Work experience placements at RAL

COVID-19 Update

For the summer 2022 programme the DL and RAL work experience teams will be joining up to deliver online work experience provision for young people. All applicants to our programme will be able to access webinars about STFC’s work. In addition to this, selected students will be invited to take part in an additional one-week interactive virtual project placement, which will meet the relevant Gatsby benchmarks.

Potential dates for the virtual project placements will be confirmed in January 2022.

How to apply for STFC work experience

We are currently planning for our Summer 2022 Work Experience Programme to be online.

Applications opened on Friday 28 January, and will close in March.

Access the application site.

In the meantime, there are other ways to get involved with the site. Currently, we run a number of virtual events, see what we have coming up. If you have any queries about work experience, please email us:

If you are interested in hearing more about our events and would like to be added to our mailing list, please email us:

Departments offering placements at Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

We can offer traditional placements in the following areas:

  • Computing: software engineering and development, programming and IT – we offer computing placements in many departments, including scientific computing, ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, Research Complex at Harwell, and Central Laser Facility.
  • Engineering: mechanical, electrical and electronic engineering – these placements often involve working with CAD (computer-aided design). Please note we do not offer any placements in aerospace engineering. Engineering placements are offered in many departments, including Central Laser Facility, ISIS Neutron and Muon Source, particle physics, RAL Space and Technology.
  • Mechanical engineering – mechanical engineers use computer-aided design / computer-aided machinery (CADCAM) tools, machining (for example, lathe, milling), hand tools (such as filing and saws) to design and create mechanical systems using a vast range of materials. An example of this is a vacuum chamber, or designing parts of spacecraft.
  • Electrical engineering – electrical engineering is the bridge between electronic and mechanical engineering. Electrical engineering creates complex power and control systems by creating the housing for electronics and wiring it up. They use control systems such as programmable logic controllers (PLCs) to control different types of systems. The power that is supplied to our homes is all thanks to electrical engineering.
  • Science: theoretical
  • Science: practical
  • Other – in addition to STEM placements, we offer a number of placements in areas such as the library, and the communications and business departments.

We can offer traditional placements in the following departments.

Business and innovation

The Business and Innovation Directorate (BID) provides students the opportunity to gain experience in the following areas:

  • business development
  • innovation
  • business support.

Students can experience how business is done within the space sector, and will be given the chance to engage with new customers and clients and be involved in many networking opportunities. Students may also learn about how a business incubation centre runs.

Central Laser Facility

The Central Laser Facility is used by scientists from all over Europe to carry out a broad range of experiments in physics, chemistry and biology. It is home to Vulcan, the world’s highest-intensity focused laser, Astra Gemini, the world’s first twin-beam laser, and Artemis, an ultrafast XUV laser. It is also the home of the OCTOPUS and ULTRA clusters within the Lasers for Science Facility.

ISIS Neutron and Muon Source

ISIS is a particle accelerator and neutron and muon producer and allows us to look inside materials at the atomic scale, like a powerful microscope. ISIS is involved in a broad range of research, from pharmaceuticals and health care through to chemistry, materials engineering and nanotechnology.

In ISIS, priority may be given to older students as there are some areas under 16s are not allowed to enter.


The RAL Library offers an exciting placement opportunity for students with an interest in libraries and publications. In addition to working on projects within the library and shadowing the assistant librarians, this placement includes learning about different types of publications and how these are important for communicating the work of the laboratory. This is a good grounding for any student wanting to go to university.

Particle physics

Particle physics investigates the structure of matter at the deepest possible level. Doing this requires the very highest energies, and particle physics experiments often use huge particle accelerators and complex computer programming. Our particle physics department collaborates with large international projects, such as the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

RAL Space

RAL Space provides world-leading technology development, space test facilities and instrument and mission design. They have been involved in well over 200 space missions – such as Rosetta, which studied Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko and the James Webb Space Telescope, as well as Earth observation missions, such as SLSTR, which is mapping the surface temperature of Earth to an unprecedented degree of accuracy.

Research Complex at Harwell

The Research Complex at Harwell (RCaH) is a new multidisciplinary laboratory. It provides a unique environment for cutting-edge research in physical and life sciences to take place. Research examples include analysing protein structures to help design new drugs, advanced computer graphics and also using lasers that reveal chemical reactions that take place in less than a million-millionths of a second.

Scientific computing

Computing is becoming more and more important – not only in scientific research, but in the economy as a whole. The Scientific Computing department (SCD) at RAL provides first-class computing support and services to staff and scientists on the site. Data from scientific experiments such as the Large Hadron Collider and the ISIS and Diamond particle accelerators are stored and analysed at RAL. SCD is also involved with computational physics, biology, chemistry and engineering.

Engineering and technology

The engineering department designs and builds world-leading equipment for STFC. Staff have a wide range of skills: applied physicists, mechanical, electrical and electronic engineers. The engineering department is key to the design and manufacture of a wide range of detectors, space satellites and micro manufactured components.


We also have opportunities in our communications, public engagement, media, photographic, support services and finance departments:

  • corporate services
  • communications and strategy
  • IT services
  • public engagement.

Last updated: 11 April 2022

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