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Polarized Neutrons Industrial Placement


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About The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) 

As one of Europe’s largest research organisations, we ask the biggest questions in the universe to find answers that change the world around us. We seek understanding.

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Find out what you can do to really impress recruiters at the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) – from Early Careers Talent Acquisition Manager, Ben Bealing.

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We’re proud of the impact we make. And we’re committed to helping build a globally competitive, knowledge-based UK economy. Being part of all this means contributing to work that pushes boundaries and creates possibilities.

You’ll work with, and learn from, true experts. Whatever your role, you’ll be free to question, and encouraged to share ideas. And, in a positive and supportive culture, you’ll discover just what a difference you can make when you’re equipped and inspired to excel.

We’re a place where curious minds thrive. Not bound by profit, we explore ideas that others don’t, ask questions that others won’t, and discover answers that others are not equipped to find. And, alongside Mars landings and black holes, we also explore diverse, international projects in everything from science and engineering to computing and technology.

Whether it’s at the cutting edge or behind the scenes, our work is intellectually challenging. It’s very often ground-breaking. And it’s endlessly, irresistibly fascinating.

About UK Research Innovation (UKRI) 

UKRI is an organisation that brings together the seven disciplinary research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Together, we build an independent organisation with a strong voice and vision ensuring the UK maintains its world-leading position in research and innovation. 

Supporting some of the world’s most exciting and challenging research projects, we develop and operate some of the most remarkable scientific facilities in the world. We are pushing the frontiers of human knowledge through fundamental research and delivering benefits for UK society and the economy through world-class research, skills and business-led innovation. 

The ISIS Neutron & Muon Instrument Development group (NMIDG) was recently formed to develop new instrumentation and simulation methods and to provide staff training and advice. 

Within NMIDG, the Polarized Neutrons section is responsible for the development of new polarized instrumentation and software, as well as the provision of polarized infrastructure for several instruments. It currently consists of two scientists and one technician and operates the FLYNN metastable exchange optical pumping 3He filling station.

Examples of recent projects include the installation of a polarization analysis mode on the LET spectrometer, and the replacement of the laser system on FLYNN. Previous placement students played an important role in the successful execution of both projects. 

Overview of our industrial placement scheme

STFC’s exceptionally diverse range of placements allow you to work alongside world leading engineers, scientists and technicians in highly collaborative environments. Whichever you choose, you’ll become a critical member of the team in which you will be exposed to exciting projects and challenges from the beginning. You’ll be supported every step of the way by our dedicated Early Careers Team who will also ensure you benefit from a range of personal development opportunities. 

Summary of responsibilities

A neutron beam is called polarized when the spins of the neutrons are dominantly aligned in the same direction. Such beams can be used to improve the information gained from scattering experiments, by, for example, enabling the separation of the different scattering processes that contribute to the overall signal. This has been used to distinguish single-molecule and collective motions in an experiment on heavy water (D2O) using the LET spectrometer.

The provision of polarized neutron capabilities on an instrument requires the installation of several additional components, including a polarizer to prepare the polarized incident beam and an analyzer to distinguish the change in beam polarization after scattering from the sample.

A commonly used technology for both is the hyperpolarized 3He spin-filter. A spin-filter is a vessel that contains 3He gas with a high atomic polarization, meaning that the atomic spins in the gas are preferentially aligned, just as in a polarized neutron beam. 3He spin-filters exploit the fact that a 3He atom in a particular spin state absorbs neutrons with the opposite spin state. Therefore, a volume of polarized 3He gas transmits only one spin state of the neutron beam. 

The NMIDG Polarized Neutrons section is now looking for an independent and motivated placement student to carry out development work with the goal of improving 3He cell performance. 

Along with magnetic field gradients, the walls of the spin-filter vessel (typically made of glass) strongly contribute to the decay of the 3He polarization, and hence the spin-filter performance, with time. While the exact physical mechanisms are poorly understood, surface adsorption, magnetic defects, and surface chemistry are all thought to play important roles. 

We have recently launched a project to prepare spin filter cells from materials that are cleaner and more reproducible than glass, like single crystal silicon. The project will involve cell design, assembly, and preparation of new spin-filter cells, followed by testing using both nuclear magnetic resonance and neutron transmission measurements. If successful, the cells will be deployed on the Larmor and LET instruments at ISIS. 

In addition to the above, the successful candidate will also have the opportunity to take part in other Polarized Neutrons section activities, including experiments on neutron instruments. Full scientific and technical support will be provided during the placement. 

In order to apply for this placement, we are looking for the following:


  • Currently be enrolled on an undergraduate degree course 
  • Be required or have requested to take a placement year 
  • Have the right to live and work in the UK for the duration of the placement
  • Studying for a degree in Chemistry, Physics, Materials Science or similar 
  • Evidence of good laboratory skills 
  • Basic knowledge of scripting/programming 
  • Good communication skills 
  • Willingness to learn required technical and non-technical skills 
  • Ability to work as part of a wider team, as well as on own initiative 


  • Basic awareness of the project context and of physical principles underlying project 
  • Basic knowledge of NMR techniques 
  • Basic knowledge of surface chemistry and surface characterization techniques e.g. Atomic force microscopy, X-ray photoemission spectroscopy, X-ray reflectometry 
  • Evidence of ability to work independently, via e.g. a summer internship

Part of our application process involves submitting your CV and a cover letter. Your cover letter should address your suitability for the opportunity based on how you meet each essential criteria stated in this advert.

We would recommend you to submit your application as soon as possible as we reserve the right to close this vacancy once we have received sufficient applications.

Disability Confident Employer

As users of the disability confident scheme, we guarantee to interview all disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria for the vacancy/ies. We will ensure that individuals with disabilities are provided reasonable accommodation to participate in the job application or interview process, to perform essential job functions, and to receive other benefits and privileges of employment. Please contact us to request accommodation. 


STFC offers a benefits package crafted to provide an excellent work/life balance including 30 days’ annual leave, 10.5 public and privilege days, Christmas closure and flexible working hours. 

  • Work Life Balance
  • Flexible Working Hours
  • Subsidised restaurant and coffee outlets
  • Paid Emergency Leave

How to apply 

Online applications only preferred for this role. Please submit a CV and covering letter which clearly outlines how you fulfil the criteria specified along with your motivation for UKRI and the role. Ensure that the job reference number is included in the filename description of each document uploaded.

Note that failure to address the above criteria or submit an application without a covering letter may result in the application not being considered. Assessment will only be based upon the content of your submitted covering letter and CV and not the ‘experience’ section of the application. 

UKRI seeks to ensure it creates and maintains a system of openness, fairness and inclusion – a collaborative, trusted environment, which is attractive to and accessible to everyone who is interested in developing their career with us. 

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Job ID Number: 220000YR
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Opportunity Overview

  • Deadline: October 30th, 2022
  • Starting: June 2023
  • Multiple vacancies
  • Starting Salary: £20,129 + benefits
  • All grades
  • 12 months
  • Didcot (Oxfordshire)
    (Show map)

Preferred Disciplines...

  • Chemical
  • Chemistry
  • Materials Science
  • Physics

Also Accepting...

  • All STEM disciplines

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