End of Year Placement Interviews 21/22
26 Jul 2022
- Evan Jones



As we welcome the next batch of placement students, we wanted to get in touch with the 2020/21 cohort and ask them to reflect on their time in ISIS Neutron and Muon Source.


At the start of their year here I spoke with some of our industrial placement students to ask them about their role and how they're settling into ISIS. Now, at the end of their time with us spoke to them again to find out what their experiences have been like during their placement year and what advice they have to pass onto the next cohort of Industrial Placement Students:

Shaun Olok-Jacobs: Synthetic Chemist in the Deuteration group

Ethan Devlin: Scientific software developer in the Disordered materials group

Madeleine McRoberts: Developing online scientific training for neutron and muon experiments for the Muon group

Rebecca Asquith: ​Method Development Chemist in the Deuteration group

​What was the highlight of your placement?

Shaun: The highlight of my placement year was presenting the work I had done during the year at the UK Neutron and Muon Source User Meeting (NMSUM). I'm delighted I was given the opportunity to talk about my project to other scientists and hear other people talk passionately about their projects.

Ethan: I've loved having the opportunities to learn new about new tools and technologies and implement them in a live working environment.

Madeleine: The highlight of my placement was attending the NMSUM conference at Warwick University.  There I was able to attend many talks and presentations about the goings on in the neutron and muon universe and was given the great opportunity to present my own work at the student day. It was very interesting to see the research being done and how my own role at ISIS contributed to it.

Rebecca: The highlight of my placement was attending and presenting at the student and user conference in Warwick. It was great to be able to showcase the work I’d done and get to meet some of the people it benefitted.


Rebecca and Shaun presenting at NMSUM

Has the placement year been what you expected? 

Shaun: Honestly, I thought I would have trouble adapting to STFC and the team I work with, but my team is so welcoming and helpful in helping the students adapt to the environment very quickly. Overall, the year has very much surpassed my expectations!

Ethan: It's such a wildly different experience to school or university so it's very difficult to understand what's going to happen until you're here. However, I've definitely not been left disappointed by anything, I'm doing exactly what I'd hoped I'd been doing, and it's been as great a time as I could have imagined.

Madeleine: This placement has been much better than I expected. Coming to ISIS, I wasn't sure what working there was going to be like.  However, I found that it's a vibrant place to work where you get to meet and collaborate with many different people on some really interesting projects; I've had a great time!

RebeccaI wasn’t sure what to expect, having never worked in a non-academic laboratory before. Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly, and always willing to answer any questions or give any advice.

22EC2313 NMSUM 2022.jpg

Madeleine at NMSUM

What's the most useful thing you learned on placement? 

Shaun: There were a few moments through the year where an experiment went wrong or didn't go expectedly and learning how to analyse these problems and come out with potential explanations and solutions is a skill that I have used and developed a lot and I think will be very useful for the future.

Ethan: Having to improve the way I learn so that I can effectively perform research and apply learned knowledge productively has been very enriching. It's the kind of experience you can only get in a live working environment.

Madeleine: Other than furthering my scientific knowledge and technical skills, the interpersonal skills I have gained from this year at ISIS are going to be invaluable moving forward in my career.  I have improved on my skills in teamwork, organisation and importantly communication which are going to be incredibly useful for the rest of my life.

RebeccaI’ve been able to gain experience with a range of analytical equipment over the course of my placement, which is something I wasn’t really able to do at university. I’m a lot more confident in the general usage and running of machines, as well as being able to solve certain problems and working with engineers to fix others.


How do you think your placement year has helped you prepare for your studies or job? 

Shaun: I have learnt many techniques over the year to keep myself organised with what I need to do with my project and to handle other commitments. Before this year, I was the type of student who would leave things to the last minute very often, so I'm sure that all the time management and organisation skills I've developed will be handy when I return to university.

Ethan: As mentioned, being able to learn new things quickly and effectively use that knowledge is an invaluable skill. Also, having tangible experience working on real projects and understanding how to work in a team and develop projects from scratch is exactly the kind of thing you need to learn to be able to succeed in industry.

Madeleine: As a chemistry student, working at a STEM facility has enlightened me on what it's like to work in research and academia which is definitely a potential career path for me to follow in the future.  Having that insight will allow me to make informed decisions for future studies and jobs.

RebeccaHaving experience in a non-routine scientific environment was probably one of the contributing factors of me being offered my graduate job. The work you get to see and be a part of at ISIS is really unique, especially for a placement year​.


Rebecca presenting her poster at the ISIS student conference

What advice would you give to future placement students?

Shaun: Even though you have a job for the year, at the end of the day, you're still learning as a student so don't be afraid to make mistakes, take opportunities to do something new, or ask for help.

Ethan: Question everything, the most valuable thing you can get out of a placement is knowledge. Asking questions can help you better understand your job, the environment your working in and the future career paths open to you. Do your best to get involved and take as much as you can from the people around you.

Madeleine: There are many opportunities for students that come up throughout the year such as being given platforms to present their work, being invited to attend conferences or being able to work with a range of different people in different parts of ISIS. I would encourage future placement students to take all of these opportunities and challenge themselves throughout the year to make the most of this experience and obtain a hugely valuable skill set by the end of it.

RebeccaGet involved with as many things as you can whilst you’re here, it’s a great way to have fun and meet people. Plus there’s something for everyone, whether it be conferences and seminars, taking part in sports or just being involved with the coffee roulette


Contact: Jones, Evan (STFC,RAL,ISIS)