All posts by Cristobel Soares


Why the GRADnet Summer School surpassed any expectations!

Mariana Bento, National Physical Laboratory Postgraduate Institute and UCL Postgraduate Researcher talks about her experience at the GRADnet Summer School 4-5 July 2022 at the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, Middlesex:

“The SEPnet Summer School surpassed any expectations I had for this 2-day event. Becoming a good professional or researcher, is not just about being an expert in the field. It requires a full set of complementary skills, which comprises good communication, networking, awareness of our surroundings, collaboration, problem solving.

SEPnet knows this and collaborated with NPL, Skillfluence and employers:  Airbus; Capco; Deloitte; Dyad and WP Thompson, to provide an interesting and insightful number of workshops and sessions.  Topics ranged from having a better understanding of how to break the communication wall; finding the common points when starting a conversation with a new person to the foresighting topic which equipped us with developing skills on how to pick up the hints of the current events to better analyse possible future outcomes and perform better decisions.

When one brings together a group of knowledgeable and interesting people as was the case with the summer school event, the result can only be the best.

I had an amazing time during these two days.”

Foresighting workshop breakout group:

Intellectual Property Rights; NPL and Airbus Workshops:

Careers panellists:  Dr Adam Bozson, (Ex RHUL), Head of Data Science, Dyad;  Dr Leon Schoonderwoerd, (Ex Kent), Deloitte, Assistant Manager;  Jenika Karsan, Capco, Global Marketing Campaigns Project Manager; Dr Aoife Ivory, Senior Research Scientist, National Physical Laboratory, Ultrasound and Acoustics Group and Dr Hibaaq Mohamud, Higher Research Scientist, National Physical Laboratory, Nuclear Metrology Group. 


First F2F GRADnet Summer School in 3 Years! 

The GRADnet Summer School took place on 4-5 July 2022 at the National Physical Laboratory for the first time since 2019 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  It was great to be networking and socialising once again with researchers and employers.

Thank you to all our contributors for providing an amazing programme over the 2-day event:

NPL Welcome:  Richard Brown, Head of Metrology, National Physical Laboratory and Prof Jacob Dunningham, SEPnet Executive Director.

Networking Skills and Translating your Research/PhD skills to Industry sessions:  Zach Sorrells, Chief Technology Officer, Skillfluence Ltd.

Foresighting Workshop:  Dr James Claverly, NPL Head of Gov Relations and Dr Michael Chrubasik, Higher Research Scientist, National Physical Laboratory, Informatics Group. 

Careers Panellists: Dr Adam Bozson, (Ex RHUL), Head of Data Science, Dyad; Dr Aoife Ivory, Senior Research Scientist, National Physical Laboratory, Ultrasound and Acoustics Group; Jenika Karsan, Capco, Global Marketing Campaigns Project Manager; Dr Hibaaq Mohamud, (Ex Surrey), Higher Research Scientist, National Physical Laboratory, Nuclear Metrology Group; Dr Leon Schoonderwoerd, (Ex Kent), Deloitte, Assistant Manager.

Water Rockets and Laboratory Tours:  Andrew Hansen MBE, Outreach Manager and NPL PGI Students.

Employer-led Workshops:

Airbus:  Dr Jamie Wickham-Eade, (Ex Portsmouth), Study Manager and Systems Engineer; Ciaran Jenkins, Graduate Spacecraft Systems Engineer in the Earth Observation and Science Department and Michael Skreta, Systems Engineer in the Future Programmes.

NPL Metrology: Dr Emma Bendall, Research Scientist; Mariana Bento, Postgraduate Institute; Anu Bhaisare, Assistant Research Scientist; Nuclear Metrology Group; David Fairweather, Postgraduate Institute; Svetlana Kolmogorova, Nuclear Metrology Group and Dr Ben Russell, Principal Research Scientist and Science Area Leader for the Nuclear Metrology Group: 

Intellectual Property Rights:  Dr Julian Potter, Partner and Matt England,Trainee Patent Attorney, WP Thompson.

Delegates really enjoyed this year’s event:

  • “Thanks for organising a really enjoyable and productive couple of days”
  • “Great opportunity to improve ‘soft’ skills”
  • “NPL was the ideal location for the event, both because of its historical contributions to our field, but also NPL’s willingness to show us around their labs and describe their research.”
  • “My favourite aspect of the summer school were the people! Discussed not only our research, but also views on life and our past stories; the right ingredients for some new long-term friends!  Again, thank you for doing this so we could crawl outside our labs and learn so much about new skills and new people.

Hope to see more postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers at next year’s summer school in 2023!

Water rocket launch pad and rocket construction!

Skillfluence session: Translating your PhD research skills to industry


GRADnet Online Workshop: The Application of Neural networks to Image Recognition – really insightful!

On 19 and 20 May over 30 postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers attended the GRADnet online workshop:  The Application of Neural networks to Image Recognition.

The course was aimed at anyone interested in modern data science and AI.  The focus was the implementation (in Python) of neural networks and applying them in order to classify images. Delegates were taught how to first build some simple networks with a few convolutional layers, then how to exploit popular deep neural networks such as Xception, VGG16, Resnet and MobileNet.  

Thank you to Dr Michal Gnacik, Senior Lecturer in the School of Mathematics and Physics at University of Portsmouth who designed and delivered the course on behalf of GRADnet.  

Attendees had the opportunity to look at the transfer-learning and hyper-parameters tuning and how to use them to achieve high-accuracy predictions.  Comet ML was used to track, compare, explain, and optimize their experiments.   Kaggle image datasets helped recognise emotions from the images of people’s faces and delegates looked at how deep learning can be used in converting speech to text using established systems such as DeepSpeech or Silero.

Delegates found the course “really interesting” and “useful”.  One student said “Thank you so much for the course. It has been really insightful and I can’t wait to have a go at the exercises!”.

GRADnet and the School of Mathematics and Physics at Portsmouth plan to collaborate once again and run this course in person in 2022-23!  Look out for the GRADnet Training Programme 2022-23 which will be launched in September.




GRADnet Workshop: “A guide to virtual networking” incredibly useful!

GRADnet is delighted to be collaborating again with Skillfluence to deliver professional skills courses to SEPnet postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers to help them develop their transferrable skills in the workplace. 

Thank you to Dr Hannah Roberts who delivered a 3-hour workshop over two afternoons on 10 & 17 May to help postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers to:

  • Set up a main professional social media platform and have an all-star profile using scaffolding templates.
  • Consciously expand their network in under 15 minutes per day and become visible.
  • Learn how to introduce themselves and follow-up on opportunities using simple easy to follow scripts whilst maintaining integrity.
  • Measure and test their progress to ensure the time spent on social media is paying dividends.

Attendees found the workshop “very informative”, a “great help” and “incredibly useful”.

Hannah is a career coach and professional skills trainer. During her extensive academic and industrial career, she took research from concept to start-up. Since 2018, she has been a qualified and regulated coach; trained in Talent Dynamics profiling. Specialising in team dynamics, career planning, online networking and social media skills, research planning, commercialisation and management tools. Hannah has a particular passion for diversity and inclusion and women’s leadership development.

Next year GRADnet will be offering an online 1-day workshop on “Social Media for Researchers” on 7 February 2023.  Look out for our 2022-23 Training Programme which will be launched in September 2022.



GRADnet Astrobiology and Planetary Science Workshop: Mars Rover fun!

The Astrobiology and Planetary Science workshop took place on 20-21 April 2022 at the Open University in Milton Keynes for SEPnet postgraduate researchers.

Thank you to Dr Matt Balme who led the workshop and his colleagues at the OU and Mars Yard:  Geoff Austin, Alex Barrett, Richard Busutil, Simone Cogliati, Elena Favaro, Paul Streeter and Susanne Schwenzer.

Thank you to Frances Westall, Director of Research at the Centre de Biophysique Moléculaire Equipe Exobiologie,  who gave a lecture on “Mars Astrobiology” and Professor Sanjeev Gupta, Imperial College London, for his talk on “Perseverance Rover mission”.

An evening dinner was held for delegates and academics to network after a long absence of face-to-face events due to the pandemic.

Delegates found the workshop “interesting, good fun, challenging and very rewarding”.  “The best part of it was being actively involved in the actions of the Mars rover in the Mars yard and working with people as part of a team. The lectures were very good as well.”

GRADnet is looking forward to hosting more residential workshops in the future! Look out for an announcement in September for details of our training programme for 2022-2023!


GRADnet Winter School 2022: Moving from Science into Business

The GRADnet Winter School took place 14-15 February 2022 and was attended by SEPnet postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers.

Thank you to Julia Shalet at Product Doctor and author of “The really good idea test” who delivered the online training this year. Julia describes how the training went:

“Our theme was “Moving from Science into Business”. We spent two online days generating some real business ideas and working through the commercial opportunities. By the end of the workshop, four teams talked us through their entire business model in under 4 minutes each – amazing! 

We promised the participants that they would get to turn an idea into a meaningful value proposition that focuses on solving people’s problems; find out how to reduce the biggest risks before building anything; map up a new business model and throughout practice good time and people management, written and oral presentation skills, identify and solve problems by gathering evidence of risks and find out the importance of being flexible.

Our participants gave our course brilliant scores – here is what they told us:

  • Very informative, engaging, and worthwhile with a friendly presenter who was open to questions and explained concepts clearly. 
  • It started with simple ideas and built us up to delivering a presentation lasting just a few minutes which brought together everything we had done over the two days. 
  • The significant thing about this course is that it allows the participant to recreate the required steps for any idea 
  • I loved the active group work in each section, which helped to solidify ideas when they were presented to us. 
  • I don’t know whether starting my own business is necessarily for me, however I don’t regret attending, as it was very informative and helpful!
  • Really very useful – I have a product ready to sell but did not have any idea how to start and make a good business plan.

So that’s a wrap, another Winter School is done. In the nature of true innovation, we tested and learned from some new formats and we’ve already identified another twist for next year, when we look forward to meeting in person.”

The GRADnet Summer School takes place 4-5 July 2022 at the National Physical Laboratory.  If you are a SEPnet postgraduate or postdoctoral researcher or are part of  NPL’s Postgraduate Institute and would like to register for this event click here.


Machine Learning & AI Online Workshop 12 January 2022

Thank you to Professor Adrian Bevan, Head of Department of Physics and Astronomy, Queen Mary University of London who delivered the GRADnet Machine Learning & AI online workshop on 12 January 2022 to over 40 postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers.

Adrian’s view of how the day went: “It is important to develop and maintain relevant skills throughout our working lives, from the moment we start studying through to the day we retire. Really great to see a new generation of Physics PhD students as a part of the GRADnet programme follow the 2022 GRADnet Machine Learning workshop today. We had over 50 participants registered for the event, which covered real world use of ML, an introduction to machine learning using TensorFlow, and an overview of how to use data science to predict air-pollution – a global problem that is gaining prominence in terms of links to health.

Our first speaker was an ex-Physicist and Queen Mary University of London alumnus Dr Tom Charman. He now works at Accelex on the use of AI in industry, focusing on NLP application to financial documentation. It was fascinating to see the same kinds of thought processes and workflow ideas that help particle physicists analyse abstract forms of data to find the Higgs boson, and search for new particles at the LHC applied to NLP problems in the real world. This really highlights that the skills sets developed as a physicist are really widely transferable. Learning about the priorities of UK companies in terms of the additional skill sets beyond that taught in the curriculum, is also a great help – as we all need to embrace professional development in our careers, from the outset until the day we retire.

Drs Marcella Bona and Jia-Chen Hue from Queen Mary University of London talked about the SAPIENS (Smart Air Pollution Information Enabling New Solutions) project looking at data sets collected in Mexico City and how from that one can predict air pollution. This was another data science project that used methods (and code!) from an LHC analysis – this time used for rare B decay studies on ATLAS. The ability for physicists to work in a multidisciplinary team of data scientists to study this critical and ubiquitous problem facing populations of large cities across the planet is amazing. Again it highlights the importance of learning how to solve a problem in whatever you want to specialise in and then look for interesting ways to make a difference by applying your knowledge elsewhere. Sharing that expertise across the disciplines helps make great ideas turn into real outcomes.

The tutorial part of the day was run by me with the help of a great graduate student, Joe Davies. We started off looking at a simple linear regression problem using keras. For those of you who studied linear regression at school, yes this is really overkill. However it is a great starting example to pedagogically explore how optimisation works for machine learning and to turn the dry math associated with the books and papers to see in action with a single input, single output problem that can be solved analytically, what happens when you get let loose with the ADAM optimiser. This helps provide a solid grounding to discuss machine learning optimisation problems in general, and is a good way to separate out how optimisation works in practice from the more complicated issues surrounding neural networks in the form of multilayer perceptrons, deep learning and moving on to convolutional neural networks. The workshop stopped there, as we ran out of time at the end of the day having covered a great deal of material. The real stars were the participants. We had some great questions and discussions throughout the day.

This was a SEPnet organised event run at Queen Mary University of London in the Department of Physics and Astronomy. Sadly for the second year in a row this was an online-only event, but we are hopeful that next year we will be able to resume in-person meetings and move back to a multi-day workshop on campus, taking on board feedback from the participants to make the workshop even better.

  • If you want to get involved in GRADnet ML 2023 reach out to me via my linked in page to ask how to get involved.
  • The code used in the GRADnet ML tutorial can be found on my git hub page.
  • You can find more of my machine learning teaching material on my teaching home page.”

GRADnet Induction Day welcomes new SEPnet PGRs

GRADnet welcomed over 100 new PGRs to their online induction day on Wednesday, 20 October 2021.  Dr Olivia Keenan, Acting SEPnet Executive Director and Outreach Director and Cristobel Soares, Graduate Network Manager, led the event with an introduction to what SEPnet is and what GRADnet has to offer postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers.

Thank you to Lukas Gunthermann, University of Sussex and Matthew Grayling, University of Southampton who gave presentations on their SEPnet PGR placement experience and the advantages of taking up such an opportunity during their PhD.

Attendees were invited to participate in the following workshops:

  • Intro to Basic Python and Intro to Scientific Python delivered by Dr Tim Kinnear, University of Kent
  • Science Communication Skills led by Dr Claudia Antolini, SEPnet/Ogden Senior Officer for Outreach and Public Engagement, Department of Physics, Royal Holloway, University of London and Hannah Tonry, SEPnet/Ogden Engagement Officer, Division of Natural Sciences, University of Kent
  • Understanding Software for Research delivered by Claire Hepwood, Royal Holloway, University of London

Thank you to our workshop leads for running these informative sessions online and dealing with challenges this entails.  Feedback from one of the attendees:  “It was a really good talk. Astonishing how much Tim could fit into one hour of introduction.”

GRADnet hopes to welcome the next cohort in October 2022 with a face to face event at One Park Crescent in London!


SME-DTN Online Sandpit Event on Defence and Security

SEPnet’s SME-DTN funded by Research England Development Fund held their second online sandpit on Wednesday, 15 September 2021. Led by Professor Stephen Sweeney, Academic Lead, University of Surrey and Cristobel Soares, Project Manager for the SME-DTN, the aim of this event was to explore industry relevant collaborative PhD research projects in defence and security.

Thank you to our industry partners Airbus, AWE, DSTL, the National Physical Laboratory, Quantum Dice and Thales who attended the sandpit event.  Representatives from each company presented their research problems to SEPnet academics to identify synergies and  viable future PhD research projects.

Research England Development Fund is supporting this scheme and providing funding for 12 PhD projects from 2020-2024.  If you are a small, medium or large company and would like to collaborate with a SEPnet institution in developing an industry relevant PhD research project in physics, engineering or computer science  please visit: for further information or email


GRADnet Launches Training Programme for 2021-22

GRADnet is pleased to announce the list of forthcoming GRADnet Training events for the academic year 2021-22.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic this list is subject to change.

These events are only for SEPnet postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers.  These events are free to attend (SEPnet pays for your accommodation and course fees for residential courses) and travel expenses can be claimed from your department.

List of training events:

20 October 2021:  Online Live GRADnet Induction Day for 1st Year Physics PhD students (via Microsoft Teams). This is compulsory for all September/October 2021 starters. Register here by 18 October 2021.

27 October 2021:  IOP/SEPnet Webinar: “Taking control of your career as a woman in physics”.  The Institute of Physics and SEPnet are holding an online careers webinar for women and non-binary physics students (i.e. undergraduate, postgraduate and postgraduate research), as well as recent physics graduates working in a range of employment sectors. Our half-day panel and networking event will give you a chance to find out the variety of career options available to physicists. You will hear from a diverse range of women in physics-related careers who will talk about their roles and how they got to where they are. They will provide practical advice and information about the skills and experience you need to progress in your career. This event is open to IOP members and non-members.  Register here by 26 October.

10 November 2021:  Developing knowledge and skills in Public Engagement Webinar Session 1*. This is a two-part Public Engagement series designed to give you an overview of the engagement landscape, and practical guidance as to how to create engagement around your own research.

Session 1:  will explore what public engagement is, delving into the research and literature around it, unpicking why we do engagement, and looking at how to create impact from engagement.  This will be led by SEPnet Outreach and Public Engagement officers with many years’ experience in this field.

Session 2 (see 23 March registration link below):  will be in the format of a workshop and will allow attendees space to discuss their own research and form ideas for engagement. SEPnet Outreach and Public Engagement officers will lead and facilitate this session, using their experience and working with attendees to create impactful engagement plans. There will also be guidance on how to evaluate and evidence engagement, which is particularly important in the context of REF.

We strongly encourage interested postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers to attend both sessions.  For other staff members interested in finding out more about the engagement landscape please do register to attend the first session.  Register here by 8 November.

24 November 2021: IOP Publishing Webinar “How to get published”:  IOP Publishing is one of the world’s foremost publishers within the physical sciences, with over 80 titles covering all aspects of physics. For early career scientists starting out in research, the world of academic publishing can be somewhat confusing. In this webinar we aim to shed some light on this process and enable you to navigate it to maximise the impact and visibility your research. This talk will cover topics such as open access, choosing the correct journal for your work, the peer-review process, and promoting your research. More information can be found on the IOP Publishing Support site at  Register here by 23 November.

12 January 2022: Machine Learning & AI at Queen Mary University of London, Mile End Road, London.  Registration link tbc

14-15 February 2022:  GRADnet Winter School at Cumberland Lodge, Great Park, Windsor.  Register here by 14 January 2022.

23 March 2022 Developing knowledge and skills in Public Engagement Workshop Session 2*.  For details of session 1 & 2 see 10 November 2021 aboveRegister here by 21 March.

28 March 2022:  Advanced Materials at Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey.  Registration link tbc

Astrobiology/Planetary Science at the Open University, Milton Keynes, Bucks, TBC

10 & 17 May 2022:  A Guide to Virtual Networking online workshop.  Register here by 6 May 2022.

4-5 July 2022:  GRADnet Summer School at the National Physical Laboratory, Teddington, Middlesex.  Registration link tbc

June/July 2022:  XII NExT School TBC

5-7 September 2022:  Student-led Conferences at the University of Southampton.  Registration link tbc

Please note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic the delivery of some events may switch to online via Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

For regular updates visit:  GRADnet Training Events for 2021-22 – SEPnet