“It’s the gateway to working with some of the most impressive and complex technology in the world.”

Ministry of Defence
5 min readMar 17, 2023
For British Science Week, Defence is showcasing the range of STEM careers on offer.

For British Science Week, we’ve been speaking to people in Defence who work with the UK’s most complicated nuclear technology. Read how Heather and Alexander’s work in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) is integral to Defence:

1. Who are you and what do you do (how does it link to STEM)?

I’m Heather and I work in support of His Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde. I have a background in physics, engineering, and safety case engineering; and I work in ensuring that the UK’s nuclear technology is secure.

2. What made you consider a role in the MOD and what was your first job?

I did a Physics MSc and wanted to use my skills in a physical application rather than a theoretical one. After university I joined a Ministry of Defence (MOD) graduate scheme because it offered a wide range of placements in STEM. This allowed me to use my skills, see real problems and work towards solutions, whilst getting an idea of what different roles might be available and what might fit for me. My first role was working on nuclear propulsion, but I quickly moved onto safety case management and then assurance. I’ve had a lot of variety in my work and the chance to be part of really exciting nuclear projects.

3. Can you think of an exciting thing you’ve done during your time at MOD?

Not long after joining the MOD, I was involved in a small team representing the UK’s nuclear policy for a key UK ally. It was amazing to see how much of a significant difference my contribution made in supporting a valuable UK relationship, and it gave me lots of opportunities to see different sites and technology come to life.

4. What’s the next STEM related activity you are looking forward to in your career?

I want to apply to support a UK project to generate future warships for other countries. My experience in safety and assurance will be able to ensure that these warships are safe to operate for our allies. The great thing about STEM is that it provides an infinite stream of opportunities across different organisations.

5. Why should people consider STEM subjects?

It’s much more accessible than you think. It allows you to use problem-solving and doesn’t just require you to analyse. Taking STEM subjects opens up jobs to use your creativity and your unique skillset in some of the most interesting areas of technology.

6. Can you give an example outside of STEM where you’ve used skills that you’ve developed through taking STEM subjects?

Whilst on the graduate scheme, I recognised that there was a low representation of women in the nuclear workplace in the MOD. Diversity and representation is important to ensure that we have a broad range of ideas and that we reflect the society we protect. I set up Women in Nuclear in the MOD to help address the shortfall. Achieving that as someone on a graduate scheme shows how you can use the analysis and approach to challenges that we learn through STEM to make real differences outside of STEM.

7. If you had one bit of advice to give someone considering a career in STEM what would it be?

Go for it! It’s a worthwhile career with lots of opportunity. It is the gateway to working with some of the most impressive and complex technology in the world. It allows you to use your skills right at the cutting edge.

Featuring the latest nuclear-powered technology, pictured is an Astute-class submarine conducting sea trials off the west coast of Scotland.

“I use STEM subjects — such as materials science, the study of fluid flow, nuclear fission — pretty much every day to help me solve problems in the test facility.”

  1. Who are you and what do you do (how does it link to STEM)?

I’m Alexander, a mechanical engineer working within the submarine industry, and I joined through a Ministry of Defence university scheme. Once I joined, I took an interest in Nuclear so now I look after the commissioning (proving they work) and testing (proving they work as they should) of the steam systems that propel the submarine through the water and generate electricity — just like in a nuclear power station. I use STEM subjects — such as materials science, the study of fluid flow, nuclear fission — pretty much every day to help me solve problems in the test facility.

2. What made you consider a role in the MOD and what was your first job?

When I was studying both chemistry and physics at A-Level, I was fascinated by the way atoms can be used to generate power. I went onto study nuclear power further and become particularly interested in the way we use that method of power generation to power our submarines. This led to my first placement, working in one of the submarine base’s infrastructure teams where I helped manage the shore power used to keep submarines safe when they’re in port.

3. Can you think of an exciting thing you’ve done during your time in MOD?

The most exciting thing I’ve done was work on the Submarine Dismantling Project where I was helping to create a method which has never been done before by anyone else! Whilst the project is still going on, I know that when I see it in the news, I was a part of the team that helped do that which I think is brilliant!

4. What’s the next STEM related activity you are looking forward to in your career?

The next exciting thing will be to see HMS Dreadnought be launched — this is a few years away yet but when the submarine leaves, I will know that I was a part of the huge team that did that. I will know I played a really important role in making sure the submarine can safely move through the water and provide power to the rest of the submarine. The best thing about this is that I will be able to have my family come down and watch, and be able to actually see what I’ve spent the last few years working on — not something we can do often in the MOD.

5. Why should people consider STEM subjects?

I think all STEM subjects are equally good at giving you one really important skill — problem solving. No matter whether you end up working in STEM, finance, arts or anything else, the world is full of problems that need solving! Being able to have some of the best problem solving skills you can get is a brilliant head-start in life and I guarantee that whatever you study, if it’s STEM related, it will let you see the world in a new way.

6. If you had one bit of advice to give someone considering a career in STEM what would it be?

Find something you are interested in and just keep following it! Always consider your different options when following your interest because some routes may not always be the best fit for you — the key is to just keep doing what you enjoy!

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Ministry of Defence

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