Parliament. This project is important because parliamentarians need regular reminding that we all rely on physics for everything from food and manufacturing to transport.
“Some of my every day duties for this project include things like help with editing of the reports and contacting companies for the case studies which will be included. Companies that we are contacting depend on physics; the companies are based on physical technologies and advances in research, from food manufacturing to electricity production. Actually, I think most people would be surprised to find out to what degree so many jobs do depend upon physics.
“Also I am in a position to demonstrate my own initiative in suggesting the best way to represent the data in the reports which has involved a lot of research and creativity. We want to attract people to read the report online or in hard copy so it’s important to ensure the prominence of eye-catching figures and quotes. Particularly I have thought of physics-dependent job sector case studies, such as telecommunications represented in pictures.
“I feel that this project is a chance to do something interesting; something that not many people get to do. Highlighting the importance of physics to the economy and society at large will benefit everyone.
“Things I’ve done in my past range from my current physics degree to a professional gymnastics career. I was a world-class gymnast for 11 years of my life. I am half-way through my degree at the moment. At 16, I was dedicated to gymnastics; I went to high school but gymnastics was my life. Unfortunately, I had pneumonia for two months and this set me behind many of my gymnast rivals. As a consequence I decided to do what I really liked and dedicated myself to physics. My teachers didn’t believe a gymnast could do it and I had doubts too but I’m now going into my third year at Royal Holloway, University of London, and I couldn’t be happier.
“This internship is giving me a chance to learn something new, such as getting an insight into what it is like to work in the office and working with people for whom this is a full-time occupation. I gained some awareness of my suitability for this particular job, experienced real life situations and attained more confidence in communicative matters by learning to listen, speak clearly, ask and respond to questions or read and respond to written material, use the telephone and discuss project related matters.
“I thought I was quite a confident speaker but when I actually had to speak on the phone in a professional manner, whilst all the office of experienced people heard me, I got nervous. I remember one occasion on the phone with our Welsh National Officer when I was so nervous I just kept saying ‘yes’ to all of her questions.
“This internship didn’t only allow me to experience the work atmosphere, but also it gave me some vital information about physics and the range of careers I could do with my degree after I graduate. It gave me a chance to see and find out about so many companies I could possibly work for in the future. Now I definitely have a clearer idea of what I would want to do or could do next summer, before I go into my final year, and obtained lots of ideas what I could do for my permanent job in the future. I want to work for companies such as BP or BAE systems. A role of business leader would meet my potential because it involves more communication and decision-making; things I’m really enjoying during the internship.”