Spotlight on Jack O’Toole, Mechanical Equipment Engineer

In the first of our Spotlight interviews in which we shine a light on the many career opportunities within Scitech, we hear from Jack O’Toole about his progression from student placement to Mechanical Equipment Engineer for complex radiopharmaceutical contracts and the mentoring that has helped him achieve success.

When Jack O’Toole began his BSc Industrial Product Design course at Aston University, in Birmingham, he didn’t envisage a career with a specialist design and construction company operating in the pharmaceutical or life science sectors. But seven years on, he wouldn’t want to work in any other sector.

“I always saw myself being part of a design and engineering group but I didn’t plan on niching into this area,” he explains. “It just didn’t occur to me at that point but I’m pleased it’s the path I have followed.”

The value of student placements

Jack’s first insight into pharmaceutical manufacturing came when he secured a three-month placement with Scitech during a summer breaks from university. This saw him work under the mentorship of Lewis White, Scitech’s Mechanical Engineering Team Leader.

“I was given the opportunity to support the team with some site-based work, which was a fantastic experience. One stand-out project for me was supporting Guys’ and St Thomas’ Hospital with the development of a radiopharmacy and installation of ‘hot cell’ lines for handling diagnostic radio-isotopes. I was able to oversee the specialist equipment contractor to solve equipment issues. I must have done a good job as I was offered a permanent role to start at the end of my degree.”

Masters degree sponsorship

Jack returned to Scitech as a Graduate Mechanical Engineer and received sponsorship to complete his MSc Mechanical Engineering. “I knew I wanted to complete a Masters degree and was really fortunate that Scitech provided funding and supported me by ensuring that I had adequate study time.

“Scitech is fantastic at supporting its staff with training, whether it is through official courses, CPD opportunities or mentorship. I am now working towards achieving Chartership with the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, which Lewis is supporting me to achieve.”

Career development opportunities

Jack adds: “Scitech is very good at ensuring that you can gain experience in other areas too. For example, I have mentoring once a week with the head of mechatronics. I have gained more skills through this and have been able to help with a project on site. That is further experience that I have gained. All I needed to do was ask and it was arranged.”

Looking at his career to date, Jack reflects on the opportunities that Scitech has provided and the projects that have taken him across Europe and to the United States of America.

“One of the attractive aspects of this role is that there is always a challenge. I have worked on a lot of radiopharmaceutical and cell & gene therapy projects, as these are areas where Scitech has significant expertise. With radiopharma you must understand and consider many different aspects – it’s not just process and physics. It covers every aspect from the safety of the operator, to the efficiency of the line, to the ergonomics affecting the workforce. Different companies and organisations have different requirements and challenges and so it always keeps it interesting.”

Promotion and career progression

Jack is now enjoying working as a project lead on a cell and gene therapy project, taking on more responsibility, and looking forward to leading on bigger and more complex projects as his career progresses.

“I feel lucky that I secured my initial internship with Scitech. It has set me off on a really interesting career path and I have been offered lots of opportunities that have allowed me to progress. The team is very supportive and so I know they are there if I need help or advice. It provides a safety net but at the same time provides the opportunity to show what you can do and progress. I would definitely urge anyone who is specialising in mechanical engineering to consider a career in this sector; it is really exciting and provides a lot of opportunities.”

● Discover what Mechanical Equipment Engineering career opportunities and job vacancies are available at Scitech.

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