During my time at STFC I was able to work with an amazing group of people, both very intelligent and science minded, as well as really friendly. There was a great network of other placement students to really help form a network, which really made the experience great. I feel at the end I was able to reflect on my year and realise just how much I had learnt and achieved.
Among the group I worked with, I was really allowed a lot of autonomy in what I did, and the group really trusted me to produce quality, reliable work. I was valued for not just my work contributions, but my ability to really be apart of the team and get involved with others and felt I genuinely made friends and trusting relationships with many of my colleagues.
People here always tried their best to make time to help answer your questions and come to labs and provide support, however sometimes I did feel a bit lost about what to do. This really forced me to develop my ability to be autonomous and structure my own work and days.
Depending on the experiments that were going on, some days were much busier than others. Most days there was stuff to be doing, but some days could be very quiet when waiting on things - but this is somewhat just the nature of science research. I never felt overwhelmed with the quantity of things I had to do o a daily basis, which was good to not feel stressed out.
I was given almost free reign in my projects to be responsible for doing the work properly and asking for help when I needed it. I think once the first few months of getting familiar with all the labs had passed, there was a lot of trust put in you to work there with a small team or by yourself in a responsible manner.
Upon reflection I can see just how much about Physics and photonics I have learnt, and it's really encouraging me to perhaps pursue a Master's in Physics. I got the chance to work in real labs with proper equipment and have gone from having no lab experience to being really confident working in one. I definitely feel Having to go off and solve hard problems without answers, so nobody can mark it, you have to trust you did it properly, will be a valuable skill within myself I have developed to use when I go back to university studies.
The general atmosphere was really good, a small team that the majority got on really well, despite the mix of ages and abilities. I like how there were a few different working spaces to use, all of which had a different atmosphere to suit the kind of work you were doing (i.e. quiet offices really good for getting your head stuck in a book). People were generally really friendly and welcoming towards me throughout my year.
I think the general structure for the students was very bare, and this definitely made the first few weeks hard to know what you are doing. I think once you got to grips with a project and got involved with some work in labs with others it was easier to organise your own time, but the placement could definitely benefit from a better structure and organisation, especially at the start.
The company really wanted you to learn lots so that after a few months in you could work as part of the team in Operations and really understand what was happening, but also to allow you to go off and work on a project that was interesting science. I think being able to work somewhere where your work as a student can help contribute to scientific papers really requires the place to invest in you.
Sports and Social Club
Above 25 days holiday
I think my year at STFC has inspired me to think more about changing my field of study to Physics, and I wouldn't write coming back ever, as it's definitely a good place to work, especially for people with families. For the next 10 years I think I would like to travel a bit more and do something else career wise, but would always consider coming back as a real option.
There were around 40 other placement students in my cohort, and thus quite a lot of social opportunities - and always a group to eat lunch with every day! I made genuine friends with many of them. In the group I worked in I made some really great connections, and we did numerous social activities outside of work which I really enjoyed.
Housing costs around Oxfordshire are quite expensive, and so are drinks and buses. It's definitely affordable on the salary you get as a student, and if you're sensible you can definitely save up a bit to help out with uni living costs the next year. I was able to drive and this was really useful living in this location. Parking at STFC is free and really convenient.
The nearest place for a good night out is Oxford, which isn't a bad night out, just a bit expensive, but a safe area to go out in. Abingdon is really nice for pubs and getting food after work, but you wouldn't go out clubbing there. You can get to Reading or London by train easily, only problem is the trains don't run super late if you fancied a night out there!
Work organised a few events throughout the year, but my team were particularly good at organising group events, or even just going to the pub after work for food/drinks often. The other placement students were all in a similar position to me, so we did a lot of things together, like going out, swimming, rock climbing, to name a few things we got up to.
Placement Year (10 Months+)
4th September 2019