National Physical Laboratory

NPL Academy - Where are they now?

Kate Baxter

Kate Baxter

I attended the NPL Academy in the summer of 2014 after finishing my A levels, getting ready to leave school and about to enter the big wide world. I was still unsure about what to do next and wanted to gain an understanding about what working in the scientific industry was really like - whether it was something I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. I went into the Quantum Detection Group, and myself and two other students worked on an experiment on re-standardising the ampere by being able to control single electrons at a time. The experiment required a lot of patience and I feel I learnt a significant lot from my experience about how much trial and error there is in science, but also how satisfying it is to gain results after working hard to achieve them.

I now work at NPL as an Apprentice and I think it was partly down to the Academy's influence showing me the fascinating things that go on inside the labs. The Academy allowed me to get a 'foot in the door' of NPL and also meant that on my first day on the job I was less nervous and more excited to get started. NPL has given me the opportunity to grow more as a person during the apprenticeship, my placements being in Acoustics and Materials, but it was the Academy that first gave me the push towards gaining more skills and confidence in regards to science.

The NPL Academy was a fantastic week that I enjoyed immensely and would recommend to any young person considering a career in science as it gives you real-life experience about what goes on in physics labs. I met, and continue to meet, a number of brilliant scientists who are more than willing to talk to me and go into detail about their research, but I also made friends that I still have over a year and a half later.

Arthur Vie

Arthur Vie

I attended the NPL Academy in the summer of 2012, having completed the first of my GCSE years, where I was placed in Functional Materials. During my work, along with two of the other students from the Academy, I was trained to calibrate and operate an atomic force microscope. We then used the microscope to scan the surface of silicon wafers, searching for thin fragments of the thermoelectric material bismuth telluride of nanometre scale. We also carried out some tests on thermoelectric generators which produce electricity when a temperature gradient is applied across them. The Academy was a fantastic experience for me, both in terms of the lab work that I got to do using state-of-the-art equipment, but also the insight it gave me into the way research can be applied to real technologies, e.g. the use of thermoelectric generators on car exhausts to generate electricity.

I returned to NPL in the summer of 2013 to do a work experience placement. Again, I was with Functional Materials, continuing some of the same research I was doing on the thermoelectric generators, and also building a pressure monitoring device for one of the department's pieces of test equipment.

In the summer of 2014, I worked in Mass and Force with Dr Ian Robinson on a prototype Watt balance. This is the device that is being used in an attempt to redefine the kilogram to a standard that is no longer based on a physical artefact, but rather on fundamental physical constants, namely Planck's constant.

In 2015, having completed my A levels, I decided to apply for NPL's Apprenticeship programme. I am now working as a junior scientist apprentice in Time, Quantum and Electromagnetics, researching a new system for the calibration of band-selective electric field dosimeters.

I would highly recommend the NPL Academy to anyone interested in pursuing a career in science or technology, even if you don't know exactly what you want to do in the long run. For me, it was an exciting and inspiring opportunity to meet world-leading scientists and to be at least a small part of some real science.

Sam Alvey-Taylor

Sam Alvey-Taylor

I attended the NPL Academy in the summer of 2012 after doing my first year of GCSE exams. As I always wanted a career in science (whether it be chemistry, physics or biology), I thought the Academy would be the perfect way to see how science is applied in the working world. At the Academy I worked with two other GCSE students with the Functional Materials Group, helping them calibrate their atomic force microscope, then scanning silicone for samples of thermoelectric materials. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire week, especially making water rockets and other fun stuff with the other Academy students. The Academy gave me a great insight into what kind of organisation I would like to be part of in the future and which career path I want to take.

In the summer of 2013 NPL announced its Advanced Apprenticeship scheme for GCSE and A-Level students and, as I had just left school after Year 11, I applied to be an apprentice at NPL. In September 2013 I started my apprenticeship at NPL in the Time, Quantum & Electromagnetics (TQEM) Group - currently studying microwave engineering. NPL has boosted my confidence in meeting new people and public speaking; also giving me the confidence to apply for the apprenticeship.

Towards the end of the apprenticeship, I was offered a permanent placement in the Radio Frequency & Microwave Group as an Assistant Research Scientist with the prospect of working towards further education and gaining further work experience in the field of science and engineering. As I have also proven myself to be a professional I have gained the chartered status of RsiTech (Registered science technician) with the Royal Society of Chemistry through the apprenticeship scheme. I would definitely recommend the Academy to anyone at GCSE or A Level stage, especially if they have an interest in physics or science in general as it is a truly inspiring week and can lead to great relationships with NPL and experience working in the science industry.

Last Updated: 13 Jul 2016
Created: 17 Sep 2012


Please note that the information will not be divulged to third parties, or used without your permission