As part of our training with the CDT-CMP, we had the opportunity to visit Oxford Instruments Nanoscience in, unsurprisingly, Oxfordshire. The company is probably most renowned for the manufacture of the first commercial full-body MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) system, however walk around many of the Physics labs here at Bath and you will find a number of their systems including cryostats, superconducting magnets, and even my labs atomic force microscope.
The visit started with a short talk on graduate prospects with Oxford Instruments, and then moved onto a tour of the factory. The factory is divided into a number of different areas and on our walk round we were able to see engineers coiling superconducting wires for their magnets, assembling various spectrometers, as well as testing of their enormous milli-Kelvin cryostats. The rest of the day then focussed on a skills and business workshop in which we split into three groups and worked on the business case, project planning, and project engineering of a case study based around the development of a bespoke new magnet for a leading high magnetic field laboratory. We were supervised by members of OI who guided us through the project, and then at the end of the day all gathered for a presentation and discussion.
Having the opportunity to work with people who have several years of experience in engineering, business, or project management ended up being extremely informative, as well as very enjoyable. A PhD is such a narrow focus into a specific scientific field, and I’m sure I’m not alone in worrying about how prepared I am for the ‘real world’; experiences such as this give real insight into working at the cutting edge of science, but from a view different to that of university academia. This visit and other similar opportunities are something that I will be very grateful for when I near the end of my project.