Skip Doran
23 Apr 2024



Cryogenics technician Skip tells us about her work in the helium recovery centre at ISIS.


1.       Please could you let us know about your academic or industrial background and what was it that introduced you to this particular discipline that you chose to focus on for your career? / Or what first piqued your interest in science?

Academically, I first started perusing engineering and science when I went to UTC Oxfordshire. In this college I was introduced to a large range of industries both from showcases and visiting their sites. From here I learned about the work of STFC & CCFE and was fascinated with the work happening at my doorstep!

My first interest in science was like many others, having a keen interest in understanding the world around us and how it all works! Asking the big and even the small questions.

2.       Please could you let us know what your early academic or industrial career involved – e.g. PhD subject, apprenticeship, what this involved.

I completed an Advanced Engineer Technician Apprenticeship at UK Atomic Energy Authority at the Culham Science Centre. This involved gaining practical experience and theoretical knowledge, working towards qualifications through academics, including an HND.

3.       Did you have a role model that influenced your decision to work in science?

I had many role models over the years! One of the key scientists was Professor Brain Cox, who I was extremely fortunate to attend a lecture of and meet in person. But my main inspiration is my Dad. He has always had a passion to build and create things that I could not comprehend as a child. Seeing the things he could design, build, and fix, inspired me to pursue the engineering field and be just like him.

4.       What are your main memories when you look back on this first start in your career?

I remember the profound sense of making a difference. I have always strived to work with businesses that make a real-world difference and leave a mark on the world. From working alongside the world's flagship of Fusion energy research, to changing the lives of dogs being rehomed, and now, playing an essential role in delivering innovative research in a variety of fields in engineering and science. I have a great deal of pride in my career.

5.       What were the first steps after your degree/apprenticeship/internship?

For me, when I finished the Engineering Apprenticeship at UKAEA, it was coming to the end of 2 years of Lockdown and working from home full time. From there, I took a gap year to pursue one of my other passions, with animals. I worked at the Dogs Trust Rehoming centre for a year, and helped to train, recuperate, rehabilitate and rehome over 300 dogs! I got to work outside all year round, no matter the weather, and worked with every type of dog possible. It was inspiring to work with them and seeing them go to their forever homes was unforgettable.

6.       How did you first learn about ISIS Neutron and Muon Source and what brought you here?

I first learned about ISIS Neutron and Muons Source when I was in college. STFC did a presentation about the work at this site when advertising the apprenticeship. But I did not realise the true scale of all the work at ISIS until I started to work here this year.

7.       Please could you tell us about your current role.

I am a Cryogenic Technician, specialising in Helium Recovery. Dale and I work to recover, recycle and reuse all Helium used on the ISIS site. Helium is a finite resource, meaning once it's gone, it's gone for good. Personally, I do a lot of work towards implementing and managing the logistics and data of ISIS Helium Recovery.

8.       What is a typical day like for you?

A typical day for me includes, taking stock of all liquid cryogens around the ISIS Facility, placing orders to replenish stock, monitoring information and data to manage stock, leaks, servicing, logistics, organising and doing movements of Liquid Helium orders, managing the Helium recovery system and completing dewar fills when required. I also work on projects, including things to help helium recovery and the cryogenics team, but also outreach projects, to inspire the younger generation about the amazing things science and engineering has taught us.

9.       What do you enjoy the most?

Personally, I really enjoy managing the logistics and data about helium recovery. From collecting the data, I can show what an impact recovering helium makes to ISIS but also the environment. I can monitor where we have losses and ensure historical data is available to show how helium recovery has improved over the years.

10.   What have been the main benefits so far of working at ISIS?

For me, it's having a supportive and caring team. Everyone in the Cryogenics team has been lovely and it's a pleasure to work alongside them. Especially my manager, Dale, who has always expressed the upmost respect, enthusiasm and drive to help me not only learn new things, but supporting my personal development, ideas and projects. He is a fantastic manager, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

11.   What has been the most rewarding experience so far of being at ISIS?

I have been able to work on projects that were much needed in my team to improve efficiency and data recording. With the systems and documents, I implemented, we now have clear records of how much Helium we are recovering, as well as being able to look at where losses have occurred.

Alongside data recording, I also produced an ordering system to not only aid in record keeping, but in easing and improving communication. This has been something that was much needed and has already made great improvements in its 1 month of use so far.

12.   What has been the most challenging experience so far? Or what have been the biggest obstacles to overcome so far?

During ISIS operations we can become very busy, alongside all general duties and operations of the Helium Recovery Systems, it can be tricky to figure our logistics and ensure all tasks are complete in the day. Getting your head around all the variables, operations, logistics, data and duties can be tricky to begin with; but with the help of my manager, Dale, and the team at ISIS Cryogenics I've learnt how to predict when certain things may be needed, and ensure all tasks are completed.

13.   How would you encourage young people to get into the discipline you have chosen? What words of advice would you give someone hoping to make it into a career?

For me, going down the route of an apprenticeship allowed me to gain knowledge in both theory and practical skills. This was key in developing my career and finding the path I wanted to follow.

I would advise to young people to take every chance to learn something new as possible. You may find out something amazing and new, that you never even knew existed.

14.   Finally, your work in three words.

Inspirational! Essential! Unique!

Contact: de Laune, Rosie (STFC,RAL,ISIS)