Meet the 2021-22 CLF industrial placement students
24 Sep 2021
- Mathew Sims



Every summer, STFC welcomes roughly 70 new placement students to spend a year working at one of their sites across the UK. Four of this year’s students took time out to sit down with and tell me about their placements.




​Every summer, STFC welcomes roughly 70 new placement students to spend a year working at one of their sites across the UK. That includes approximately 15 here in the CLF. Placement students are usually undergraduate (but sometimes Master's) students from universities across the UK who have the chance to take a year out from their degree to apply what they've learned, and develop new skills, in a working environment.

Four of this year's students - Lydia, Ryan, Ota, and Robert - generously took time out to sit down with me, and tell me about their placements.

If you're an undergraduate or Master's student at the moment, and fancy spending a year at the CLF in 2022-23, we're already advertising for next year's placement roles. Be quick, though, as applications close on 31st October. Find out more at:

Photo of Lydia

Lydia – University of Surrey (Physics)

Lydia's work as part of the CALTA team is focused on eliminating problems caused by phase delay in lenses, which will contribute to the development of future systems for EPAC. She decided to apply for a placement at CLF because she wanted to get “hands on" with physics, and gain lab experience. In particular, Lydia said she was inspired by her mum, who did a dissertation for her art degree about light, and that's why she decided to get into the field of lasers and optics. After her placement year, Lydia is hoping to go on and do either a PhD or an EngD - “because Doctor of Engineering sounds cool."

Photo of Robert

Robert – University of Surrey (Aerospace Engineering)

Working in Gemini, Robert's focus as an experimental physicist this year will be on developing mirror mounts for use in EPAC as well as working with the CLF's users to help them get the most out of their time on the Gemini laser. He says it's exciting to be able to “stick his nose in" so many different projects, and meet so many professionals from different fields. Although learning new programming languages, and optics, is challenging, Robert sees his placement as an opportunity to gain these new skills. Looking for a placement, he knew he didn't want a desk job, and hopes spending a year at the CLF will help him “prove himself", and grow his network. In the future he'd like to get involved in science projects overseas, “maybe an overseas expedition," and use his skills to “travel the world doing cool science."

Photo of Ota

Ota Michalek – University of the West of England (Aerospace Engineering)

As well as spending a year as part of the CLF's Artemis team, Ota is part of ESA's Academy and will spend a week in Norway participating in the Fly a Rocket! Programme's rocket campaign during his placement year. Ota's passionate about astrophysics and space science, and hopes that spending a year at CLF will give him the opportunity to apply what he's learned at university to scientific endeavours in the space industry. The most insightful part of Ota's placement, so far, has been “accepting that you don't know everything, and your superiors don't, either, but that if you keep looking then someone will help you find the way." Ota enjoys being challenged every day by the level of detail in the work, and learning “a little bit of everything." After his placement year here at the CLF, Ota would like to go on and do a PhD with orbital dynamics applications.

Photo of Ryan

Ryan Doherty - Queen's University Belfast (Maths and Physics)

Ryan's spending his placement year working on plasma physics in Vulcan, developing improved cameras for imaging what happens in the laser target areas. He also works with Vulcan's user community to help them develop and carry out experiments on the laser. He hopes to gain research experience so that he can potentially go on to do a PhD, perhaps in the same field of physics as he's working on at the CLF. Ryan decided to do his placement here because he wanted to work with cutting edge, high-tech physics and “because it's cool." He says the biggest challenge is keeping up with everything that he needs to learn, especially all the acronyms in meetings! But, that he's learning a lot, and enjoying how new and interesting the work is.​

Contact: Sims, Mathew (STFC,RAL,SC)