As part of our commitment to promoting opportunities for students and upskilling our team, ISI is part of the South East Physics Network (SEPnet). Through this, we offer students a paid summer work placement where they can bring their knowledge to bear in a commercial environment.
The SEPnet scheme is for physics and, since 2020, maths undergraduates in years 2 and 3 at SEPnet partner universities: Hertfordshire, Kent, Open, Portsmouth, Queen Mary, Royal Holloway, Southampton, Surrey, and Sussex. Students carry out an eight-week paid placement in a scientific workplace, allowing them to flex their academic muscles by solving real-world problems, gaining new skills and insight into the world of work, and learning what’s expected from them in a commercial environment. In return, they bring a fresh perspective on projects underway at those companies, helping to move projects along. Such experience increases the students’ employability and can help kick-start their careers, and often, they find work with the company they spend their placement with.
Following their placements, students create a poster explaining the project they worked on: the challenge, the solutions, and the results, and these are displayed at the annual SEPnet Student’s Expo held in London.
In 2019, Callum Morgan and Joe Stickland spent their placements with us. Callum, who was in his second year of completing a BSc in Astrophysics at the University of Sussex in Brighton, was tasked with developing a compact near-IR spectrometer. He determined the appropriate spectral response range and operating temperature and sourced a detector. He also performed irradiance calibration and wrote code to determine the coefficients required to calibrate the system satisfactorily and to display intensity rather than counts.
Joe Stickland was in his second year at the University of Southampton studying for an MPhys when he came to ISI for a summer placement. He was particularly interested in our work designing instruments for use in hazardous environments, particularly nuclear decommissioning. Joe became involved with our project to develop a stand-off Raman probe for mounting on a robotic vehicle for remote deployment into a nuclear cell.
Both Callum and Joe’s posters won awards at the SEPnet annual Expo.
In 2021, David Alves Rodrigues joined us. In his second year as a physics student at Royal Holloway, University of London, having completed the optics and statistical analysis module, David discovered he was interested in machine learning (ML) and coding and its role in spectroscopy. In this instance, we were looking for a student interested in developing machine learning algorithms for Raman spectral analysis.
When he joined us, he had completed weekly Python coding problems ranging from statistical data analysis to modelling LCR circuits and X-ray diffraction and had often used Numpy, Scipy and Matplotlib packages. He was in the process of completing Python, Data Visualisation, and Intro to ML courses on Kaggle. As part of the ML course, he tackled basic ML problems, including model validation, underfitting and overfitting. As an intern with us, he could develop these skills in a more formal and professional setting, applying them to a more complicated problem. During his time with us, David used TensorFlow to create and train a machine-learning model for chemical identification and manipulated data using Pandas for further processing. He also constructed an automated ML pipeline from cleaning and transforming to the analysis of photos. He was a highly capable and engaging intern, a great team player who fitted in well with the team and contributed significantly to our projects.
In 2022, Eszter Gyarmathy, joined us. She was in her second year at the University of Southampton studying for an integrated Master’s degree in Physics. Eszter was highly motivated to gain a placement with ISI because we work to address global challenges such as nuclear decommissioning and our involvement with the foundation industries to develop technologies that will allow them to meet their net-zero carbon targets. Eszter worked with us to redevelop our current Miniature Spectrometer as a Mini Raman system.
On completing her eight weeks with us, Eszter wrote a LinkedIn post that highlights why we feel it’s so important to be part of the SEPnet programme – she got so much out of it:
“I feel incredibly lucky that my first in-person internship has been such a pleasant and rewarding experience. Being a Physics undergraduate interested mainly in academia and research, working in industry was eye-opening. I was able to work on every aspect of the project, from designing to assembling and testing the instruments, which made the experience all the more exciting and challenging.
Not only did it teach me countless technical and industry-specific skills, but also developed my interpersonal skills and built my confidence.
I am truly grateful to each and every member of IS-I and i3D robotics for being so welcoming and supportive. I want to give a special thanks to Dr Jonathan Storey, Will Brooks and Charles Warren for all the help during my internship.
There are few teams that can compare to IS-I in terms of working environment. I will never forget the team lunches on random weekdays, the Team Day full of games and fun, the time Jessica Gabb offered help with shopping when I was ill, or the day when not one but two colleagues wanted to give me a lift as it was raining. The world really needs more workplaces like this.
Eszter was an enthusiastic and motivated team member, and everyone was sorry when her placement ended. We said goodbye with our thanks and wished her the best of luck for her final year at uni.
“ISI started out primarily as a research and development company and grew into a commercial as our product line developed. Innovation is crucial to the R&D process, and by bringing students into our company, we benefit enormously from having a fresh set of eyes, different energy, and their innate curiosity. All of the SEPnet students have contributed in a meaningful way to the projects we’ve been running. The arrangement is reciprocal – they get the benefit and experience of working in a commercial environment and solving real challenges, all whilst getting paid for their time. Everyone wins!” Dr Michael Foster, ISI co-Founder & Director.
ISI continues to offer placements whenever the opportunity arises.