a research-orientated placement would be the perfect opportunity to discover firsthand what it is like to work in a research environment. This led to me applying for an eight-week SEPnet summer placement at the National Physical Laboratory in Teddington. There, my role was to evaluate a phenomenon known as “non-uniqueness”, associated with standard platinum resistance thermometers used to realize the International Temperature Scale of 1990.
Non-uniqueness is a very subtle form of uncertainty associated with temperature measurement that, as a result of the ever-improving precision to which we can perform temperature measurements today, is becoming a fundamental limiting factor in the accuracy we are able to achieve. My task during the placement was to try to quantify the uncertainty associated with this non-uniqueness in the thermometers. The first half of the placement was spent per forming measurements in t he lab, where I determined the resistance ratios of the thermometers in temperature-controlled oil baths, liquid nitrogen and fixed-point cells, over a range from –196 °C to 232 °C. I then plotted and analysed the data collected in order to gain a clearer picture of how non-uniqueness affects our most accurate temperature measurements.
How the IOP can help you
The Institute of Physics (IOP) is here to support you in building a successful career through our programme of activit ies. Members of the IOP can: ● Become a part of the IOP student community and participate in a host of activit ies to develop skills: iop.org/ student-community ● Volunteer for IOP-led physics engagement activities to practice your communication, organizational and teamwork skills: iop.org/volunteer ● Plan and organize scientific meetings, working in collaboration with other IOP groups and sister societies. Promote events through your institutions and networks, and coordinate and generate digital content for your chosen group(s): iop.org/groups ● Gain an advantage in the job market by attending our employer-led careers events and participate in career-themed
This was my first experience of not only collecting high-quality experimental data but also of performing careful data analysis, both of which are absolutely invaluable skills for a career in research. Conducting
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webinars. You can also participate in events and conferences, at exclusive member discounted rates, to keep up to date and network with peers and exper t s in academia and industry: iop.org/events ● Make use of the IOP careers hub, which will support you in writing your CV, practising for interviews, delivering presentations, and effective time management, among many other useful resources to support your future career choices: iop.org/member-services ● Take advantage of our international travel grants to attend conferences, such as the Research Student Conference Fund, the C R Barber Trust and Early Career Researchers Fund: iop.org/grants ● Following graduation, join the Member grade and use the designatory letters MInstP after your name, to demonstrate your commitment and professionalism: iop.org/member research during my placement was a very different experience to studying at university, as many of the questions we were asking didn’t have a known answer. This aspect of exploring the unknown is something I found really exciting and it led to me d e v e l o p i n g a w i d e r an g e o f u s e f u l s k i l l s , f r om critical thinking to problem solving.
Working at NPL definitely confirmed my desire to work in a research environment and showed me t he wide var ie t y of oppor t unities available. I was constantly asking the staf f at NPL about their research and ever yone was ver y happy to share their work with me, so I got to learn a lot about metrology/ traceability of measurement and its importance in ever y aspect of our li ves.
For any undergraduate interested in expanding their skill set and experiencing the real-world implications of what they are t aug h t i n l e c t u r e s I wou l d h i g h l y r e c ommend carrying out a placement. Not only does it look great on your CV, i t also provides some invaluable tools for a potential career in r e s e a r c h i n t h e f u t u r e . Don’ t b e pu t o f f app l yi n g i f y o u d o n ’ t ha v e a l o t o f d i r e c t k n ow l e d g e abou t t he p l ac emen t s ub j e c t a r e a , a s p l en t y of help and support are provided. I knew no t h i ng about t he wor l d o f met r o l og y be f o r e my p l acement, bu t I f ound t he s cheme t o be a fantastic oppor tunit y to ex tend my knowledge of a given area.
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Vishanti Fox is the careers and continuing professional development manager for the Ins t i t u t e of Physic s
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