ISIS summer student scheme

Take your opportunity to work on a research or development project within ISIS. The application deadline is the 20th February.



Second target station at ISIS. © ISIS.

The ISIS summer student placement scheme allows undergraduate students studying for a degree in Science, Engineering, Computing or Media/Communications to gain experience working in the scientific environment at ISIS, a large scale international research facility. The 6-12 week placements are paid positions and will provide successful students with an opportunity to work on a research or development project within ISIS. The placements will be paid at a rate of £14,168 per annum on a pro-rata basis. They are available to students eligible to work in the UK, who are registered as undergraduate students at the time of the placements – typically during the summer of their penultimate year.

ISIS is a world-leading centre for research in the physical and life sciences. 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.

We now seek applications for placements during the summer 2016 holidays! The application deadline is the 20th February.

How to apply:

  1. Read through the offered projects below and make a note of which projects you would like to apply for. You can apply for up to 3 projects.
  2. Prepare your CV in pdf format, don’t forget to include your GCSE and A-level results (or equivalent for students from outside the UK). Make sure you list skills relevant to your chosen projects.
  3. Get an electronic copy of your university transcripts (pdf/png).
  4. Fill in the online application form. This will ask you for a short paragraph on why you would be keen to work on each of your chosen projects. Make sure you list skills relevant to your chosen projects. The application form can be found here: link
  5. Now send an email with your CV and transcripts to . Include your name and the projects you have chosen in the message.

Shortlisted applicants will be asked for a short interview (usually by phone or skype) at the beginning of March 2016. Good luck!


You can apply for up to 3 projects.

Project 1: Optimise data acquisition on an ISIS time of flight neutron reflectometer

Neutron reflectometers are used to study interfaces and thin films on a nanoscale in a huge range of systems ranging from bacterial membrane models to nanoscale magnetism. A time of flight reflectometer has the advantage that a large part of the dataset can be acquired simultaneously at a single angle. However, for most measurements the required range is so wide that several angles have to be measured. Neutrons are very difficult to produce and it is therefore very important to make good use of the available flux. In this project you will use real neutron data to make predictions on what the optimum angles are for a number of typical scenarios. If time permits we will then test your predictions and acquire neutron reflectometry data based on your predictions. Your work will be used to optimise data acquisition for real experiments.

Requirements: Current student in science or science related area; some experience with scientific software (for example Matlab/Origin/Python)

Benefits to student: This project provides an excellent opportunity to develop your experimental, software and planning skills. You will be working in a high profile, international research environment and will have the satisfaction to know that your findings will be used in real research projects.

Contact: Nina Steinke

Project 2: New Perspective for SasView

This project is an opportunity to add new functionality into a neutron data analysis program used by hundreds of academic and industrial researchers around the world! The mathematical subroutines are already written (so no heavy maths is involved!); instead, you will be responsible for integrating them into the program, creating a GUI to drive them, and for testing the end product. You will work as part of an international team of software developers, primarily based in the UK, US and EU. This is your chance to make a worthwhile and lasting contribution to neutron and X-ray data analysis!

This project will add correlation function analysis to the SasView program ( for the interpretation of small-angle scattering (SAS) data. For more information about SAS techniques, try this website: To get an appreciation for how ubiquitous SAS instruments are, have a look at this list: (and that doesn’t include the hundreds, if not thousands, of low-power laboratory-based instruments!).

SAS instruments record their data in ‘reciprocal space’. Correlation function analysis essentially applies a Fourier Transform to convert the data to ‘real space’ (ie, into distances measured in nanometres). This type of analysis is frequently applied to data from semi-crystalline systems such as glassy polymers and liquid crystals, and hence is used by companies manufacturing these materials.

Standalone code for correlation function analysis was developed almost 30 years ago but has sadly not kept pace with the developments in computer hardware, operating systems, or programming languages. This project will put this important ‘piece’ of the SAS data analysis ‘jigsaw’ back on the scientists workbench by incorporating it as a new Perspective within SasView.]


  • Good understanding of object-oriented programming
  • Experience of programming in Python
  • Experience of using collaborative code development environments (eg, Git, TRAC, etc)

Benefits to the student:

This is a genuine opportunity to experience working on a high-profile, multi-national (UK, US, EU), collaborative software development project with all that entails (teleconferences, code branching, unit testing, etc).

Contact: Steve King

Project 3: Structural and magnetic characterisation of magnetite nanoparticles

When different materials are reduced to the nanometre lengthscale new properties may emerge. In this project we will characterise commercially available nanoparticles and will evaluate their structural and magnetic quality, at the same time that we compare it with their bulk counterparts and analyse the origin of the emergent properties.

Benefits to the student: During this project the student will learn basic material characterisation techniques (X-ray diffraction, XRD; small angle X-ray scattering, SAXS and extraction magnetometry) and analysis tools (Rietveld method and small angle scattering modelling). A systematic change between different configurations of the diffractometer will be performed. This will allow the student to learn the various set ups for a laboratory based technique and the pros and cons of each one. At the end of the project the student will be able to determine the crystalline structure of simple compounds, determine the average grain size and the strain of the sample, compare the results obtained by various techniques (XRD and SAXS), as well as determine the basic magnetic properties of powdered materials. Finally the student will submit a scientific report summarising the main results obtained and the difficulties found in the process.

Contact: Diego Alba Venero

Project 4: Mantid development support

ISIS is a world leading facility for condensed matter research using neutron scattering and muon spectroscopy, with a strong scientific user programme and extensive international links. ISIS currently operates 30 instruments and, following an additional £21m investment, is currently in the process of building 4 new instruments.

Software is an essential part of all the instruments. Initially developed by ISIS, the Mantid framework ( provides a state of the art data treatment and analysis software package for its instruments, and continues to grow to cover the many different scientific areas used at this international facility. Mantid is now also a core part of the operation of the SNS facility in the USA.

The Mantid team requires an additional scientific software developer to develop and support further the framework and associated scientific software.

This is an opportunity to work in a growing team with significant scope to contribute to different areas of work.

Contact: Anders Markvardsen

Project 5: Deuterated Chemcials Synthesis

ISIS is a world-leading neutron and muon centre for research in the physical and life sciences on the atomic scale. The ISIS Deuteration Facility provides isotopically-labelled samples to the user community enabling them to investigate their experiments more effectively.

Although some deuterium-containing molecules are commercially-available in gram quantities (for instance, those commonly used as NMR solvents) most systems of interest to the user community are prohibitively expensive, or are not commercially-available at all. The Deuteration Facility provides custom synthesis of target isotopic materials for the ISIS and ILL user communities in order to enable their experimental programmes.

Requests for materials span a wide range of different types compounds, including amino acids, surfactants, organic/inorganic salts, small drug molecules etc., and target syntheses typically need to be developed. Furthermore, high purity of the products is required and so careful purification and characterisation of the target materials must be performed.

The ISIS Deuteration Faclity is looking for two summer student placements.

These placements will focus on organic synthetic method development and execution of custom synthetic pathways. The aim is to generate high-quality products for use by the ISIS and ILL user communities, such as ionic liquids, deuterated amino acid precursors.

This position will offer the student an excellent opportunity to use and develop their laboratory skills they have acquired at university whilst learning many new ones on the way. The student will also have the opportunity to get involved with a number of collaborative projects with ISIS users and staff.

The student must be enthusiastic and highly motivated. They should be able to work well as part of a team as well as working independently. A strong interest in Synthetic Chemistry and experience with working in a laboratory environment is essential.

Contact: Peixun Li

Project 6: Communications team placement

The breadth of scientific research carried out at the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source is astounding; it ranges from spider silk to superconductors and includes nearly everything in-between. It is the job of the ISIS Communications team to hunt out stories and promote ISIS science to key stakeholders, which include other scientists, local public and UK government.

Working in a small team you will have the chance to interview international scientists visiting the research facility and pull together stories of a common theme to write a feature-length article on a topic of your choosing, for example energy or health. The article will then be published on the ISIS website, and may be pitched to external media outlets.

You should have a passion for science and motivation to seek out stories. Experience of interviewing is not essential but some writing experience is preferred.

Contact: Emily Mobley