Career Profile

Peter Loughlin works as an Orbit Dynamics Analyst for SingTel Optus Pty Limited

I decided to study physics because I really enjoyed science fiction stories. The science in them fascinated me and I wanted to know more. Looking back, that was one of the best decisions I ever made - Do something because you enjoy it! I am still enjoying it.

I studied physics at the UNSW for my undergraduate degree and continued with atmospheric physics for my PhD. This began to teach me a lot about the science and also about how humans were impacting natural systems like the atmosphere. I combined my PhD with a part time teaching position with the School of Physics which in itself was a great learning experience.

My research career continued when I left UNSW at the completion of my PhD in 1995 for a position at the University of Mainz in Germany. I extended my knowledge to cloud formation and then aerosol chemistry. By the end of two and a half years I found that I was unsatisfied and it is only now, after being employed with Optus for the last six years, that I know why. Diversity!

When I returned from Germany I started working for Optus within the Satellite group as an Orbit Dynamics Analyst, a position that I still enjoy immensely as it is diverse. Optus has a fleet of geostationary telecommunications satellites. Their orbits require continual small adjustments and it is my job to analyse their orbits and maintain them so that the satellites stay where required while using as little fuel as possible.

This job entails usage of my classical mechanics background to manage the orbit properly. It also uses rotational mechanics in the momentum stored in the orbit as well as the control systems on board each spacecraft. The electronics subjects that I did and taught are coming to the fore as I learn about the power and control subsystems and solid state means I know how the solar arrays work. I learnt programming during the researching phases of my studies which is always invaluable. The list goes on and there are still many areas of physics that I studied which I do not use for my current work. That knowledge helps as I know what is going on in other areas of the company and, more importantly, gives my future flexibility.

There is no way I could have prepared better for a career in the satellite industry than by doing a physics degree and I think that it is one of the best degrees a student can undertake. In a word it gives the student diversity, something which is invaluable in today's world.

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