Instrument scientists work at the frontline of large-scale facilities, some of the largest and most complex research organisations in the world: particle accelerators, free-electron lasers, neutron sources and high-powered lasers. The roles are varied, but typically involve leading the development and operation of a unique scientific instrument, acting as the local contact for a scientifically diverse user community and leading your own independent research programme.

The roles are fast-paced, technical in nature and extremely varied day-to-day. Instrument scientists typically hold PhDs, with either direct entrants post-PhD or having completed a period of post-doctoral work/research fellowship.

Key responsibilities

Skills and qualifications

Career path

Instrument scientists will typically have already had experience of running experiments at large-scale facilities, during their PhD or post-doctoral research. They will have their own area of research
expertise, but ideally would have already demonstrated working collaboratively within adjacent science areas. Prior experience carrying out experiments as a user on the specific beamline or instrument of interest is often desired, but not always required. Instrument scientist will have had acquired a high level of specialist technique expertise previously during their career but will likely receive a substantial amount of training during the first year in the role.

Work environment

Large-scale facilities are unique, experimental devices. You’d work with, and learn from, true experts. You also get to work with a wide range of unique scientific kit, a lot of which is bespoke and would be designed in-house. Whatever your role, you’d be free to question, and encouraged to share ideas. They are places where curious minds thrive. Not bound by profit, they explore ideas that others don’t, ask questions that others won’t, and discover answers that others are not equipped to find. Whether it’s at the cutting edge or behind the scenes, the work is intellectually challenging. It’s very often ground-breaking. And it’s endlessly, irresistibly fascinating.

Occasional weekend and out of hours work is required.

Case studies