Graduate working at STFC

Vulcan Laser Target Areas (Physics) - Year-Long Placement


STFC offers you an opportunity to gain paid practical experience as part of your degree. Each year STFC recruit up to 45 sandwich students who are able to use and develop the skills they’ve acquired at university in a working environment, providing learning on the job and working on real projects alongside expert scientists and engineers. Learning new skills to help in their further studies.

The Central Laser Facility based at the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory is a world leading, cutting edge research department containing high power lasers, Vulcan and Astra Gemini, as well as materials sciences and life sciences groups using medium and low power lasers. Researchers from the UK, EU and other countries world-wide come to use our facilities to carry out experiments requiring high power lasers on a variety of applied and blue skies topics, such as ion source development for medical application, fusion mechanisms for energy, x-ray source development for ultra-fast imaging, laboratory astrophysics, photo-induced nuclear reactions, to name a few.

Placement positions working within the High Power Laser (HPL) Target Area teams alongside our visiting scientists are being offered, with an emphasis on participation in, as well as planning and support of, high power laser-plasma interactions experiments. In addition there will be several short and long term projects based on both diagnostic development and implementation. 

List of Duties / Responsibilities

The work undertaken in the target areas change with each experiment and can vary from sourcing equipment to the design and running of plasma diagnostics and data analysis from experiments. You will be expected to undertake several projects during the year that improve diagnosis of experiments, or the facilities that deliver them. Project ideas from you are always welcomed. The work is fast paced and can be very demanding at times, but a friendly, informal working environment is maintained throughout.

A placement within HPL Target Areas offers an excellent opportunity to participate in a live research environment pushing the boundaries of science, as well as honing your personal skills and knowledge in science education and self-management. 

Contacts and Communication

The position is in a team environment working directly with staff in the Vulcan or Gemini Target Area teams as well as alongside external researchers (PhD students up to Professors) from mostly UK/EU universities.

Personal Skills and Attributes

You must have a good grasp of basic physics concepts (eg optics, electromagnetism), be able to apply their knowledge to new topics and be adept in the lab. An interest and previous experience in programming is useful, but not essential. Good communications skills are essential, the ability to work autonomously and in a team. Drive and an enthusiasm for science are definitely a positive attribute. Previous experience in a customer facing environment and the ability to manage self and others would be beneficial.

Welcome to STFC

The Science and Technology Facilities Council is one of Europe's largest multidisciplinary research organisations supporting scientists and engineers world-wide.

Shortlisting Criteria  



  • Enrolled at university studying for a degree in physics, applied physics, engineering physics, or natural sciences with high physics content, any of which must also contain lab work modules (and have achieved good grades to date overall).
  • Right to live and work in the UK


  • programming skills/interest in programming
  • have customer facing experience
  • management and people skills from hobbies or previous work experience.

Knowledge/Skills and Experience 


  • good understanding of basic physics concepts (optics, electromagnetism, lasers)
  • excellent practical laboratory skills.


  • appreciation /awareness of Health and Safety.

Personal Skills/Qualities 


  • good communication skills
  • ability to listen
  • ability to apply knowledge
  • the willingness to learn new skills, both technical and non-technical
  • ability to work both in a team or on your own
  • open minded and flexible in relation to the type of work assigned to them
  • drive and enthusiasm.

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