Work Placement / Internship

Neutron Diffraction Instrumentation: Design and Optimisation Physicist Industrial Placement

Didcot, Oxfordshire

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The ISIS Pulsed Neutron and Muon Source at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire is a world-leading centre for research in the physical and life sciences. It is owned and operated by the Science and Technology Facilities Council.  

Within ISIS, the Disordered Materials group specialises in using neutron scattering techniques to understand the atom and molecule scale structural properties of liquids and glasses. Our team studies a wide-ranging variety of condensed matter systems including disordered crystalline solids (e.g. metal alloys, functional materials, and nanoparticles), bulk liquids and their mixtures, and materials under confinement. Recent examples drawn from our science programme include a study linking differences in hydrogen bond length to sweetness in sugars, an analysis of how confinement in nano-pores changes the structure of liquid benzene, and an investigation of how Martian soils can keep water as a liquid well below its freezing point.  

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To deliver on our community and individual science goals, the team operates three internationally world-class instruments (NIMROD, SANDALS and GEM), and we are continually looking to improve their capabilities through a series of upgrades. We are consequently seeking a highly motivated individual who is keen to join our team and help us address this challenge. Our chosen approach is sophisticated simulation of neutron scattering instrument performance, using systematic methods to explore instrument upgrades, optimise designs, and appraise their potential impact on our scientific capabilities. The work will help ensure that the Disordered Materials group’s instruments continue to deliver new science and retain their world-class reputation.  

Summary of Key Duties & Responsibilities:  

Working within a multidisciplinary scientific and technological environment, the successful candidate will use the Monte Carlo based neutron ray-tracing simulation package, McStas, to simulate upgrades to instruments within the Disordered Materials group at ISIS: SANDALS, NIMROD and GEM. This will allow a more accurate analysis of the benefit of proposed upgrades, and allow us to understand and optimise their designs. Options to be investigated include new 90°detector banks for NIMROD and SANDALS, integration of an enhanced Small-Angle Neutron Scattering (SANS) detector and neutron guide option for NIMROD, and increased efficiency intermediate angle detectors for GEM. You will be supported by, and work collaboratively with, instrument scientists in the group, and have additional technical support in the simulation package from members of the facility’s Neutron and Muon Instrument Design Group. 

Anticipated duties and responsibilities include: 

  • Editing and further developing instrument models within McStas to include new instrument components (e.g. neutron guides or detector arrays) 
  • Running a series of simulations and developing efficient routines for optimising the design of new instrument components 
  • Processing the results of instrument simulations and presenting them clearly to members of the Disordered Materials, and Neutron and Muon Instrument Design groups 
  • Keeping detailed, well-organised, and understandable documentation for new components in the instrument model, analysis code, and results, such that the future work can be taken up by others in the group
  • Identification of optimal design outcomes: A set of design parameters shown to fulfil the performance criteria of the upgrades, along with datasets that can be compared directly to measurements on the real instruments pre and post upgrade

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  
  • Currently studying for a degree in Physics or similar subject  
  • A basic understanding of, and interest in, how neutrons and/or X-rays can be used to understand structure within materials.  
  • Good organisation and time management and the ability to plan work to meet set time frames 
  • Ability to independently take responsibility for solving problems
  • Good communication skills
  • Demonstrable ability to use simple codes in programming or scripting languages (e.g. C/C++/python) to solve physical problems  
  • Ability to form creative solutions to problems 


  • A-level (or equivalent) grades A/B in Physics and Maths 
  • Knowledge and experience of programming in C/C++ 

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Opportunity Overview

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

Preferred Disciplines...

  • Chemistry
  • Data Science
  • Physics
  • Science

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