Andrew May - a year out at DL
17 Jul 2014




He spent last summer at University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (Department of Space and Climate Physics) where he was awarded a Royal Astronomical Society bursary for his work on the development of a CubeSat attitude control system b


He spent last summer at University College London’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory (link opens in a new window) (Department of Space and Climate Physics) where he was awarded a Royal Astronomical Society bursary for his work on the development of a CubeSat attitude control system (link opens in a new window) based on magnetic field and solar inputs. He is currently taking a year out from his degree to work at Daresbury Laboratory under Shrikant Pattalwar.

Andrew May
(Credit: STFC)

“One of the big challenges facing graduates at the moment is how to get experience”, explained Andrew. “If you look at the statistics, employment rates are much higher amongst students who took a sandwich year, so it seemed to make a lot of sense to me.” So, why did he decide to apply for a placement at DL (link opens in a new window)? “I read the job description online and it mentioned that the position may include the opportunity to contribute to the upgrade of the LHC (link opens in a new window) at CERN. For me, the opportunity to work on such an historic project was enough. After my interview I was given a tour of the site and just fell in love with the place there and then!”

As a member of the Radio Frequency and Cryogenics Group at ASTeC, Andrew is primarily contributing to the development of a cryomodule for the superconducting compact crab cavities presently being designed as part of Hi-Lumi LHC (link opens in a new window), a project launched by CERN to upgrade the luminosity performance of the Large Hadron Collider. “I’ve also been able to work on other projects here which I’ve enjoyed just as much, particularly on the ALICE (link opens in a new window) accelerator (Accelerators and Lasers In Combined Experiments).”

When asked what he likes about working at DL, it is clear that Andrew’s love of the site has not waned: “The people and the work both get me straight out of bed in the morning. The lab has a great atmosphere – everyone who works here does so because they genuinely care about their research.”

He added: “Over and above that, I’ve been given some fantastic opportunities at DL to work in a cutting edge research environment – I think it’s fair to say that this hasn’t been a typical sandwich placement.”

In addition to his love of science, Andrew has been developing a love of science communication and outreach through public engagement activities. “I’ve been fortunate to have had some incredibly inspiring teachers and lecturers so far in my education and I wanted to help to provide similar opportunities for others. As we’re publicly funded, I think that it’s really important both to talk about our research with the general public and use it to excite school kids about science in general."

Big Bang Fair 2014
(Credit: STFC)

Earlier this year, he travelled to Birmingham with some colleagues to take part in the Big Bang Fair (link opens in a new window). “Over the five days we had over 60,000 visitors in the exhibition hall. It was a great mix of families, school trips and even secondary school pupils asking about careers in science and engineering. My colleagues have put together an excellent set of experiments and demonstrations which really caught the eye."

“I’ve also been involved with Collider (link opens in a new window) at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester”, he enthused. “The exhibit, which has just moved from the Science Museum in London, takes visitors on a journey through the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and the organisers have done an excellent job. Along with colleagues from the Cockcroft Institute and the University of Manchester Particle Physics Group, I was invited to attend several events at MOSI to talk about LHC and the work that’s being done locally.”

Andrew was recently awarded a Royal Society Partnership Grant for his work with Evelyn Street Community Primary School (link opens in a new window) in Warrington. “An email was sent around the department by the STFC Public Engagement with information about the scheme. I had a think about it and it seemed to be a great opportunity to develop a full, hands-on workshop which could go beyond what we can typically offer at our usual outreach events.” Delighted that his application was successful, Andrew is enjoying having the freedom to develop the activity and hopes it will prove inspirational to young scientists.

He plans to continue to develop his new communication and outreach skills when he leaves STFC. “I’ve really enjoyed all of the outreach work that I’ve been able to do this year. Not only is it important to use your work to excite people about science, but I’ve also found it has sharpened my own communication skills – trying to explain to a 10 year old what the LHC does can be fairly challenging!”

As his placement nears the end, Andrew's thoughts are turning to his studies in September. What will he remember most about his time at DL? “Definitely seeing my first paper published. It felt like such an achievement and I know some of the other students have had the same experience seeing their name on a paper for the first time.”

We may see Andrew again as his placement has reinforced his love of research. So much so, that he is now thinking about doing a PhD and, possibly, applying for the STFC Graduate Scheme.