ISIS Facility Development and Utilisation Studentships
17 Apr 2018



ISIS has an annual call for 50%-funded studentships which include an aspect of facility development.


​​Facility Development student Beth Hampshire


Update following Covid-19 pandemic: all supervisors should have received an email about possible studentship extensions. Please contact Martin Jones at ISIS if you have not received this or have any questions.

ISIS has an annual call for Facility Development and Utilisation Studentships.  These are co-funded studentships, normally 50% funded by ISIS and 50% by a university, which contain an element of facility development - for example development of equipment, software or experimental processes. Studentships have an ISIS supervisor and a university supervisor who work in partnership throughout the student's project. Over recent years, ISIS has funded around 50 of these studentships across a wide range of topics and university partners; here is a full list of studentships sup​ported to-date​​​.​ 

ISIS has available a limited number of 50%-funded studentships available to UK users to run from autumn 2021: the deadline for requests is 6pm on the 23rd September 2020. Here is a link to the 2020 ​studentship form.

​Important Dates for the 2020 call

Call for Studentships​Opens 27 July 2020
 Closes 6pm BST 16 September 2020
Panel Meeting​November 2020
Announcement of ResultsDecember 2020 / January 2021

What are ISIS Facility Development Studentships?

ISIS wishes to co-fund PhD studentship projects which include an element of facility development or the utilisation of capabilities previously funded by this call. Studentship projects can be within any of the science areas studied by neutron scattering or muon spectroscopy at ISIS and should have a strong science case, but they must include facility-development or the utilisation of facilities previously developed under this call. This may include technique, software or sample environment development.

Software projects should provide evidence of how sustainable and usable the developed software will be beyond the lifetime of the project, and technique or sample environment should provide evidence of the wider applicability of the project within the community beyond the immediate PhD student project. Letters of support from the community demonstrating the wider applicability of projects are encouraged. It is recommended that you contact Martin Jones ( ahead of submitting a proposal to discuss the nature of your facility development. Proposal reviewers will wish to know that the proposed facility development can reasonably be carried out within the duration of a studentship, and that other resources required for the development (e.g. any significant capital or resource costs required) are available from other sources.

Joint ISIS-Diamond studentships

ISIS is keen to encourage studentships jointly with Diamond. Projects in collaboration with the Diamond light source and partly supported by Diamond must be applied for via the DLS studentship process found at The ISIS facility studentship form cannot be used for joint proposals, please see the section 'Joint ISIS and Diamond projects' below for further details.​

How many studentships are available?

ISIS will make available funding for approximately 6 half studentships, together with around 3 joint with Diamond.. Projects in collaboration with the Diamond light source and partly supported by Diamond will be looked on favourably (see below).

Eligibility Criteria

Any academic belonging to a UK university with the authorisation to supervise PhD students may apply. We assume that the applicant will be the university PhD supervisor. An ISIS staff scientist must be a co-applicant and co-supervisor, and play a full and equal role in the studentship project and supervision, including the interviewing of potential candidates.

All applicants must provide evidence with their application that they have already secured a 50% contribution of project costs.

The student must spend at least one year of their time at ISIS (at RAL for joint ISIS-Diamond studentships), in addition to normal short trips for experiments, during their PhD (in a schedule to be arranged by mutual agreement between the ISIS and university supervisors). Standard PhD progression qualifiers (1st / 2nd year reports etc.) may be used to assess the degree of interaction with the ISIS facility. If it is deemed insufficient interaction has occurred, STFC reserves the right to withdraw funding.

What will ISIS provide?

ISIS will provide up to 50% funding for each studentship. Matching funds from other sources must be secured by the applicant and proof of funding submitted with the application.

Up to £2000 per year per student for travel and consumables will also be available for research training expenses including the cost of travelling to and from the Rutherford Laboratory. These funds are to be claimed against actual receipted expenditure provided by the student and will not be paid directly to the University) The student will need to be registered at the host university, and ISIS will make payments to the university to cover the ISIS portion of the stipend and fees. ISIS (STFC) will set up an agreement with the host university which specifies a schedule for payments to the university to cover the ISIS contribution to the studentship, together with other details of the working arrangements for the studentship.

How long are the studentships for?

Studentships should start in autumn 2021 and can be for a maximum of 4 years.

How to apply?

The completed application form, together with a 2-page project description of the studentship science project and facility development component, letters of support and proof of co-funding should be emailed to Martin Jones ( by 6pm on the 16th September 2020. Project description must fit within the two page limit and must contain the following headings;

Background Background information of the proposal including why it is timely and interesting, and the goals of the project.

PhD Project The scientific project to be undertaken by the PhD student including important milestones.

Facility Development/Utilisation How the project will either develop the facility or profitably utilise facility development previously funded under this call, including details of wider use beyond the immediate research team and legacy applications.

Partnerships Details of partnerships, 1) within the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory 2) with industry and 3) with other academic institutions / ISIS users.

When should applications be made?

The deadline for applications for this call is 6pm on the 16th September 2020.

Selection criteria for ISIS to provide funding:

The following criteria will be used for assessment (in order of significance)

The quality of the science (40%). External referees chosen from the ISIS facility studentship referees panel will carry out assessment of this criterion (/40). Exceptional proposal will be expected to show world leading / ground breaking research with high potential impact academically and/or industrially, likely to result in publication in very high impact general journals (Nature, Science etc.) and/or top-rated journals for individual fields (Advanced Materials,  Energy and Environmental Science, Phys Rev B etc.).

The quality of the facility development aspect and the benefit to the ISIS community (40%). Appropriate development projects will be of wider use to the ISIS community beyond the immediate PhD project and may focus on instrument, technique, sample environment or software development. Purely scientific projects or those with weak development aspects will be rejected. Letters of support from institutions other than that of the applicant(s) demonstrating the significance of the project to the wider ISIS community are welcomed and may be included in the application. The appropriate ISIS group leader will assess facility development (/40).

The quality of the PhD training (10%). What will the student undertake during their PhD and how will the combination of ISIS and University resources provide a rewarding and beneficial experience for the student. External referees chosen from the ISIS facility studentship referees panel will carry out assessment of this criterion (/10).

Partnerships (10%). Partnerships with other RAL institutions (Diamond light source, Central Laser Facility, the Research Complex at Harwell, the Harwell Imaging partnership, RAL Space etc.), government laboratories (The Hartree Centre, NPL etc.) or private industry will be viewed favourably, especially where such links are supported through additional funding. Supporting letters from additional project partners must be included. The ISIS facility studentship panel will award a mark for partnerships (/10) at the panel meeting in November.

Joint ISIS-Diamond Proposals.

Joint ISIS and Diamond projects proposals should be submitted to the Diamond call for studentships only. Full details of the Diamond submission process can be found on the Diamond studentship website​

Projects that link technique development across both the Diamond and ISIS facilities may also be funded and our welcomed. These proposals must meet all the criteria for ISIS-only proposals, are expected to have PhD supervisors from the University partner, the Diamond Light Source and the ISIS facility and will be reviewed as part of the Diamond and ISIS Review Panels composed of Diamond and ISIS staff. Successful Diamond and ISIS supervisors will then be invited for interview by a Review Panel, again composed of Diamond and ISIS staff and Studentships awarded on the basis of these interviews (please note, typically only Diamond and ISIS supervisors will be interviewed). Interviews will focus on the selection criteria detailed above, the training provision for the PhD Student and the role of the Diamond and ISIS supervisors to the PhD project.

Proposals seeking joint Diamond and ISIS supervisors should be submitted to the Diamond call for Studentships only. The request for joint Diamond and ISIS supervision must be indicated on the application form and in the case for support. Joint ISIS and Diamond proposals should comprise a three page project description. Of the three pages, half of one page must detail the X-ray aspects of the PhD project and half of one page must detail the neutron aspects of the PhD project.

​ISIS and Diamond recognise that strong partnerships between the institutions are facilitated by joint projects and therefore joint proposals will be considered favourably by the committees from ISIS and Diamond.

Accepted projects will be funded 1/4:1/4:1/2 ISIS:Diamond:University (1/3:1/3:1/3 funding ratio is also possible). 

Selection process:

Proposals will be sent for external review and to ISIS science group leaders. Once scores from reviewers and group leaders have been received, a selection panel consisting of ISIS senior staff and members of the ISIS user community will score the proposals for partnerships and then rank the proposals for potential funding. In addition to the above selection criteria, ISIS will seek a breadth of science areas and partnering universities when making a final decision on which applications will be supported, and will also be concerned regarding diversity of successful applicants.

The panel will meet to review proposals soon after the application deadline, and applicants will be informed in late 2020 or early 2021, after which a list of funded project titles and PIs will be published.

Proposal information:  

Applicants should provide the information requested on the application form. In addition, a Gantt chart or project plan and a description of the research project to be undertaken should be provided. The description of the research project should take into account the selection criteria given above and should be a maximum of two pages. 

Certain information (applicant and institution, general project description) may be made public by ISIS for successful proposals.​

Contact: Jones, Martin Owen (STFC,RAL,ISIS)