During her MEng degree at the University of Oxford, Zoë Clark did a summer placement at ISIS working on the commissioning of the new ISIS instrument ZOOM. She finished her degree, specialising in a project on systematic wear testing, and then was unsure as to what to do next.
“I had a job offer from a consultancy company, but they'd made an error with their resourcing and didn't want us to start for 9 months. My masters' project supervisor was very persuasive, so I ended up continuing with them and starting a PhD."
However, after six months of research, Zoë realised it wasn't for her. “I transferred to an MSc course, completed my experiments, and took up the delayed job offer with the consultancy firm. This job involved a lot of travelling: sometimes I wouldn't even know where I would be going that week until a Monday morning."
This way of working was a struggle for Zoë, as she was also a competitive powerlifter and, after eight months of trying to balance these two parts of her life, she realised it wasn't worth it, and left the role. “I looked back at the different jobs I'd done: I'd done three placements during university, as well as working in research and consultancy, and realised my favourite time was working at ISIS."
She started the scheme in September 2019, and feels like she is finally where she belongs. “I'm glad I tried all the wrong things before I came here, as it makes me more comfortable that I made the right choice in the end."
Zoe is based in the ISIS design division, where the graduates rotate every six months. She started it the sample environment team, designing sample cells to handle high pressures and her next placement was in the targets division, working on the TS1 Project. The project, taking place during ISIS' long shutdown, will involve safely removing large pieces of the, now radioactive, target assembly.
As well as her day-to-day role, Zoë is also involved in the ISIS public engagement activities, including the Engineering Education Scheme, where she and two other ISIS graduates have designed a project for A-level students. “It's been really interesting and a good opportunity to manage other people. I enjoy doing the public engagement, as it's when you tell someone about working at ISIS that you realise how cool it is!"
Taking part in public engagement activities has given Zoë the inspiration for her graduate placement: as part of the STFC scheme, graduates have the chance to be placed in another department for three months and, for Zoë, she will be joining the central public engagement team. “It will be nice to try something new, and have the time to develop new materials and activities."