Fine tuning technology


EUGENE O'SULLIVAN fell in love with computers comparatively late in life. He was in his twenties. "They weren't invented when I was in school," he says with a hint of regret in his voice.

Looking back at the way his career has unfolded, (he is now 39 years of age) he believes that working as a senior radio officer with an oil rig company in the North Sea during the 1980s was advantageous. At that time new technology was coming in at a fast and furious pace. "I was there for it as it was unfolding. I had first hand knowledge of it."

He worked in this job for eight years. There was an element of danger, but he does not agree that working with 80 other men on a bouncing rig the size of a football pitch up to 100 miles off-shore could be described as romantic. His job was challenging however. He was responsible for all communications on board the oil rig. He provided technical support to other departments. He supervised the PC network on the rig and ensured that the various data collection and environmental monitoring systems were run properly. He also calibrated test equipment, temperature, pressure and environmental sensors and other electronic equipment.

O'Sullivan went to secondary school at Colaiste Spioraid Naoimh in Cork. He then did two certificate courses, one at Cork RTC in maritime radio communication and one in radar maintenance at the VEC School of Marine Radio/Radar Limerick.

He got a job as a marine radio officer with a company which transported goods all around the world. This was before the advent of containerisation, he explains. He was with this company for seven years and was responsible for the operation and maintenance of all communications equipment on board ship.

"Electronics has advanced very quickly... Today everyone has a computer. It's almost like having a washing machine."

After the oil rigs, on receipt of a redundancy package, O'Sullivan who was doing all the jobs of an electronic engineer, decided to study for a degree. His background and experience in electronics prepared him for the course he applied for at Cork RTC. He graduated with a National Diploma in Science in Applied Physics and Instrumentation with Distinction in 1993. The following year he completed his degree and graduated with honours.

"Instrumentation is a very, very important area of electronics," he says, pointing out that it is sometimes neglected in favour of other areas. "It's an area that is going to be a major part of electronics."

Today as an instrumentation engineer with Diagnostic Systems Ltd, O'Sullivan's work involves the maintenance, installation, servicing, repair and commissioning of electronic equipment in hospitals. He is responsible for hospital x-ray and screening rooms, portable x-ray equipment, gamma cameras and CT and linear accelerators for radiotherapy. Each piece of equipment has to be checked regularly, calibrated and maintained.

Linear accelerators, for example, are used in radiation therapy to kill cancer cells, he explains. "It is very important that the amount of radiation is exact. This (the machine) has to be checked constantly."