Work Placement / Internship

Operations with the Octopus facility: imaging protein function DNA damage and the mTOR pathway Industrial Placement

Didcot, Oxfordshire

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The Lasers for Science Facility (LSF) at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory develops and provides access to advanced laser techniques for the scientific community.  

Working as a member of the Imaging team in the Research Complex at Harwell, this placement will be involved in developing aspects of the imaging facilities, known as OCTOPUS (Optics Combined To OutPut Unique Solutions). The OCTOPUS combines super resolution, confocal and single molecule microscopy (multicolour and multiphoton), fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM), fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET), and image correlation spectroscopy (ICS) to investigate the conformation and interactions of molecules in cells.

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Optical tweezers will be integrated into the light sheet cluster to enable the manipulation of samples. The science programmes of Octopus include the use of FLIM for the investigation of complexes used for medical imaging (collaboration with Oxford, Bath, and Manchester Universities). We also use single molecule techniques to study the complex signalling pathways of cells (STFC, King’s College London, Oxford, and Cambridge), using FRET/FLIM combined with optical trapping to study the secretory pathways of plants (Oxford Brookes, Exeter University and STFC), and using confocal microscopy to study DNA damage and repair (STFC and Oxford).  

Summary of Key Duties & Responsibilities  

This placement will be part of a team, assisting researchers from universities and industry and will be encouraged to gain hands-on experience of using laser systems and diagnostic equipment, cell and molecular biology. 

During the year, the successful student will be encouraged to carry out projects to develop and extend the capabilities of OCTOPUS. In particular, the work will be directed towards the integration new microscopic techniques to a range of end station. This will be applied to novel biological questions such as how cells deploy proteins for DNA damage and repair and via the mTOR pathway.

Projects will include:  

  • Combining the optical tweezers instrumentation with the light sheet microscope, allowing the manipulation of organelles within cells, as well as measuring interaction forces in chemical and biological systems 
  • Working with the two confocal microscope systems (multiphoton and multicolour) to provide a common user interface, allowing the easy exchange of samples between microscopes 
  • Developing a time resolved anisotropy imaging technique 
  • Combining confocal and single molecule techniques to allow the collection of complementary information on intracellular location, molecular interactions and conformation 

We are looking for a student who has a background in life and physical sciences. An interest in computing, optics or electronics would be an advantage but are not essential. 

Are you looking to be supported? Full training will be given in all aspects of general laboratory work and the operation of specialised equipment and lasers. Projects will also be selected according to the student’s interest.  

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  
  • 3 A’Levels- scientific, minimum 2 years higher education (pre degree) 
  • Laboratory experience working with biochemical and/or chemical spectroscopy and/or instrumentation. 
  • Very good level of spoken and written English 


  • Ability to perform literature search to assess related work related to activities within the group 
  • An interest in computing, optics or electronics 

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Opportunity Overview

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

Preferred Disciplines...

  • Chemistry
  • Computer Science
  • Information Technology
  • Physics
  • Science

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