The people who use our boards.

Matthew Hillocks

Senior Nuclear Mechanical Engineer

Who are you, and what do you do? What do you like to do outside of work?

I’m Matt. I’m thirty-four years old, and I’m an engineer, designer, and knifemaker. I’m working full time for the Australian government in the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, as well as running my own CAD consultancy part time outside of work. I currently work designing process plants and facilities, and have previously also been a lead engineer for a startup developing containerised water-cleaning systems using ozone gas injection at very high concentrations, a vacuum and hydroexcavation truck designer, a medical mechanical engineer, and a quality engineer in the civil construction industry.

I finished my undergraduate at the end of 2015, then decided I wasn’t finished studying and undertook a Masters in Mechanical Engineering, which I finished in 2018. This brought me to Sydney, where I have lived since Easter 2018. I’ve been working towards getting accredited as a Chartered Mechanical Engineer, and have also decided to undertake a postgraduate diploma in Nuclear Engineering to further my knowledge in my industry.

Since starting at ANSTO, I have been involved with the SyMo Facility, a first-of-a-kind nuclear waste treatment plant developed here in Australia to treat the intermediate-level nuclear waste stream that comes from the process used in manufacturing radioisotopes for medical use, as well as lead the mechanical and civil build on the batching plant developed to supply this facility with consumable components and chemical reagents. I have also developed numerous prototypes in my time here which have been integrated around our pilot plant and full-scale plant.

Outside of work, I love getting my hands dirty. My partner and I bought a house in 2020, which we have been renovating, so I spend a lot of my weekends building and fixing things around the house. Most recently, we just finished building a new kitchen! I also have a little workshop at home that I have set up as a knife-making studio, where I make knives and knife-shaped earrings, and do some light fabrication/welding around the house for myself. I enjoy gardening as well, and my partner and I have been slowly redoing our gardens when time allows. Outside of the house, I like going for hikes in the many national parks near our house in south Sydney and volunteering at a local greyhound rescue.

I also love to travel, which was difficult to not be able to do much during the pandemic. Recently, my partner and I spent three weeks in Japan, travelling to Tokyo, down to Fukuoka via several stops, then back to Tokyo before coming home to Sydney, and we are planning on a two-week trip to Vietnam in April 2023. We have also done some travelling around Australia, recently having spent a week in South Australia visiting the Eyre Peninsula and Adelaide with friends on a weeklong road trip.

Matthew Hillocks posing with a Gundam
Matthew strikes a pose while traveling

When I get the time, I also like to jump on Xbox Live with my friends back home in Brisbane, where we play Apex Legends and Battlefield 2042. However I also like getting on my PC with other friends and playing Satisfactory and Dyson Sphere Program.

Matthew Hillocks's setup
Matthew's CAD work requires plenty of power and a big screen

What hardware do you use?

I have a pretty stock standard desk and chair, being a government employee, but I have a very nonstandard workstation. Most of the staff here operate on a VDI, but as my CAD needs are quite high, I run an IC3D Workstation with a Samsung 49” Ultrawide 4K monitor set up in dual-screen mode. Of course I have a few toys and souvenirs from my travels (some scarves from the UK and Finland, and a mini Gundam statue and Shinkansen bento box from Japan), and some photos (one of my partner and myself and some friends at another friend’s wedding, and one of an ex-racing greyhound we fostered in 2021) to make it my own, as well as a bunch of reference info charts I use frequently.

Matthew Hillocks's mementos
Travel souvenirs keep Matthew company at work

My work PC is a water-cooled Intel I5 9600KF with Quadro P1000 and 32GB ram. I also use a pair of Cambridge Audio Melomania in-ear headphones to stream Spotify during my workday. Aside from my ErgoDox keyboard, I have a standalone numpad setup, and use a Logitech gaming mouse which has most of my SolidWorks shortcuts programmed into it.

And what software?

Primarily I use SolidWorks for my daily work, working on a range of projects of different sizes. Other than that I mostly use Office, as my work involves a lot of documentation due to the nature of the work being in the nuclear industry, which is heavily regulated. Aside from those, the only other software I use regularly is the operative software for our engraving machine, which my colleague and I use to develop our coding and traceability system as part of the build we are doing to develop an automated metrology station.

What’s your keyboard setup like? Do you use a custom layout or custom keycaps?

I use a black ErgoDox EZ with a tilt/tent kit. Knowing that I share my office with a hot-desk user occasionally, I opted for the Cherry MX Clear when I ordered the keyboard from ZSA. I also added the Wings, as I had a lot of trouble with my wrists with my old keyboard being a bit low with my seating position. I haven’t played around with custom keycaps (yet) but at some point I will do! I have spent the last year or so getting used to the newer layout with vertical keys.

Matthew Hillocks's keyboard
Matthew uses a keypad and keeps his keyboard pieces set at a comfortable distance

My layout is pretty rudimentary. The primary reason I got the ErgoDox was as I have a broad chest and shoulders and was getting shoulder pain using a smaller/traditional keyboard. The ErgoDox allows me to do my job longer term without getting sore shoulders, as I can sit more naturally. I originally tried running it with different layers but was struggling to remember which key was what! I recently added a standalone keypad, which is the one thing I use as regularly as a keyboard.

What would be your dream setup?

Currently, it’s the one I just built! It’s a higher-end gaming and CAD PC, which I am funding through the business. The goal is to not have to replace anything for at least 8–10 years. I would love to run it with a couple of curved ~32” 4K monitors, but for now the cost of the PC alone is quite high given how expensive GPUs have gotten, so I am happy to wait.

Specs:

Matthew Hillocks's new home-built PC
Matt's new custom PC looks ready to take on any computing challenge!

My partner and I are also planning on building a new shared office space in what was our dining room previously (we took a wall out and moved it during renovation), with the plan being to build a foundation of the desk from some IKEA Malm drawers, which we will repaint to match our home colour scheme, and a beautiful timber slab bench top made from a native Australian hardwood like silky oak or Banksia wood. Ideally this would also include better cable management and a pair of wireless headphones for the PC. At some point, I will also need to get an identical ErgoDox for home as well. This would be topped off by ideally 2–3 curved monitors mounted radially.

Finally, I would love to add a large-scale Gundam model of the Kshatriya from Gundam Unicorn—I recently saw a really well-done model of this in Japan where it was perfectly accented with LED lighting and such—but that is a case of finding enough space for it!

Matthew Hillocks with a big Gundam
Matthew with another Gundam that might be a little big for the average home

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