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Development a calorimeter for neutron spectroscopy - Industrial Placement

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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, technology and Engineering.  

STFC is one of nine organisations that have been brought together to create UK Research and Innovation (UKRI); a new organisation with a vision to ensure the UK maintains its world-leading position in research and innovation.

Each year we offer opportunities to undergraduate 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.

STFC consists of several distinct departments which each focus on a different specialism within science, technology, innovation and support, yet work together to achieve STFC’s grand ambitions. Different departments may look for placement students with similar skills, so you should consider which role/s are most suitable to you, and apply for up to two of these. See all of our current Industrial Placements here.

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 Responsibilities

  • 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 undergo both structural and dynamical changes, from solid to liquid transitions, to more complex ones such as the glass transition. This is 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 further development of equipment to do this based on a working prototype that has been designed and commissioned by our scientists, technicians, and previous sandwich students. The equipment has been optimised and tested with some liquid systems, but there is extensive room for development. The work-placement student will contribute to the development of this unique capability, as it is 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 searching for good test systems ex-situ measurements, but also needs engineering design and calorimetric tests for powder samples. Software to control of the equipment exists but the student will have to work to develop it further into a more user friendly format, and extract relevant information from both the calorimetric and neutronic data. The student will get the chance to be involved with real scientific problems and will have to work alongside staff at different levels. The student will be expected to complete a report at the end of the placement, and will have the chance to present his/her work at conferences and publish their work in scientific journals.

Knowledge, Skills and Experience

The student is 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. The student is 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. The student will have a professional approach, be analytical and a quick learner and to a ‘can do’ attitude. The student is expected to have a strong input into the project and its direction, and is expected to show independence.

Organization Description

UK Research and Innovation is a new entity that brings together nine partners to create an independent organisation with a strong voice for research and innovation, and a vision to ensure the UK maintains its world-leading position in research and innovation. More information can be found at

The Science and Technology Facilities Council is a world-leading multi-disciplinary science organisation, and our goal is to deliver economic, societal, scientific and international benefits to the UK and its people – and more broadly to the world.


Development a calorimeter for neutron spectroscopy - Industrial Placement - IRC250994

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Degree subjects accepted: 
Science & research