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A day in the life

SCIENCE CAREERS

Paul Kushner, Electronics Team Leader

What is your role and how did you arrive at your current position?
Two excellent questions. I am not entirely sure how it happened. I was previously working as an engineer for the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team and travelling the world, and somehow I ended up in Glasgow, even though I am from Milton Keynes.

I am the team leader of the Innovation Electronics group; we develop electronic and software solutions for activities in the Innovation team which can range from multi-laser sequencing systems or an ultra-quiet laser diode driver.

I started at M Squared intending to be an electronics designer but at the time there was a need for software engineers, and so before I knew it, I was trying my hand at DSP software design. I continued to do that for four years.

We created the new electronics group to ensure that the company was able to meet the needs of product development and innovation projects. I became Team Leader, and we recruited engineers who could do a much better job than me.

What time do you wake up?
I wake at 7am, and I get my one year old out of bed. I dress him, then dress him again after he undresses and feed him breakfast, avoiding the flying food, cleaning up the walls and I take him to the nursery.

When do you start?
At 9am, for a rest!

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I started at M Squared intending to be an electronics designer but at the time there was a need for software engineers

What is the first thing you do when you arrive at work?
Check that the Nespresso machine is warming up and ready to go. After successfully achieving a cup of coffee I get down to emails and planning the day.

What attracted you to your career?
When I was about 18 months old, I managed to insert a wire into a mains socket, scarred my hand and scared my parents. From that point onwards my career in electronics was a certainty.

What have been your biggest challenges in this role?
It is managing my priorities. We are busy, so organising the work is a constant challenge. Engineers get grumpy when we change focus too often.

Describe your workspace.
The casual observer would call it messy. I call it a finely tuned arrangement of computer screens, instruments and development electronic systems and wires, lots of wires.

What kind of tools do you work with?
I believe the politically correct term is colleagues. Ok, just joking! I mainly develop embedded software and FPGA code, so there are some large software packages that I need to use and various bits of equipment for communicating with the test systems. I am very proud of having a 4-channel oscilloscope; it is always in use so no you can’t borrow it!

Who do you interact most with?
Head of Innovation, other engineers and when it can’t be helped... physicists!

How often do you get out of the office?
Not very much for work so as much as possible otherwise.

What do you most look forward to each day?
Taking new ideas and making them work. There is always something big and new on the horizon, so there is always lots of planning to do.

What or who inspires you?
Space travel and aviation. Large-scale, complicated engineering of massively technical and ultra-reliable systems fascinate me.

What do you do for lunch?
I go to the gym on the site regularly and other days try to get a walk around the university campus.

Describe your best day at work to date.
After spending six months developing a digital sequencing system, we integrated it with our atom interferometry system. In amongst the lasers and other equipment, it wasn’t long before we were generating ultra-cold atoms at micro-Kelvin temperatures - this was just the tip of the (very cold) iceberg!

How does the working day end?
Usually in a hurry. The day flies by so quickly that I look at my watch and realise that I have to send my partner yet another apology for being late home.

What time do you get home?
About 6.30pm. I am fortunate to live nearby so I can walk home and enjoy a few minutes peace before I get another covering in food from my son.

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