Meet the Cryogenics Team 2021
01 Dec 2021



We sat down and spoke to 5 members of our award-winning Cryogenics team to find out what life is like as a member of the team.


​The ISIS Cryogenics team consisting of ​team members Richard Down, Jeff Keeping, Chris Lawson, Dave Bunce, Paul Frodsham, Robert Major, Jon Timms, Dale Keeping, Matthew Baston, William Bradbury, Alexander Jones and Mark Devonport


​​The cryogenics team is responsible for facilitating experiments in both target stations in the ISIS Facilty by providing a low temperature sample environment that’s required for samples used within the experiments so that the users can perform the experiment, take the necessary measurements and get the results that they need.

Richard Down is the team leader of the Cryogenics group. He started his career as a mechanical apprentice in 1982, he spent 8 years in this role and then left to begin contracting. Following this he then moved to the Cullum science centre where he had his first experiences of cryogenics. His role there involved working with a cryostat which froze deuterium and tritium ice pellets and fired them into jet plasma at very high velocity. This experience led to him beginning to work at ISIS in the sample environment group. Initially he was 1 of 2 cryogenic technicians and he has watched the group grow in size over the years, becoming Cryogenics group leader in 2002. "We deliver the most number of ultra-low temperature experiments worldwide, we are viewed as one of the best sample environment cryogenics team there is. My team make my job easier, I enjoy working with my team to keep delivering the program and I enjoy it when the users come away happy."

Before working here at the ISIS facility, Matthew Baston previously worked at UKAEA:
"Originally I worked at UKAEA for 26 years, I spent most of my time working in a radio chemistry lab. Then I got a job working in plant​ section on this site for 2 years, then moved to Cullum, there I worked in a lab where we used equipment to analyse tritium in metals, and then came to ISIS.
"My role is to provide cryogens, most commonly liquid helium and liquid nitrogen to the various sample areas, that involves ordering in nitrogen and running the helium recovery system we have in place that re liquefies helium that is gassed off in experimental use so that very little is wasted in experiments.
"My favourite part about the role is being in an environment where science is being done and its nice working here as in some small way you feel like you're contributing to the progress of science."

Rob Major is a Senior Cryogenics engineer in the sample environments group. 
"My role involves looking after the dry cryogenic systems; the mechanical coolers as opposed to the cryostats. I started as an apprentice in 1994, I did a 4 year mechanical apprentice, then did 3 years in the ISIS workshops then I transferred over to ISIS' cryogenics section, where I have now been for 20 years."

Rob's role involves looking after the CCRs, pulse tubes and dry coolers. His role involves forward planning any maintenance that the cryogenic equipment may require, parts need changing every 10,000 hours, and co-ordinating when the beamline is free so that engineering work can be done on parts that need it. Rob's favourite part about his role is the variety of the role: "Work is always changing, and the equipment we use is always evolving so there's always new things to learn."

Ultra-low temperature technical manager Chris Lawson began his route to the company in academics, gaining a PhD from Lancaster University, an institution well known for its work in low temperature physics. 
"After doing my PhD and a postdoc I went across to the Netherlands for 2 years working on a Marie Curie fellowship working on creating ultra-ultra-low cooling stage for a company. It was over there that I met Oleg, the sample environment group leader here at ISIS, at a conference, and I got in touch with him when I returned from the Netherlands and through that ended up getting a job within the cryogenics team here at ISIS."

When asked what his favourite part about his role here at ISIS was, Chris said that it was the people that you get to work with here in the facility, both ISIS staff and external users that come in to do experiments here at the facility. "You get to talk to all sorts of people doing all sorts of interesting things, as well as this is, I'm able to keep up to date with the world of academia that I left behind when I started working here. Users come in from all over the world performing cutting edge science here and to be able to be involved with that, even if sometimes it is in a very small way, it's a great feeling to know that I've helped on that piece of research and helped the sphere of human knowledge expand ever so slightly."

Senior Cryogenics technician Dave Bunce began his ISIS career in 2001, moving here from a previous role held at Oxford instruments. However before this, after he left school, Dave did a 4 year electrician apprenticeship before moving across to oxford Instruments for the next 10 years. 
"I started as a cryogenic magnet trainee then worked my way up, I was going out onto installations all over the world. In 2001 I came here to ISIS and have been here ever since. My favourite part of working here is the environment, I do like that we get a lot of support from the users and the instrument scientists to help them achieve the experiments and science that they want to do."​


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