dstl Careers: Steve, Physicist and Group Leader – Case Study


The Defense Science and Technology Laboratory (dstl) is a global leader in defense and security. It is also one of UK‘Stop ROD employers, which offers unrivaled opportunities across a wide range of disciplines and fields.

Steve is one of many physicists working alongside thousands of experts who often provide vital scientific data for the armed forces, as well as key innovations and protective measures to support UK Security. Steve’s scientific career began in the NHS after completing a BSc in Physics and Medical Physics.

To be honest I wasn’t really ready to join the working world so I went back to university full time and undertook a PhD at the University of Sheffield on experimental validation of dynamics models computational fluids that predict the growth of stenotic arterial occlusions – blockages in your arteries.

I received my PhD in 2005 and immediately took up a research assistant position at the University of Leicester, studying the comparative accuracy of measuring blood pressure directly in the aorta versus measuring at the fingertip.

Steve began his career with RBC Division (chemistry, biology and radiology) at dstl Alverstoke, which led to a specialist role in medical physics.

As a health physicist and expert in medical physics (MPE) for the dstl Radiation protection notice (RPA) corps, he also became the Project Technical Authority for the Joint Medical Command project; in this role, he advised on patient safety for a project on medical imaging with computerized tomography (CT) scanners, which use X-rays and computer-generated images of the inside of the body.

It was these projects that saw Steve travel to a number of non-operational and operational areas with the British Armed Forces including the Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Naples and Afghanistan.

One of Camp Bastion’s twin CT scanner suites

Support for the installation of vital equipment CT scanners at Camp Bastion during the conflict in Afghanistan was a highlight of his career. Being able to support operations with my medical and scientific experience during this difficult time has been very difficult, but ultimately rewarding.

My support initially consisted of advising and supporting the construction team remotely, followed by a visit to the facility to undertake radiation protection and imaging performance testing.

Traveling to and from Afghanistan was also an experience; we sat in Kandahar airport (outside temperature 46°C) in an unair-conditioned plane, in body armor and helmets for almost an hour – I was so hot even my kneecaps were sweating.

However, it was worth it, our work was recognized on national TV, and even though I was personally a tiny cog in a big machine, it was hugely satisfying – and best of all, our work absolutely saved my life. countless lives.

Career opportunities within dstl means that employees have the opportunity to work in other areas beyond their initial role. There are also opportunities to develop leadership skills, which Steve has taken advantage of.

I have always loved leading and developing people, a passion I developed during my time as a research assistant. As a result, I chose to explore a managerial path, and became Team Leader within RBC Division, at the head of the team in charge of undertaking the radiological surveys on behalf of the MOD.

Adding the string of leadership to his bow, Steve was able to move on to other areas of work, moving from RBC working towards a team lead role in the platform systems division (PLSD). ‘Platforms’, as the division is known, deals with the science and engineering of military hardware, which is not Steve’s academic background.

Being a physicist gave me the opportunity to work in other fields. Understanding physics means you can understand the very basis of why things happen, allowing you to communicate effectively and meaningfully with a wide range of colleagues, especially engineers who afterward practically apply physics. physical. I don’t pretend to be their equal in their field, but when they talk to me about something, I believe the synergies between physics and engineering allow me to understand them quite quickly.

It’s been quite a journey for Steve, who has now risen to the position of Group Leader for the Land Platforms Group, illustrating that promotion opportunities are available to anyone who comes to work at dstl.

Steve gets out of a tank

Steve gingerly steps out of a tank at the Tank Museum during the 2019 Land Platforms Group Away Day.

I love everything I do at dstl and would ask anyone who joins us to explore the many areas of work. We do lots of cool stuff, so get involved; you may like what you’re doing now, but I promise you there will be a hundred other things you’ll enjoy just as much.


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