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What's your background?

I was a 3rd and 4th year MSci physics student (University of Strathclyde) during my placements in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

What were you involved in?

During my 2011 placement, I was involved in developing a new measurement technique (only able to be performed by one other company worldwide, whose use a different method) for a scientific instrumentation company (KP Technology). I managed to develop a working prototype from the initial concept. This research and its results were almost entirely driven by myself, and as such, it was very rewarding to see that I could make ideas come to life.

Later, in 2012, KP Technology had already made some commercial improvements to my prototype and were selling it as their flagship product.

My next task was to further characterise, optimise and improve the commercial system into essentially a second revision model. Several improvements were highlighted, and some unexpected behaviour was observed and rectified. Seeing this project through from concept to final product was incredibly satisfying, especially with a large role in its development.

What did you enjoy most?

The responsibility and trust that I was given in order to research into whatever I found most interesting or fruitful, and being able to carry out this research how I felt best to do so.
What did you learn and what skills did you pick up?

I have gained valuable insight into the industry and how to run a 'small' company (few employees, but an international reputation). I was also given advice to graduate early (drop down from MSci to BSci) and start a PhD a year earlier - which is what I have done. This has saved me a year of unnecessary undergraduate study, and will put me ahead of my peers in the future.

How will the placement experience help?

Having experience in industry, rather than just having a degree (and eventually a PhD) is invaluable, as it shows employers that you really do know how to be a physicist, or whatever your degree was in. The placement host essentially acts as a third-party verification of your skills. Also, there's the possibility of going back to the host company after graduation, so it acts as a nice safety net for future employment.