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Ian Hill, B.Eng. '04, M.A.Sc. '06

(Engineering Physics), (Engineering Physics) | Going Nuclear in Paris

A bit of inspiration, a touch of excitement and a grain of anticipation led Ian Hill into Engineering Physics.

Canada’s history in developing nuclear technology offered the inspiration, while the opportunity for hands-on work with the campus nuclear reactor brought the excitement. Canada’s ongoing bid to host the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) was the anticipation in the mix.

In the end, Canada lost out to France for the ITER, but Hill earned both his Bachelor (2004) and Master’s (2006) degrees in Engineering Physics and has gone on to pursue a career in nuclear engineering. And like the ITER, he’s also landed in France.

Hill is currently the deputy head of nuclear science with the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD’s) Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). He is responsible for coordinating the joint research that member countries are undertaking in a variety of areas related to nuclear safety and reactor physics.

“Right now, typical days are rare,” says Hill. “In the period of a month, I could be overseeing the construction of a database on reactor physics benchmarks, identifying gaps in fuels performance experiments, running scientific computations, assisting with my division’s budget, or travelling to present the division’s work at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).”

“I have daily interactions with chemists, computer scientists, materials scientists, nuclear physicists, and engineers. A broad knowledge base is required to talk shop in all these areas,” he adds.

Based in Paris, Hill counts a daily office view of the Eiffel Tower as a job perk, along with the opportunity to visit nuclear facilities around the world. Highlights include Canada’s Chalk River, Moscow’s Kurchatov Institute and even a 2017 tour of the ITER led by the director general, Bernard Bigot.

His advice to today’s students: “Recognize your strengths, then find and work with people that complement those strengths, and learn from them.”