ISIS beamline scientists Genoveva Burca and Joe Kelleher have an ongoing relationship with SEPNet, who part-fund summer placements at ISIS for university students. Back in 2017, Genoveva set one of these students the task of developing a piece of software for analysing Bragg edges and strain maps from IMAT time-of-flight neutron imaging data.
Jacob Maresca, then studying at the University of Sussex, and currently PhD student at The University of Nottingham, began the work during his 8-week SEPnet summer placement at ISIS on the Python scripts that would become the Bragg Edge Analysis (BEAn) software. Aled Horner from Royal Holloway University continued the work, through the same scheme, during the summer of 2018; “It was different to any work I had done before," he explains. “It was the first time I had been given code designed by someone else and tasked to improve it. I took the skills I had learnt at university and expanded them: this project was much more long-term than any I had done during my degree."
During Aled's placement, he was commuting to RAL along with another student from Royal Holloway, Alex Liptak. Alex was doing a summer placement at Diamond, although had been based at ISIS on another placement the year before. He'd been sat next to a student of Genoveva's during his placement and spoken to her about the project, and was able to continue his discussions with Aled.
“Being on a placement at RAL, you really feel like you're doing science" says Alex. “I chose to take the BEAn software as the subject of my Masters' project under Genoveva's supervision. I was the only student in my year to be working externally to the university, but the ISIS staff were really supportive, which helped a lot."
The developments to the software have been published recently in an article in Journal of Physics Communications; the paper is the first for all the students, and an unusual outcome of a Masters' project. Now he has finished his degree, Alex is working towards a PhD in fusion technology, but he continues to collaborate with Genoveva on the software. “It's the biggest project I have been involved in and it's been interesting to be part of it from all sides; it continues to be a great learning experience."
Aled adds; “The placement was really helpful for developing my knowledge of Python, and beyond. I now work for a pension's finance company and frequently use the skills I gained during my placement."
Genoveva specifically selected these students because of the fact they studied physics and they wanted to improve their analytical thinking and problem-solving skills: “It was ideal that they could understand the physics behind the software." She adds; “working with SEPNet has been great. Now Alex has finished his Masters' project, we have an industrial placement student, Kate Lawes, who is continuing the project, and it's useful for her that we're all still in contact with previous students."
The full paper can be found at: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/2399-6528/ab5575
More information about the SEPNet summer placements.