Physics and Astronomy

South East Physics Network (SEPnet)

SEPnet logo In 2008 Sussex received a joint award of £12.5 million from SEPnet to enhance collaboration in graduate teaching and research. In 2013 – after successfully exploiting the growing national interest in physics and astronomy – we benefited from another joint award of £13.1 million to support vital research, teaching and development of physics and astronomy in the South East.

SEPnet Employer Programme

The SEPnet’s Employer Programme provides placements and other employer engagement opportunities for SEPnet physics & astronomy and mathematics undergraduates and supports postgraduate research students through its Graduate Network (GRADnet). SEPnet works with industry to address skills needs and creates opportunities for industry and SEPnet partner physics & astronomy and mathematics departments to work more closely together.

Here at the University of Sussex our dedicated Employer Engagement Officer offers our students access to employers in a variety of ways:

  • 8 week funded summer placements
  • Site visits and tours to employer facilities
  • Employer talks and workshops within the department
  • Mock interview practice from an employer with feedback
  • Employers in the curriculum – e.g. year 2 careers course

How do I apply?

  • an easy application process – CV and covering letter (registration in March, employers select and interview in April, placements begins in June)
  • some roles are ONLY being advertised to University of Sussex students
  • less competition than national schemes
  • opportunities based in Sussex, London, Surrey, Hampshire, Oxford and Teddington

For further information and details on how to apply, please contact our MPS Employer Engagement Officer, Emma Hallatt at e.r.hallatt@sussex.ac.uk

Placements case studies:

Students have the opportunity to carry out 8 week projects in such sectors as research, science communication, geophysics and information technology. Students talk about their experiences below: 

Elvira - placement at the National Physical Laboratory (summer placement 2020)

Physics BSc student Elvira Castello"For this placement I have been lucky enough to work at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) which is the UK’s national metrology institute. I have been working in the EMPIR project ‘TiFoon’, which focuses on implementing time transfer and making the existing frequency transfer more reliable. This is vital for optical clocks comparisons and applications beyond metrology.

My project in particular aimed in delivering an efficient and cost-effective RIO laser system – remote controlled, which can be extremely beneficial in the testing of time and frequency transfer. Moreover, it’s a solution that can be easily implemented in other experiments requiring a laser with vibration and noise control. The project developed both my laboratory skills and coding but also taught me new skills, such as CAD modelling. I truly enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of the project and the fact that everyone was so supportive and knowledgeable.

I am now working part-time at NPL where I’ll be carrying out my final year dissertation."

Elvira Castello
Physics BSc

Callum Yardley - supporting Photek's R&D team test software to deal with detector cross-talk (summer placement 2020)

Callum Yardley SEPnet placement"I was fortunate enough to spend 8 weeks simulating a photon detector in Python using Monte Carlo methods. The goal was to create software capable of producing pseudo-realistic data output. This was to help Photek's R&D team test software to deal with detector cross-talk. Most of my placement was done remotely, but I was luck to get a few days in the lab trying to measure the speed of light using one of Photek's detectors.

Overall the experience gave me a fantastic opportunity to develop my programming and software developing skills which I hope to carry on into my last 2 years of my degree and beyond. What I'm most proud of is creating a random number generator that will sample from any function!"

Callum Yardley
Physics MPhys

Tom Webster - placement at UK Atomic Energy Authority (summer placement 2020)

Tom Webster SEPnet placement 2020"The existing diagnostic software coordinator that communicates between MAST-U's (the fusion device) central Machine Control System is difficult to maintain and extend. Work is currently underway to replace the software in the diagnostic. In order to develop this program, I created a user interface and was able to program multiple unit tests to ensure that it was running as intended.

The project was an excellent opportunity to develop my programming skills whilst also gaining an understanding of a new field of scientific research not covered in my course."

Tom Webster
Physics with Astrophysics MPhys
Nick Bromfield - Modelling Fuel Assemblies in Boiling Water Reactors, AMEC

Student Nick BromfieldDescribe a typical day:

In a typical day I would use the WIMS software to model different fuel assemblies. The data from this software would then be collated into a spread sheet where it could be compared to data from different sources.

Why did you decide to do a placement?

Going to university and getting a good degree is important, but it is also crucial that you are able to show future employers that you have gained skills over your degree that you can use in the workplace.

Would you recommend doing a placement?

In one word: yes. These placements provide a great introduction to the working world and give you a platform to be able to show employers that you can transfer the skills gained from your degree into the workplace.

How do you think doing a placement has benefited you for the future?

For a start it has given me something to put on my CV! I have learnt about a new area of physics that I had not previously covered in much detail and it has also given me the experience of putting the transferable skills from my degree into practice.

 Tin Le - Photonics Impact Study Research Placement, The Knowledge Transfer Network

Student Tin LeDescribe a typical day:

A typical day at the office would be analysing data from an online database and using my knowledge in physics to group it into categories to help the company determine which fields of research are the most prominent. I would contact academics across the UK to discuss their work either via email or by phone.

Why did you decide to do a placement?

 I decided to do a placement because I wanted some work experience to enhance my CV. 

Would you recommend doing a placement?

I would highly recommend doing a placement, as you will gain valuable experience of the working world. It will prepare you greatly for future employment.

How do you think doing a placement has benefited you for the future?  

Doing this placement has benefitted me for the future as I now have experience in an office environment working with a professional attitude and alongside other professionals. It has also improved my communication skills greatly, which will be vital in todays working environment.

 Henry Doyle - Data Analyst and Digital Marketing assistant, Brighton & Hove Albion FC

Student Henry DoyleDescribe a typical day:

Normally I maintain the main database for the marketing team which allows us to monitor the performance of the club in a variety of sections including commercial and ticketing. I also help advertise the club to as many external parties as possible and help the marketing team to prepare for any match days.

Why did you decide to do a placement?

I decided to do a placement as I always want to broaden my experience by working in a variety of situations and this placement represented an opportunity for me to do this. It is also another thing to add to my CV which will help me to gain future employment after university.

Would you recommend doing a placement?

I believe it is always a positive for anyone to do a placement as it is a real opportunity to meet new people, work in a new environment and also help to secure future employment so I would thoroughly recommend doing a placement if the opportunity arises.

How do you think doing a placement has benefited you for the future?

This placement has given me the experience of working in a new area of business and has helped me to narrow down what career path I wish to follow as well as being able to add the experience to my CV for any future opportunities that may appear.

SEPnet's Student Expo

The annual Students’ Expo provides an opportunity for students to showcase their placement project work through presentations and posters to over 120 employers, academic tutors and peers.

See project posters by Sussex students at SEPnet Expo 2020

Visit the SEPnet website for more information.

Our SEPnet video conferencing room is Room 4C10 in Pevensey 3 building. The timetable of availability for this room can be viewed on our calendar.

A calendar showing shared SEPnet lectures can be viewed here (login required).