Vacation student scheme

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) is one of Europe’s largest 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.

We now have the opportunity for undergraduate students to gain practical work experience during summer 2017, while earning a generous salary. If you are interested in starting your career working at the forefront of scientific research, you could even be selected as one of our sponsored students and receive a payment of up to £6,000 per annum for the rest of your course.

Students can work for 4 -12 weeks at either the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (Harwell, Oxfordshire), Daresbury Laboratory (Warrington) or The UK Astronomy Technology Centre (Edinburgh) on projects relevant to their intended or current course of study, under the supervision of experts in their chosen field.

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.

To apply please email. Candidates may apply for no more than 3 vacancies and must provide a CV and cover letter (expect for PPD roles where a covering letter is not required), specifying which vacancy they are applying for. All candidates must have existing right to work in the UK.

The Closing date for the scheme is 26th March. However, some roles will close before this date – see individual vacancies for details.

We now have the following vacancies within selected STFC divisions:

STFC’s RAL Space department carries out an exciting range of world-class space research and technology development. We have had significant involvement in over 200 space missions and operate at the forefront of UK Space Research.

All RAL Space roles are based at Harwell, Oxfordshire.

Vacancy: Multi-Layer Insulation Manufacturing Facility Administrator

The RALSpace Multi-Layer Insulation (MLI) Manufacturing Facility is responsible for the design, manufacture and integration of the thermal insulation blankets that are used to protect satellites and their equipment in space. MLI blankets are used on almost every satellite that is launched and are critical in protecting from the cold of space.

We are seeking a student who would gain experience of business/management processes. The student would provide assistance to us within the facility through managing improvements to the current systems that we have in place for data and document management.

List of Duties / Work Programme / Responsibilities

  • Production of a costing/quote database and improving MLI costing processes
  • Production of document templates/proformas for key documents
  • Production of physical and electronic promotional materials for the facility
  • Improvement of the filing of integration paperwork and samples
  • Improvement of the electronic filing for research papers/information
  • Review ISO9001 quality procedures
  • All work will be overseen and fully supported by a Chartered Mechanical Engineer

Essential Criteria

  • Good knowledge of general PC applications (Excel, Word, Powerpoint)
  • Good organisational skills
  • Good communication skills

Desirable Criteria

  • Knowledge of Microsoft Access
  • Knowledge of Microsoft Publisher
  • Scientific or Technical Background

Vacancy: Multi-Layer Insulation Manufacturing Facility Engineer

The RALSpace Multi-Layer Insulation (MLI) Manufacturing Facility is responsible for the design, manufacture and integration of the thermal insulation blankets that are used to protect satellites and their equipment in space. MLI blankets are used on almost every satellite that is launched and are critical in protecting from the cold of space.

We are seeking an engineering/science student who would gain technical experience in development of space hardware. The student would provide technical assistance to us within the facility on several improvement projects that we have underway.

List of Duties / Work Programme / Responsibilities

Example projects that you may be involved in include:

  • Determining cost reduction methods in the manufacture of parts used in the manufacture/integration of MLI blankets. This will include liaising with suppliers
  • Design of alternative methods for electrical grounding of MLI blankets
  • Develop method for measuring resistivity of MLI materials during thermal cycling tests
  • Qualification testing of MLI materials
  • Recertification testing of MLI materials
  • Production of procedural documents for generation of CAD/CAM files for plotter and cutter

All work will be overseen and fully supported by a Chartered Mechanical Engineer.

Essential criteria

  • Studying an Engineering or Science Degree
  • Starting 3rd or 4th Year of degree in 2017
  • Good knowledge of general PC applications (Excel, Word, Powerpoint)
  • Good organisational skills
  • Good communication skills

Desirable Criteria

  • Basic knowledge of manufacturing techniques
  • Experience with CAD software
  • Experience of planning, performing and writing up results of experimentation (for example within Third Year Project)

Vacancy: The signature of clouds seen by a lower-VHF atmospheric radar

The aim of this project is to investigate the signature of clouds seen by a lower-VHF atmospheric radar, i.e. one operating at a frequency of around 50 MHz. Such radars are primarily sensitive to "clear air" scattering from metre-scale structures in atmospheric refractive index. They are used to measure profiles of the wind. The term "clear air" is used to distinguish this type of scattering from the hydrometeor scattering (i.e. from water droplets and ice crystals) that is preferentially seen by much-higher frequency radars. The term does not imply clear sky conditions since clouds do not have a direct effect on the lower-VHF radar returns. Nevertheless, enhanced signal powers are sometimes seen to correspond to the base of clouds. It is assumed that this is caused by sharp vertical changes in atmospheric temperature and humidity, both of which affect refractive index. However, this relationship has never been studied systematically.

The role of the student will be to investigate this topic using data from the NERC MST Radar at Aberystwyth, a colocated laser ceilometer, and radiosondes (i.e. meteorological balloons).

Essential Criteria

This project will be undertaken using the Python computer language. The student must have experience of programming in any common language.

Desirable Criteria

An interest in atmospheric science would be an advantage.

Vacancy: Impact of Aerosols and Land Use Change on Climate

Global warming is expected to continue into the future due to the steady rise of greenhouse gases emitted by anthropogenic activities. The net effect of clouds, on the other hand, is to cool the planet and any changes in their abundance, thickness, or height in response to human activities is critical to quantify in order to predict how much warming we might expect in the future.

The post will combine newly developed cloud products with other identified essential climate variables (ECV’s) such as aerosol, precipitation, and land/ocean surface changes to quantify their impacts on the Earth’s radiation budget. The Optimal Retrieval of Aerosol and Cloud algorithm (ORAC) has been fit to serve this purpose through providing a consistent record of aerosol and cloud retrievals that now span multiple decades (from 1995 to 2012).

The student will develop code to visualise and analyse this data set as well as explore links to other ECV’s. Results will be displayed on the RAL Space website to provide visibility of this unique dataset to the climate community.

The successful candidate is likely to be in the 3rd/4th years of a physics/meteorology/environmental science or atmospheric chemistry related undergraduate course. A computer scientist with experience developing software with an interest in environmental applications would also be highly suitable.

Desirable Criteria

The student would ideally have some experience of coding, as the project will involve writing or amending existing IDL code for data manipulation and visualisation. Support and some training will be given.

Vacancy: Detection of methane emission sources from global satellite observations

The RAL Remote Sensing Group develops state-of-the-art schemes to retrieve global distributions of atmospheric constituents from satellite observations. Multi-year data sets on methane, ozone, aerosol and clouds are currently being produced for climate research and other applications.

Methane is one of the most important contributors to global warming and the link between climate change and methane emissions is one of the most important feedbacks in the Earth-atmosphere system. The global distribution of tropospheric methane is determined by surface sources and transport by atmospheric winds. This distribution can be retrieved on a daily basis from the signature of methane in satellite observed IR spectra. From these retrievals, the geographical and temporal variability of methane emission sources (e.g. wetlands, rice production and other agriculture, biomass-burning, fossil-fuel production) is evident; analysis of our eight-year global methane dataset reveals the seasonal cycle, year-to-year variability and underlying upward trend in methane concentrations on a regional basis.

In this project, the student will identify methane emission sources from satellite data and analyse these in conjunction with correlative information (e.g. met data, emission inventories and surface measurements). The student will have the opportunity to deepen their computer programming skills, learn about satellite sounding of atmospheric composition, and will use and develop tools to visualise and interpret state-of-the-art satellite data on methane.

Desirable Criteria

Some experience and skill in IDL or Python programming is expected. The successful candidate is likely to be in the 3rd/4th year of an undergraduate course in physics/meteorology/environmental science/chemistry. A computer scientist with experience developing software with an interest in environmental applications would also be highly suitable.

Vacancy: CEDA software development for climate data infrastructure

The Centre for Environmental Data Analysis (CEDA) runs the Natural Environmental Research Council’s earth observation and atmospheric data centres, as well as the IPCC Data Distribution Centre. CEDA also manages a multi-petabyte high-performance data analysis platform, known as JASMIN to support academic research.

Over the past years the size of scientific datasets has been growing at an incredible rate a trend that is set to continue into the future. One part of the solution to the so-called ‘Big Data’ problem is to host computing infrastructure alongside the data. Following this approach, JASMIN provides traditional batch compute and a community cloud service with access to high-performance storage, including the CEDA data archive. This enables researchers to deploy a range of software environments on JASMIN with ready access to the archive of earth observation and climate science datasets.

To support users of JASMIN and the data archives, CEDA runs a number of web-facing services. These build on a range of technologies such as the Python Django web framework, OPeNDAP and Elastic Search to provide facilities such as access to archive data, management of user accounts and self-service deployment of JASMIN virtual machines. We also continue to investigate new technologies and how they might benefit our users.

List of Duties / Work Programme / Responsibilities

The role will involve one or more tasks depending on the skills and experience of the candidate. They will work closely with the JASMIN technical team. Among the potential tasks are:

  • Development of extensions to the Cloud management portal in the Python programming language
  • Testing and evaluation of the Jupyter Notebook service on JASMIN
  • Development, testing and evaluation of high-performance OPeNDAP services
  • Evaluation of libraries for parallel computation in Python (e.g. Dask)
  • Investigate options for, and possibly implement OpenID Connect for JASMIN and CEDA accounts

Essential skills

  • Strong interest in computing
  • Programming experience including Python programming language
  • Familiarity with UNIX-based operating systems
  • Ability to work independently
  • Strong problem-solving skills

Desirable skills

  • Knowledge of technologies for virtualisation
  • Exposure to cloud computing services, e.g. public cloud services such as Amazon or Google
  • Experience using ICT in a science or engineering discipline
  • An interest in Earth observation and climate science

STFC’s Business and Innovation Directorate (BID) apply knowledge from STFC’s facilities, research and technology programmes to the wider economy, delivering UK economic growth through spin-out companies, inward investment and collaborative industrial R&D.

Vacancy: Marketing and documentation of laboratory testing services – Harwell, Oxfordshire

STFC’s Innovation Technology Access Centre (I-TAC) is a unique, fully equipped space for innovation, research and development, providing flexible access to laboratory space, "hot-labs" and scientific equipment. It is ideally suited to start-up companies, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and R&D teams from established companies. However, despite the many facilities offered by I-TAC, the equipment and current usage of the cleanrooms are not well advertised. Therefore, there is a need to create some advertising documents (posters, Power point presentations, pamphlets etc.) to maximise exposure.

This is a fantastic opportunity to be involved within a small team who support the activities within I-TAC. In addition to marketing, there is also an opportunity to help develop and document typical laboratory activates, such as laboratory procedures. This may include some hands on experience.

You will be an undergraduate have an interest in the application of physical sciences, be interested in innovation.

List of Duties / Work Programme / Responsibilities

  • Creation of informative media such as posters, pamphlets, presentations
  • Help document risk assessments and COSHH forms
  • Review quality and product assurance documents for laboratory procedures
  • Gain experience in how STFC helps to incubates companies.

STFC’s Central Laser Facility (CLF) is a world-class centre for research in physical and life sciences. CLF houses some of the most intense lasers in the world, capable of generating some of the most extreme conditions on earth.

All CLF roles are based at Harwell, Oxfordshire.

Vacancy: Loop control improvement for fast beam stabilization

The pointing stability of the Gemini laser is one of the main areas of improvement for the facility. Over the last two year a novel stabilization system was developed and preliminary tested. The results are really promising and it is planned to make the system operational and to implement it permanently.

The current system use off shelf electronics, is easy to use but expensive and with limited flexibility. The commercially available the red pitaya platform looks promising to improve the control loop electronics because present various advantages:

  • Much cheaper than previous electronics
  • Possibility to integrate loop control with diagnostics
  • Open source code available
  • Full 2 axis control

List of Duties / Work Programme / Responsibilities

The aim of the project is to study the red pitaya platform and start to develop the software. The work program will be to:

  • Setup the development platform
  • Identify existing open source code usable for the project
  • Implement and test the code on a simplified experimental setup

Depending to the progress and the interest of the student further development includes:

  • Implement digital filter
  • IP communication base protocol
  • Open and close loop characterization

Desirable Criteria

Knowledge of a program language (preferably C or C++) is desirable

Vacancy: Interactions of mTOR proteins using CLF Octopus

Biomedical Optics for Life Science Applications – BIOAPP and Microscopic technique for 3D single molecule tracking in live cells. Begin development of advanced single molecule imaging and manipulation approaches, together with super-resolution and electron microscopy (EM) will allow investigation of biological samples at the molecular level.

3D microscopy techniques, such as Light Sheet Fluorescence Microscopy (LSFM) or two-photon microscopy (TPM) will be developed for the imaging of tissues mimics (spheroids) and whole organs (organoids). Proteins involved in cancer and DNA repair will be cloned with far red probes to allow deep tissue imaging. This work will help towards meeting the Laserlab BioAPP deliverables.

Duties will include Cell biology, advanced microscopy including confocal, super resolution STED, light sheet and single molecule imaging.

Responsible for STFC’s overall budgeting and associated financial planning, management, support and accounting processes.

Vacancy: Non-current Assets (Finance) – Harwell, Oxfordshire

Short term administration work for STFC Non-Current Asset Team. Work will involve physical verification of assets on the Fixed Asset Register across all STFC sites, updating Oracle records, and data cleansing of capital projects. The students will be based at RAL but the position will involve travel to other UK sites such as DL, UKATC, Swindon and Chilbolton Observatory.

List of Duties / Work Programme / Responsibilities

  • To arrange and carry out physical verification of assets
  • Scan verification sheets and file photos into logical folders
  • Prepare Oracle input sheets for any changes to records
  • To review capital project spend for non-capital costs and prepare Oracle input sheets
  • To reconcile Oracle PA entries on capital projects with Oracle GL entries
  • Assist with the electronic file management of Asset photographs
  • Photographing of Assets
  • Review of Asset Loan agreements to check STFC assets out on loan and update records Archiving
  • Any other activities suitable for the role and experience

Relevant Information

  • Attention to detail, good use of MS Excel, and an enquiring mind would be very useful
  • Position will involve some climbing of metal staircases
  • Position will involve entry to areas of site that could be subject to ionising radiation

The STFC Technology division provides advanced technology and engineering in support of both STFC funded activities and other high profile international projects. Our technologies and competencies are world class, and our expertise encompasses micro-nano engineering, through microelectronics, to major engineering structures.

Vacancy: Cold temperature CMOS test structure – Harwell, Oxfordshire

As part of their continuing programme of CMOS circuit development and technology investigations, the ASIC Design Group at RAL are designing test circuits in support of future project requirements. One such requirement is microelectronic circuits for operation at temperatures of 77 degrees Kelvin and lower, temperatures which are well below those modelled by CMOS technology vendors.

In 2017 we aim to construct a small test structure chip using new and existing analogue circuits, in order to evaluate the performance of these analogue circuits at low temperatures. Circuits will include simple test transistors as well as more complex amplifier circuits. Under the supervision of a senior microelectronics designer, a successful Vacation Student candidate will be instrumental in designing this test structure chip using Cadence IC6 design tools.

Experience of working with Computer Aided Design Software for Microelectronics (such as Cadence) is desirable.

List of Duties / Work Programme / Responsibilities

  • Supervised design of test circuits using Cadence IC6 design tools
  • Schematic entry and simulation
  • Layout of circuits including DRC and LVS
  • Simulation of layouts including extracted parasitic elements
  • Presentation of work for review by members of the ASIC Design Group

Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000