Rockets in Scotland

This was a great student-led event with opportunities for students and graduates. One of the UoE student hosts was Lewis Lappin who has just started an internship through the SPiN placements scheme. He is working this summer as a robotic systems engineer with GMV.

The Careers Service Blog

Alison Parkinson, Employer Engagement Adviser, and Susan Bird, Careers Consultant, share some useful insights from the recent National Student Space Conference.

The conference was organised by UK Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (UKSEDS), the UK’s national student space society and was hosted by the Physics and Astronomy society at the University of Edinburgh. The two-day conference brought together students, employers and speakers from a range of space-related fields.

UKSEDS Group 2019 National Student Space Conference: attendees, exhibitors, staff and some of the speakers. Image credit: UKSEDS

The UK Space sector

  • The UK space industry is seeing very ambitious growth. There are currently 130 organisations (companies, research organisations) in the UK space sector. This is an increase of 27% in the last two years and amounts to 9% of all UK employers.
  • The industry is essentially split into two segments: upstream and downstream. Upstream focuses on sending objects into…

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Physics and Astronomy to space engineering: a graduate’s story

Thanks to Jennifer Edwards from Lockheed Martin for her guest blogpost. It’s good to get an insight into where physics & astronomy can take you and how the knowledge and skills you develop can be applied.

I graduated from the University of Southampton in the summer of 2018 with a Masters Degree in Physics with Astronomy. When I began my degree, I was unsure as to what career path I hoped to end up on, but explored by doing two summer placements as an engineer during my studies.

Jennifer Edwards

The first was for Archangel Aerospace Ltd. as a Systems Integration Engineer working on UAV design, and the second working for Rolls-Royce as a Development Engineer. I found that I really enjoyed applying the Physics ‘textbook knowledge’ I had learnt, and that the critical thinking and analysis skills I had learnt on my degree benefited me hugely in my work.

Representing Lockheed Martin at UKSEDS student space conference

Lockheed Martin UK’s graduate scheme provides the opportunity to partake in four placements over a two-year period. Initially, I was concerned that going into an engineering company without having an engineering degree would hinder me or that I would find myself behind the other graduates, but that was not the case. As well as building technical skills and knowledge from across the company, the scheme provides the opportunity to develop skills such as management skills, application of the engineering life-cycle, and teamwork and communication skills. 

I started the graduate scheme in September 2018 as a Systems Engineer – an interdisciplinary field of engineering that primarily focuses on how to design and manage complex systems over their life cycle. My first placement involved modelling and simulation of re-entry vehicles, achieved by running bespoke prediction codes and statistical analyses. My Physics degree provided me with a good background level of knowledge of key physical phenomenon and some coding skills, however it was the ability to grasp new information quickly that was the most significant advantage.

I am currently working on operational analysis on a research and development project, for which I am relying heavily on my background physics knowledge, including optics and thermodynamics. As well as this, many of the key ‘soft’ skills I learnt during University are used daily, such as independent learning, time management and communication skills. I would recommend looking into engineering for any physicists who are interested in applying their scientific knowledge to real-life problems, enjoy working in a team and have a desire to learn and develop new skills.

Jennifer also told me:

I hope this gets people thinking about career options in engineering as there’s a big UK shortage!

Chocolate expertise

The science of what makes good chocolate has been revealed by researchers studying a 140-year-old mixing technique. The team in the University’s School of Physics and Astronomy have uncovered the physics behind the process responsible for creating chocolate’s distinctive smooth texture.

Scientists have uncovered the physics behind the process – known as conching – which is responsible for creating chocolate’s distinctive smooth texture. The findings may hold the key to producing confectionary with lower fat content, and could help make chocolate manufacturing more energy efficient. A team led by the University of Edinburgh studied mixtures resembling liquid chocolate created using the conching process, which was developed by Swiss confectioner Rodolphe Lindt in 1879.

Their analysis, which involved measuring the density of mixtures and how they flow at various stages of the process, suggests conching may alter the physical properties of the microscopic sugar crystals and other granular ingredients of chocolate. Until now, the science behind the process was poorly understood. The new research reveals that conching – which involves mixing ingredients for several hours – produces smooth molten chocolate by breaking down lumps of ingredients into finer grains and reducing friction between particles.

Before the invention of conching, chocolate had a gritty texture. This is because the ingredients form rough, irregular clumps that do not flow smoothly when mixed with cocoa butter using other methods, the team says. Their insights could also help improve processes used in other sectors – such as ceramics manufacturing and cement production – that rely on the mixing of powders and liquids.

The study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, involved a collaboration with researchers from New York University. The work in Edinburgh was funded by Mars Chocolate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

For more information about science at Mars UK, visit their website.

Professor Wilson Poon, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and Astronomy, who led the study, said:

We hope our work can help reduce the amount of energy used in the conching process and lead to greener manufacturing of the world’s most popular confectionary product. By studying chocolate making, we have been able to gain new insights into the fundamental physics of how complex mixtures flow. This is a great example of how physics can build bridges between disciplines and sectors.”

Profile: Dr Katie Bouman

The recent black hole image, captured by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) – a network of eight linked telescopes – was rendered by Dr Bouman’s algorithm. Good article by Katy Steinmetz in Time Magazine online:

Though her work developing algorithms was a crucial to the project, Bouman sees her real contribution as bringing a way of thinking to the table. “What I did was brought the culture of testing ourselves,” she says. The project combined experts from all sorts of scientific backgrounds, ranging from physicists to mathematicians, and she saw the work through the lens of computer science, stressing the importance of running tests on synthetic data and making sure that the methods they used to make the image kept human bias out of the equation.

Bouman says that most of the time she’s not focused on the fact that she’s in a field where women are the minority. “But I do sometimes think about it. How do we get more women involved?” she says. “One key is showing that when you go into fields like computer science and engineering, it’s not just sitting in a lab putting together a circuit or typing on your computer.”

She  plans to continue work with the Event Horizon Telescope team, which is adding satellite dishes in space to the network of telescopes here on Earth that were used to produce the image released on Wednesday. With the increased perspective and power, she says, they just might be able to make movies of black holes in addition to still images.

“It’s exciting,” she says. And that’s also her message for the next generation who might consider careers like hers. “As long as you’re excited and you’re motivated to work on it, then you should never feel like you can’t do it.”

More here

 

 

KTPs – Graduate jobs straddling academia and industry

Thanks to my colleague Deborah Fowlis for this great introduction to KTPs

If you’d like to work for a local company and manage your own projects while earning a competitive graduate salary, a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) may be for you.

What are Knowledge Transfer Partnerships?
The KTP scheme is one of the UKs largest graduate employment programmes and one of the longest running. It helps business to innovate and grow by providing three-way collaboration between universities, organisations and graduates.

Businesses link up with an academic or research institution, which then help to recruit a suitably qualified graduate, known as a KTP Associate. Employed by the university, the associate then works for the company on strategic projects, helping to improve business performance and increase productivity. As a KTP associate, the type of work you carry out depends on your qualifications and the company that you work for, but as an example, KTP projects could include:

  • reorganising production facilities
  • introducing new technologies to an organisation
  • designing new or improved products, processes or services
  • developing new business strategies and breaking into new markets.

With over 300 job opportunities available every year, the scheme can take from 12 months to three years to complete. Upon completion, around 70% of employers offer associates a full-time job, usually in a management role.

What sectors can I work in?
KTPs are primarily aimed at small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) but companies of all sizes, including not-for-profit organisations in a variety of industries can take part in the programme. You could work a wide range of industries, those particularly of interest to physicists and astronomers are:

  • engineering and manufacturing
  • science and pharmaceuticals
  • environment and agriculture
  • energy and utilities
  • business, consulting and management

What are the benefits of a KTP?

  • experience of managing a challenging, real-life project of vital importance to a business
  • opportunities to gain professional qualifications – often business related
  • a competitive graduate salary, usually in region of £25,000 to £35,000.
  • the possibility of full-time employment at the end of the project
  • access to a budget of £2,000 per year for training, £2,250 for travel and a further £1,500 for necessary equipment.

Am I eligible?
To be eligible for the KTP scheme graduates need a 2:1 Bachelors degree in a relevant subject or a Masters or PhD. You’ll also need the right to work in the UK.

To find vacancies online head to Innovate UK. Here you’ll be able to register your interest in the programme, create a profile so recruiters can find you and search current vacancies.

 

What can I do with Physics? Guitar valves to fluids to polymers to image analysis

Ewan shows how a degree in Physics can take you in interesting directions.

engineer canon medical

Ewan Hemingway, Research Engineer, Canon Medical Research Europe 

I first studied physics at Edinburgh University for the Computational Physics MPhys degree. I was interested in acoustics at the time and my Masters project looked at numerical modelling of guitar value amplifiers. However, one of the 5th year elective courses that really grabbed my attention was a series on soft matter physics, and this prompted me to pursue PhD opportunities. Following a recommendation, I joined an EPSRC-funded PhD in the Physics department at Durham University. There I worked on various problems in computational fluid dynamics, specifically in the area of active matter (the study of living fluids).

I was also lucky to gain some industrial experience through a consultation / research project with Schlumberger.

After my PhD, I stayed in Durham for two more years as a post-doc, where I focused on modelling flow instabilities in polymer physics.

Most recently, I joined Canon as a research engineer in the Image Analysis group. I have been there for just under a year, but already I have worked on a range of interesting problems, e.g., using deep learning for image segmentation.

Careers in Government Operational Research Services

What is Operational Research (OR)?
Using mathematical techniques and software to solve complex organisational problems. and make better decisions! “The science of better” www.scienceofbetter.co.uk.

Many examples worldwide include: workforce scheduling; building networks; processing queues.

GORS is the UK Government’s community of OR analysts,  600+ strong, working across 25+ departments.  Examples of their work: – Optimisation techniques to estimate the number of desks needed to minimise queues through airport immigration – Prioritise funding for development projects in rural areas

They require a numerate degree, they want physicists and they have current vacancies in Scotland.

Good case studies and more details here 

Thinking of doing a PhD? Read this first…

Vitae logo

The Vitae website is written for researchers and has a really good section on careers.

According to the UK Postgraduate Research Experience Survey most doctoral researchers cite a career-related reason for their choice to undertake a doctorate. Contrary to some expectations, research into doctoral graduate careers shows that the majority of people who gain a doctoral degree enter career sectors outside academia. In addition,  a significant proportion of people starting a doctorate do not have a firm idea of what they want to do as a career.

This post gets you thinking about some of the reasons for – and against – a PhD and busts a few myths along the way.  Read more here

3 Minute Thesis Competition- physics winner

The University of Edinburgh 3 Minute Thesis Competition final took place on 22 June 2018.  Nine finalists from three Colleges competed to deliver the best research presentation in three minutes with one slide. Warwick Wainwright (GeoSciences),  Gavin Woolman (Physics & Astronomy) and Sorcha Gilroy (Informatics) represented the College of Science and Engineering. Gavin won in the ‘People’s Choice’ category with his presentation ‘Better Thermoelectrics through high pressure’.

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Bridge between academia & industry: Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

What is a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP)

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme helps businesses in the UK to innovate and grow. It does this by linking them with an academic or research organisation and a graduate.

A KTP enables a business to bring in new skills and the latest academic thinking to deliver a specific, strategic innovation project through a knowledge-based partnership.

The academic or research organisation partner will help to recruit a suitable graduate, known as an Associate. They will act as the employer of the graduate, who then works at the company for the duration.

The scheme can last between 12 and 36 months, depending on what the project is and the needs of the business.

KTP is one of the UK’s largest graduate recruitment programmes. There are over 300 job opportunities each year . It supports career development and often leads to a permanent job.  For more information and national vacancies, visit their website

You can find more about KTP Scotland opportunities here:

Be aware, even if they don’t specify a Physics degree, the criteria for many vacancies connect well to a Physics degree so it’s always worth discussing with them if you are interested.