GRADnet PGR Alumni and Placement Case Studies

Alumni Case Studies

Read about what some of our SEPnet PhD graduates are doing now:

PhD Graduate: Matthew Withers, University of Portsmouth

Company: CDO2

Role: Embedded Software Engineer

A PhD is an excellent opportunity to learn and develop many new transferable skills for future employment.”

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PhD Graduate: Riley Ilieva – University of Surrey

Company: National Instruments

Role: Applications Engineer

“My advice is to take full advantage of everything at your disposal. This doesn’t mean that you necessarily want to do any of the jobs that you hear about but it will help to guide you to a job that you do enjoy and can develop in. ”

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PhD Graduate: Rob Phippen – University of Southampton

Company: IBM

Role: Integration Software Architect

“You can be certain that you have technical aptitudes and this will stand you in very good stead in the software industry.”

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PhD Graduate: Maan Najem – University of Surrey

Company: Royal Marsden Hospital

Role:  Radiotherapy Physicist

“Explore all options available by taking voluntary roles at different companies for few weeks which can help you to increase your knowledge and experience as well as expand your networks.”

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PhD Graduate: Heather Campbell – University of Portsmouth

Company: University of Surrey Physics Department

Role: Outreach Officer

“Don’t feel you have failed if you choose to do something different from academic research.”

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PhD Graduate: Rosh Sellahewa – University of Surrey

Company: KPMG

Role: Intellectual Property and Contract Governance

“You can still enjoy a job role even if it’s not in science! Your first role invariably won’t be the right one and employers won’t be phased if you move relatively quickly if you know it’s not for you.

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PhD Graduate: Kelly Nock – University of Portsmouth

Company: We Predict

Role: Data Scientist

Working in cosmology developed my innovative thinking and analytical approaches to data. The core skills I developed during my PhD are now directly applicable to my role as a Data Scientist.”

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PhD Graduate: Andrew Witham – University of Southampton

Company: Symetrica

Role: Team Leader – Algorithm Development Team

Though it is fascinating to study physics topics such as relativity and quantum mechanics, be sure to keep a keen interest in developing skills that will be useful in future careers with physics regardless of the specialised subject area.”

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PhD Graduate: James Etherington – University of Portsmouth

Company: Crowd Connected

Role: Data Scientist

Statistical techniques that I learnt during my PhD are very useful in my current role.

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Jon Emery PhD Graduate: Jon Emery – University of Portsmouth

Company: National Grid

Role: Network Analyst

“The research skills I gained while studying my PhD have proved invaluable; being able to research a problem’s background, develop innovative solutions and then communicate the results clearly.”

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Picture2PhD Graduate: Phil Goddard – University of Surrey

Companies: Housing Association Charitable Trust and Sainsbury’s

Role: Data Scientist

“Unless you want to stay in research, you need to work at getting a technical role outside academia. Don’t give up! If you go from academia to business, it may take a while to build up skills and find your niche.”

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PhD Graduate: Rachel Gregory – University of Southampton

Company: KU Leuven

Role: Intellectual Property Officer

Think outside the box – your analytical skills have applicability in areas you may not have previously encountered.”

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Tim HiggsPhD Graduate: Tim Higgs – University of Portsmouth

Company: ClearviewIP Ltd

Role: Senior Analyst

Being able to produce meaningful statistics from large and, inevitably, imperfect datasets is a valuable skill in the commercial environment.

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PhD Graduate: Michael Hodgson – University of Surrey

Company: Centronic Limited

Role: Design & Development Engineer

“Think outside of your research bubble! Physics is about applying logical thinking to practical problems which every company in the word would like. If you’re interested in a role, go for it – that’s all that is required.

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PhD Graduate: Stewart Martin-Haugh – University of Sussex

Company: Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Role: Software Developer

“I love what I’m doing and it’s definitely working out career wise.”

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Placement Case Studies

Read about some of our SEPnet PGR students’ placement experiences here:

Student: Navin Seeburn – Royal Holloway University of London

 Placement: RedOptima

 Role: Data Engineer (now a job role)

“Having an entire project ride on your shoulders has made a much more mindful and pragmatic thinker of me.  I’m still something of a perfectionist, but I’m definitely learning!”

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Student: Carlos Fernando Vergara Cervantes – University of Sussex

 Placement: RedOptima

 Role: Data Scientist

It has mainly given me in-depth experience of a completely different, ie a non-academic, corporate environment.

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Student: Filippo Contenta – University of Surrey

 Placement: eOsphere

 Role: Satellite Scientist (now a job role)

“It has given me the working experience necessary to fill the gap between academia and industry.”

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Student: James Kneller – Queen Mary University of London

 Placement: National Physical Laboratory

 Role: Student Intern

“The placement has given me the chance to hone my experimental skills, training on the practices done at the country’s measurement lab.”

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Student: Tom Berry – University of Surrey

 Placement: Wood Plc

 Role: Software Engineer (Nuclear)

“I now have experience of working on a project in a collaborative environment with business goals and requirements to take into account.”

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     Student: Filippo Contenta – University of Surrey

     Placement: Audatex

     Role: Data Science Intern

    “It has given me the working experience necessary to fill the gap between academia and industry.”

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Student: Jake Minns – University of Kent

Placement: STFC Department of Scientific Computing

Role: Machine learning applications for x-ray and neutron computed tomography experiments

“Having a short break from my regular postgraduate studies has allowed me to come back to my PhD work feeling refreshed and highly motivated.”

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Student: Ilya Antonov – Royal Holloway University

Placement: National Physics Laboratory

Role: Programming a Filed Programmable Array (FPGA)

“As a more general skill, I improved on setting realistic targets that would generate functioning results within the short 2 month placement.”

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Student: Igor Novikov – University of Kent

Placement: Seismic Stuff

Role: Computational Design Analysis

Using the skills picked up at university in a real-life environment to gain confidence from your knowledge is both challenging and exciting.

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Student:  Helen Davidge – The Open University

Placement: The Royal Marsden Hospital

Role: Reconstruction of radiation intensity measurements from time- based data

I am hoping that the programming skills I have learnt while on my placement, my time spent on S2SD and the knowledge I have gained during my PhD will support me in getting a job as a data scientist.”

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Student: Steve Parsons – University of Surrey

Placement: Cobham RAD Solutions

Role: Radiation Effects Engineer


“Regularly check the advertised opportunities within your institution and wider afield so you don’t miss an opportunity that fits with your skills/experience.”

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Student: Daniel Staab – The Open University

Placement: AVS UK

Role: R&D Engineer


“Overall it confirmed completely that working in a space sector SME is what I want to do long term, and that I can actually use those transferable skills from my PhD research work.”

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Student: Daniel Goddard – University of Portsmouth

Placement: Bank of New York Mellon

Role: Summer Associate

“I think the placement has opened my eyes to the tremendous amount of intellectually stimulating problems that the financial industry faces.”

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Dermot's faceStudent: Dermot O’Brien – University of Southampton

Placement: Tranquility Aerospace

Role: Software Electronic System Programmer


“I learned a lot of skills and met a lot of people to add to my network. I got offered a full-time job and a 2% share in the company.”

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Ela's face 2Student: Ela Poplawska – Queen Mary University of London

Placement: Tranquility Aerospace

Role: Software Electronic System Programmer


It showed me how PhD skills can be transformed and used within an industry or commercial environment.”

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Giovani's faceStudent: Giovanni Pasquino – Royal Holloway University

Placement: Tranquillity Aerospace Ltd.

Role: Electronic Testing and Design


“I think it has given me the opportunity of getting to know a different type of work environment from the academic one. It has helped me discover new areas which I could be interested in, such as electronics. “

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Ilana Wisby

Student: Ilana Wisby – Royal Holloway University

Placement: Snap Out Ltd.

Role: Software Development

“I have gained many transferable technical skills as well as an appreciation of my own skill set to benefit others outside academia.”

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Jonathan's faceStudent: Jonathan Keelan – The Open University

Placement: Network Rail

Role: Researcher


“Don’t be afraid to apply for placements outside of your current research. If you have the necessary skills to perform the placement, and it interests you, go for it.“

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Student: Kiz NattUpdated Photo Kiz, The Open University and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory

Placement: Adaptix Imaging

Role: Image Reconstruction Developer

“As well as having gained many skills, I have learnt about working in an industrial and scientific setting in a start-up company.”

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Picture1Student: Tingting Zhang – Queen Mary University of London

Placement: National Physical Laboratory

Role: Test Engineer

“I got a glimpse of how knowledge is transferred into a business idea and how much work needs to done for a conceptual product to become a real one.”

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YusufStudent: Yusuf Musa Abubakar – University of Surrey

Placement: National Physical Laboratory

Role: Researcher

“If you are interested in doing a placement, go for it. You cannot be sure which type of working environment will suit you without giving it a try.”

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YusufStudent: Yusuf Musa Abubakar – University of Surrey

Placement: Lumie

Role: Researcher


“Placements offer you opportunities to discover yourself prior to choosing a longer term career for yourself.”

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Picture1Student: Zena Patel – University of Surrey

Placement: Adaptix

Role: Scientific Research Intern

“I feel I have gained more knowledge about how a company works in all aspects, and it has made me think about the type of company I want to work for, not just the job.”

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