From Placement to PhD: Following the Story of Alfred Jones
24 Sep 2018
- Helen Towrie



​​The Sandwich Student Scheme has been running successfully for over 20 years, with the number of students increasing year-by-year to over 50 across STFC in 2018.




Open to all students who as part of their degree are able to undertake either a one year or a six month placement within industry, the recruitment of sandwich students enables STFC (and by extension CLF) to fulfil its strategic objectives of engaging with STEM students, and assist with the creation of a talent pipeline into the graduate scheme.

As a result, it is always a delight to see a previous sandwich student returning to the CLF later on in their career. A recent example of this is one of last year's students, Alfred Jones, who spent his year in industry working as a member of the Artemis laser facility team, leaving a lasting and positive impression on his team and other fellow staff. This year, we were happy to welcome him back again to the CLF as a visiting PhD student.

Having studied at Bristol University, he has now accepted a PhD in Denmark at the Aarhus University working in the synchrotron there, a facility not unlike Diamond, but that shares similar specialities to Artemis.

As part of his PhD, Alfred is looking at 2D materials. A fairly new discovery, 2D materials are 1 atom thick sheets of material that portray interesting properties scientists are keen to look into. These odd substances are something that Alfred became very familiar with during his time at the CLF, and it is clear that he feels his placement has made a huge and lasting impression on his academic career path.

He also remarked on the deeper level of understanding he gained from learning more than just theory. The engineering aspect of working with a real-life complex scientific instrument meant that he started his PhD at a level where he felt comfortable with being hands-on with similar technology.

When Alfred returned to the CLF as a user a few months ago, he commented on how many things had been changed and updated in the Artemis lab, despite only one year passing since his last visit. His returning role was help conduct an experiment lead by Prof. Søren Ulstrup into a 2D material called vanadium diselenide, where they were studying how electrons behave when they are excited by a laser beam.

“I think the fact that I worked at Artemis meant I got my PhD place – the experience and networking were extremely valuable to me. I wouldn't know what to do in this area of physics without that placement in Artemis." Alfred remarked.

16EC3406 Artemis laser.jpg

During his year sandwich placement, Alfred has the opportunity to get involved with every Artemis experiment, allowing him to gain a wide range of skills. Using this knowledge he will be helping to build a new beamline and end-station at the Aarhus synchrotron as part of his 4.5 year long combined Masters and PhD course.

Alfred 4.jpg

For his novel experiment, he plans on making a semiconductor with graphene, something he learnt about and gained interest for during his year in industry.

On a more personal note for Alfred, he also remarked on how great it was to see his old team and surrounding colleagues.

“It was nice to see everyone again. I was able to catch-up and watch the World Cup with my old team," Alfred fondly recalled. “I would definitely like to come back as a user again in the future."


Contact: Towrie, Helen (STFC,RAL,CLF)