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Spotlight: Mhairi Rogan, Thins Films Process Scientist, Novosound

Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

I love to travel and have been able to go to places like New York and Berlin as part of my job. Being a scientist allows you to see the world which a lot of people don’t know!

Tell us about your career journey so far.

I started my career journey in 2012 when I gave birth to my son. I was a single mum and had no qualifications so decided to go and sit my Highers when he was about 6 months old. I did my Highers over 2 years and realised that I really enjoyed Physics.

I got in to university to do a Physics degree in 2014 and graduated in 2018.

During the time that I was doing my degree, one of my lecturers was starting his own company based on thin film ultrasound and he offered me a job once I completed my degree! I have been there ever since, undertaking a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the company and university, and then joining the company full-time in 2021.

My focus in the company is on the piezoelectric material which produces ultrasound when electricity passes through it.

What was your favourite subject in school and why?

My favourite subject in school was history. I loved (and still love) learning about old civilisations and mythology. I didn’t love writing essays though, so decided that history wouldn’t be a good fit for me in university, and history has become more of a hobby for me. I listen to a lot of podcasts about it whilst I do my job.

What subjects/qualifications/skills are useful for your role?

Physics, maths and computing are the most useful for my role, along with a little bit of chemistry. I need to have some understanding of plasma dynamics, chemical structures and atomic interactions to make the material.

I also need maths to calculate the thickness of my material being made as this is dependant on variables like voltage and temperature. It would be useful in my role to know more programming, as I have had to do some simulations and data analysis using Python.

What is your favourite thing about your job?

I love the problem-solving days where something goes wrong and I have to really think about what has happened and collaborate with other people for advice and ideas. These days can also be the days that I’m in the machine working through mechanical issues so I get to do science and engineering at the same time.

What is a normal day in your role like?

A normal day for me would be starting an experiment and observing it throughout the day whilst I maintain the equipment. I could also be doing material characterisation which can tell me about atomic lattice positions, stoichiometry (which is the chemical composition) of the film, and ultrasound measurements.

We have weekly meetings and daily reports on what we’ve been working on, as well as meetings with other teams to ensure the material I make is covering all of their needs.

And what does your job title mean?

My job title means that I try to use engineering and science to make a thin film material or process work for manufacturing products. This means that the material needs to be the same every time it is made – which is harder than it sounds!

Also, if new requirements arise from the people who make the material into products or from customers, I need to chance the process to get exactly what they want.


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