Andrew Clarke

What job/study are you doing right now and tell us a little about it?

I currently work in the semiconductor electronics industry in a R&D role. My job title is Analogue IC Design Engineer, this role involves the mathematical modelling and design of cutting edge scientific detectors for the space industry. These might be x-ray detectors, Infra-red detectors or visible light detectors similar to a standard digital camera you can buy in a shop. I travel all over the world, going to meetings with NASA (American Space Agency), ESA (European Space Agency) and JAXA (Japanese Space Agency) to name a few, but my day-to-day work is done at a PC using CAD tools, or running models on a computing cluster (similar to a super computer). I specialise in radiation effects, designing my electronics to be "radiation tolerant" or "radiation hard", as devices are exposed to a lot or radiation in the space environment. The electronics also need to be able to cope with large temperature swings and be able so survive the high gravity and vibration of a rocket launch. I occasionally work in an electronics lab running experiments on a camera I have designed, or in a clean room fabricating camera systems.

Did you do any further/higher education?

I graduated from the University of Liverpool in 2010, with a degree in "Electrical Engineering and Electronics". I then went on to do a PhD (Doctorate) in Semiconductor Physics, where I modelled radiation damage in semiconductor detectors for the European Space Agency, this work enabled Astrophysicists to correct for radiation damage resulting in more accurate images and measurements.

How did you decide on your career path and what is/was most interesting about your work?

I chose my career path by accident, after leaving school I was looking for an engineering apprenticeship but couldn't find one. My backup plan was applying to university to study engineering (it was a backup plan because I was put off by the cost, fees etc.) Once at university I found my niche and said yes to any opportunity that was offered to me.

Can you share a couple of fond memories of your time at St Cuthbert's?

I remember studying Systems and Design at GCSE which gave me my first taste of electronics, although I was a very slow learner and regularly burned myself with the soldering iron, it is one of the classes that really sticks in my memory, along with GCSE Art.

Did you have a favourite/influential teacher? What made them so important to you?

I really liked the science teachers, Mr Davies (physics), Mr Archer (physics) and a lady biology teacher whose name I can't remember. I think it was their enthusiasm for their subjects that really stood out, from the biology class with a pair of sheep lungs being inflated by the teacher, or Mr Davies throwing tennis balls around the room (representing electrons in a metal).

What advice would you give our current students?

It doesn't matter where you are from or what you have done in the past, work hard now and find yourself a niche, something you can become very good at. People will recognise talent and reward it.