Organisation STFC
Organisation Detail Science and Technology Facilities Council
Reference Number IRC242554
Location Didcot See on Map
Salary £18946 - £18946
Date Posted 24 August 2017
Grade RC-STU
Contract Type Student - Sandwich Course
Hours Full Time
Closing Date 30 October 2017
Interview Date

Salary: £18,946
Grade: RC-STU
Contract Type: Fixed Term for 1 year
Hours: Full Time
Closing Date: 30th October 2017
Interview Date: 28th and 29th November 2017


The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is one of Europe’s largest science research organisations. We’re trusted to support, enable and undertake pioneering projects in an amazing diversity of fields. Through world-class facilities and people, we’re driving ground-breaking advances in science and technology.

Each year we offer opportunities to undergraduate sandwich students to gain practical experience, working alongside technical experts at the forefront of scientific research. We offer an invaluable experience with exposure to world class science and technology and the opportunity to develop working relationships that continue well after your placement has finished.

ISIS is a world-leading centre for research in the physical and life sciences at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory near Oxford in the United Kingdom. Our suite of neutron and muon instruments gives unique insights into the properties of materials on the atomic scale. We support a national and international community of more than 3000 scientists for research into subjects ranging from clean energy and the environment, pharmaceuticals and health care, through to nanotechnology and materials engineering, catalysis and polymers, and on to fundamental studies of materials. As such ISIS is home to around 500 staff of diverse technical and cultural backgrounds and hosts a strong scientific activity and links to the international community.

Summary of Key Duties

The Molecular Spectroscopy group at ISIS runs two beamlines dedicated to measuring molecular motions in materials which ultimately determine many macroscopic properties, such as viscosity, conductivity or enzymatic activity. Neutron spectroscopy is commonly used to understand the dynamics of atoms in materials that have a so-called glass transition, a reversible transition that occurs in amorphous materials, whereby a material goes from a hard and brittle state to a rubbery or highly viscous state, as the temperature is increased. This is typically probed through a sudden change in the heat capacity. Common materials which show such behaviour include polymers like polypropylene and rubber, or common solvents like toluene and ethylene glycol. Changes in the material properties are observed over this transition and are not fully understood. As such it is beneficial to perform simultaneous measurements of the heat capacity and the neutron response.
The project involves the development of equipment to do this based on an initial prototype that has been designed by our scientists and technicians. Preliminary characterisation tests are being carried out currently by a summer student, but there is extensive room for development. As a work-placement student, you will contribute to the construction and commissioning of a unique capability, as it will be the first time such a kit has been built. This in-situ calorimeter will provide new capabilities for neutron spectroscopy to the UK and worldwide user community. 

The work will involve engineering design and calorimetric tests, as well as tests in the neutron beam with real samples. Software to control of the equipment exists but you will have to work alongside the data analysis group to develop software to analyse and extract relevant information from both the calorimetric and neutronic data.


Full scientific and technical support will be available to you for the period of the work placement. It is expected that a finished product is delivered at least for liquids samples. It is desirable that a modified version could be designed for solid samples. You are expected to deliver the results ideally as a submitted paper to a relevant peer-reviewed journal, as well as provide progress reports both written and oral in nature.

Knowledge, Skills and Experience

You are expected to be undertaking an undergraduate course in materials, engineering or physics and have prior knowledge of material properties and thermodynamics. The post requires prior hands-on laboratory experience with an emphasis in materials characterisation and engineering work. Experience in computer language coding (especially Python) is desirable. You are expected to have excellent communication skills in English language and be able to communicate clearly and effectively with people of different expertise (primarily scientists, technicians and engineers) and cultures. You will have a professional approach, be analytical and a quick learner, you required to work independently and with a ‘can do’ attitude.



  • at university, enrolled on an undergraduate degree course and required or have requested to take a year out of studies to gain experience within industry 
  • right to live and work in the UK 
  • science or engineering degree.


  • physics, engineering or materials science degree
  • aiming towards a first or a 2:1.

Knowledge, Skills and Experience


  • experience with laboratory characterisation techniques
  • experience analysing complex data sets
  • knowledge of thermodynamics and basic physics of materials 
  • computer scripting.


  • experience using a Differential Scanning Calorimeter
  • knowledge of Python
  • knowledge of mechanical design and CAD-type software.

Personal Skills, Qualities and Attributes


  • ability to work as part of a team
  • ability to problem solve and think critically
  • ability to communicate proficiently in English
  • motivated.


  • ability to act on initiative and work independently
  • proactive in putting forward ideas and solutions
  • adaptive to changing situations and resilient
  • ability to plan activities and realise them.

In addition to the competitive salary, an excellent index linked pension scheme and generous leave allowance are offered. Full details of offered benefits can be found on STFC’s careers pages.

From April 2018, STFC will be part of UK Research and Innovation. UK Research and Innovation will bring together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK and a new organisation, Research England. The aim is to create a system that maximises the contribution of each of the component parts and creates the best environment for research and innovation to flourish. The vision for the new organisation is to be the best research and innovation agency in the world. More information can be found online here.

Applications are handled by UK Shared Business Services. To apply please download the application form and save it to your pc. You must upload the completed form and a covering letter to support your application. Please save all your documents with the IRC reference number in the filename and your name.

STFC Sandwich Student Application Form

You must be on a sandwich degree and be taking the industrial placement as a recognised sandwich year to be eligible. You must also have the right to work in the UK. Please ensure that you include a reference from your University as part of your application form.

You can apply for up to three Sandwich student placements; this will require you to complete ONE application form however please ensure that you upload the application form to all three placements and save the relevant reference number (e.g. IRC205817) in the filename of each application that you upload.

Closing date: 30th October 2017
Interview/assessment date: 28th – 29th November 2017

As this job does not fulfil the Home Office Code of Practice criterion for obtaining sponsored migrant worker status we will be unable to apply for sponsorship for anyone not eligible to work in the UK.  At interview, all shortlisted candidates are required to bring with them identification documents and original documents that prove they hold or can obtain the right to work in the UK. You can check your eligibility here: