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Summer internships: Constantine Pelesis – ‘I built up my network and got an understanding of how a whole company works together’

11 Aug 2021 Laura Hiscott
Taken from the August 2021 issue of Physics World. Members of the Institute of Physics can enjoy the full issue via the Physics World app.

During his Master’s degree in medical physics, Constantine Pelesis did an internship at Adaptix, an Oxfordshire-based company developing medical-physics devices. He talks to Laura Hiscott about what he gained from this experience.

This is the second in a series of internship case studies that we are publishing throughout August. You can find the full series here.

Constantine Pelesis
Networking Constantine Pelesis (right) made useful contacts at medical-devices firm Adaptix. (Courtesy: Adaptix)

Before looking for an internship, Constantine Pelesis already knew that he wanted to go into nuclear medicine. “I was studying part-time for a Master’s degree in medical physics with the University of Surrey, while also working as a teaching assistant there.” In the first summer of his MSci course he was looking for something that would give him some experience, help him to broaden his network, and provide some extra income. He therefore contacted the South East Physics Network (SEPnet), an organization that works across nine universities in south-east England to support physics students in finding placements.

Although SEPnet didn’t have any vacancies, it put Pelesis in touch with Adaptix, a company in Oxfordshire working on medical-physics devices, and he sent an e-mail to express his interest. Adaptix later called him when an internship position came up that was relevant for him, showing that it’s always worth expressing your interest. Even if there are no internships available at the time, situations can change and new opportunities are always emerging.

“Adaptix sent me a job description with the different projects it had available, and I applied with a cover letter and a CV,” Pelesis recalls. “I was invited to an interview with the chief science officer, who then became my supervisor when I was offered the internship.” After learning he had been successful, he moved to Oxford for the summer. “I loved getting to know Oxford and I did a lot of exploring while I was there,” he says. “I visited many places where they filmed Harry Potter, and I also explored the countryside around the city. Adaptix is just outside the city and my commute was a walk along the river every day.”

During the internship, Pelesis worked on computational modelling of X-rays. “I learnt how to use a new software package to do Monte Carlo simulations of electrons interacting with a metal plate,” he says. “ These simulations predicted how much energy would be deposited when the electrons generated X-rays, and how this varied depending on the set-up of the equipment. It isn’t as good as doing a physical experiment, but it gives you some initial signs about which set-ups look most promising, so that fewer need to be tested experimentally.”

Pelesis emphasizes the importance of the soft skills he developed while he was there, through working as part of a team and giving presentations on his project. He recommends speaking to lots of people across a company to get a broader view and make the most out of an internship. “I talked to people from different departments about their roles and got an understanding of how a whole company works together. It’s also good for building up your professional network.”

I talked to people from different departments about their roles and got an understanding of how a whole company works together. It’s also good for building up your professional network.

Constantine Pelesis

After his internship, Pelesis stuck with his plan to go into medical physics, and now works for the National Health Service as a nuclear medicine clinical technologist at Singleton Hospital in Swansea. This involves carrying out various procedures, such as administering radiopharmaceuticals to patients and using gamma ray cameras to image their internal organs, to see if they are functioning properly. As a next step in his career, he wants to become a clinical scientist, which would involve more work on quality control of the medical machines and radiation protection, and less patient-facing work.

Pelesis advises prospective interns to not only ask their university departments about opportunities, but also search widely online and get a LinkedIn account. “It’s another way of finding opportunities and seeing what jobs are out there,” he says. “It also enables you to make the most out of your internship by keeping in touch with the people you meet there.” Pelesis is still in contact with his Adaptix supervisor, who has introduced him to other people who work with the NHS in Wales. “An internship is a great opportunity to learn from people and build up your network,” he says. “You never know where it might lead.”

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