Work Placement / Internship

Biological Sample Environment Research Industrial Placement

Didcot, Oxfordshire

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Within STFC, ISIS is a world leading facility for scientific research using neutron scattering and muon spectroscopy, with a strong scientific user programme and extensive international links. We support a national and international community of more than 2000 scientists for research into subjects ranging from clean energy and the environment, pharmaceuticals and health care, through to nanotechnology, materials engineering and IT, as well as fundamental physics and chemistry investigations. 

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The Small Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) Group at ISIS operates four neutron scattering diffractometers, as well as a variety of sample environments in close collaboration with the Soft Matter Section of the Sample Environment Group. Sample environment setups include changers and rheometers to study soft matter, magnets for the study of hard matter and various flow-regime kits for in-line SANS measurements on biomolecules. The latter setups include a stopped-flow instrument where online rapid mixing of two or more solutions allows the study of in-situ structural kinetics of fast reactions with SANS.  

Stopped-flow SANS is particularly useful in probing interactions between drugs and biomembranes, self-assembly kinetics of virus nucleocapsids. NUrF is a custom apparatus developed in collaboration with the University of Lund and the ESS.1 It enables the quasi-simultaneous measurement of SANS, UV-visible and fluorescence spectroscopy as well as densitometry. The additional characterisation techniques enable the monitoring of the sample state produced by automated sample preparation techniques. 

Size-Exclusion Chromatography online use ensures that samples flow directly from the SEC column into the SANS measuring cell, allowing the separation of polydisperse mixtures and determination of the solution structure of monodisperse samples. SEC-SANS, in conjunction with contrast matching and deuteration, could address more complex questions2. This may involve studies of protein complexes, multiprotein assemblies, or protein-DNA/RNA complexes.  

Summary of Key Duties & Responsibilities  

The aim of the project is to develop efficient experimental methods for the characterisation of biological complexes with stopped and continuous flow setups on SANS beamlines. As such, it offers the unique opportunity of combining biophysical experimental work and technical development. It is also anticipated that the experimental work will result in at least one peer-reviewed publication.  

The work will include: 

  • Commissioning and testing of bespoke HPLC system on ISIS TS2 SANS instruments. The testing will cover the optimisation of SEC-SANS experimental procedures for different biological systems. The commissioning will include the optimisation of flow rates, operation in stopped-flow mode and the custom design of variable-thickness flow cell compatible various beam sizes and injection volumes
  • Improving efficiency and usability the NUrF apparatus. An investigation of alternative methods and equipment for the automated sample preparation system will be carried out. Improved methods for the calibration, inspection and output of spectroscopy data will be developed

Are you looking for full support throughout a placement? The project will be carried out jointly between the ISIS SANS group and the Soft Matter Section of the Sample Environment Group.  

1 NUrF—Optimisation of in situ UV–vis and fluorescence and autonomous characterisation techniques with small-angle neutron scattering instrumentation. Review of Scientific Instruments, 91, 075111, 2020. 

2 Biological Small Angle Scattering: Techniques, Strategies and Tips. Barnali Chaudhuri, Inés G. Muñoz, Shuo Qian, Volker S. Urban, 2017.  

In order to apply for this role you must have:  


  • 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  
  • Studying for a degree in Biochemistry/Biophysics, with a strong academic record  
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills  
  • Ability to work as part of a wider team, as well as on own initiative  
  • Proficient in the use of Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint or similar products 


  • Some familiarity with X-ray or neutron scattering, particularly small-angle or/and diffraction 
  • Evidence of independent bio-lab work from e.g. previous summer placement  
  • Basic awareness of project context 

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Opportunity Overview

  • October 31st, 2021
  • £20,129 + benefits
  • All grades
  • Year-long
  • Didcot, Oxfordshire
    (Show map)

Preferred Disciplines...

  • Bioengineering
  • Biology
  • Biomedical
  • Biotechnology

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