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My job explained: Project manager

project managerWant to use science to catch criminals? Vivienne Lyons describes her role at the Home Office where she manages the scientists who work on evidence analysis and terrorist threats.

What do you do for a job?

I work for the Home Office Scientific Development Branch where we develop and test scientific equipment used by the police and other Home Office organisations.

I was previously in the Video Evidence Analysis group where we helped the police get the maximum amount of information out of the large volumes of video that they have the deal with. Now I work as a project manager in the chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear group where we look at techniques to deal with threats.

I take care of the project management bureaucracy so that scientists can do what they are best at. This means that I can do the project management that I'm good at whilst still making use of my scientific experience.

What inspired you to study physics?

My main reason for taking up physics was that I had a great teacher at school who inspired and encouraged me. He helped me work on problem areas as well as making it all seem interesting.

Can you describe a typical working day?

To be very honest because I work as a civil servant I do a lot of paperwork. My time is also taken up being involved in meetings with scientists.

What's the best thing about your job?

The best thing about my job is being able to do what I enjoy whilst still making use of the scientific skills I spent a lot of time and effort developing.

Have there been any challenges to getting where you are now?

I have multiple sclerosis which has made completing my education and dealing with the practicalities of work very difficult. My way of overcoming this problem largely comes down to stubbornness.

What qualities and skills do you think are important for your role?

The most important skill I need to my job is my ability to get along with a large range of people. I need this both for day-to-day working and specific meetings.

What advice would you give to someone following in your footsteps?

My best advice would be to make sure you keep a calm head no matter what else is going on, refuse to be put off by other people's views when you know something is right and most importantly get a good dictionary of physics to look things up that you are supposed to know and have forgotten.

What is your favourite physics related invention?

My favourite invention is probably aeroplanes. They use the Bernoulli effect (how a reduction of internal pressure can increase how quickly a fluid flows) which was the first thing I learned in physics at school and really impressed me.

Also, computers which are so necessary for our modern society wouldn’t exist if physicists hadn't worked on the semiconductor technology they use.