Category Archives: Uncategorized


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!


HE STEM Equality, Diversity & Inclusion – Revisiting the leaky pipeline – short-term contracts and career planning

5th Annual SEPnet Workshop – Wednesday 1 December 10.00 – 13.00
Hosted online by University of Sussex

The number of people from under-represented groups reduces at each career stage of the academic career path in physics and other STEM disciplines. This workshop focuses on the postdoctoral phase of an ECR’s career and explores how the typical series of short-term contracts affects their career choices and what can be done in support of ECRs.

While this issue affects all ECRs, the workshop will focus, in particular, on support for ECRs from under-represented groups. This event is aimed at ECR representatives, HE STEM staff responsible for diversity and inclusion including Athena SWAN, Project Juno and diversity champions, HR managers and academics.

10.00 Chair’s introduction
Professor Matthias Keller, University of Sussex

10.10 The challenges of an academic career in physics – overcoming the barriers to career progression
Professor Kathy Romer, University of Sussex

10:35 The effect of short-term contracts on career planning and choices: early career researcher perspective
Dr Gregory Ashton, Early Career Researcher, University of Portsmouth

11:00 Challenges and strategies for career management; supporting underrepresented groups and promoting EDI
Rana Marrington, Careers Consultant (Postgraduate & Early Career Researchers), Doctoral College, University of Surrey

11:25 Break

11:35 Short term contracts and career planning – what are the solutions? An HEI perspective
Dr Annika Lohstroh, Staff Tutor, School of Physical Sciences (SPS), The Open University

12:00 Breakout group discussions
12:30 Group feedback and panel discussion
13:00 Close of proceedings

The workshop is FREE to join. Places are limited. Please register for a place below on a first come, first served basis.

Revisiting the leaky pipeline – short-term contracts and career planning Tickets, Wed 1 Dec 2021 at 10:00 | Eventbrite



The annual Students’ Expo provides an opportunity for students to showcase their work through presentations and posters to over 120 employers, academic tutors and peers. This year over 80 undergraduate students secured industry and research placements and will present their posters at the Expo.

The event will include presentations from students about their projects and you will get a chance to view students’ posters before, during and after the event.

Prizes will be awarded for the best posters based on visual style, scientific content and effective communication.

The event is chaired by Professor Sir William Wakeham and we are delighted that this year’s keynote address will be delivered by Dr Mark Richards – Academic, Entrepreneur, Diversity Champion & DJ.

For further details contact


Taking Control of Your Career as a Woman in Physics Wednesday 27 October 2021, 10.00–12.00 IOP and SEPnet joint online career panel

The Institute of Physics and SEPnet are holding an online careers webinar for university physics students (ie 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 with physics-related backgrounds 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.

Places are limited. Please book IOP-SEPnet Joint Webinar: Taking control of your career as a woman in physics ( as soon as possible to guarantee your place!


Tracey Berry, Senior Lecturer in Physics, Royal Holloway University of London
Rhiann Canavan, Scientific Project Manager, Crossfield Fusion
Azaria Coupe, Associate Scientist, QinetiQ
Katie Ley, Communications Manager, Sopra Steria
Charlotte Massey, Strategy Development Manager Net-zero Ecosystems, National Physical Laboratory
Heather McAslan, Data Science Lead, InCrowd
Chantal Nobs, Senior Radiometric Researcher, UKAEA
Sam Weston, SEPnet Outreach Officer, University of Surrey


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


GRADnet Online Summer School 2021 a success!

GRADnet in collaboration with NPL’s Postgraduate Institute and Skillfluence hosted a live online summer school for over 45 delegates on 5-7 July 2021 looking at opportunities beyond one’s PhD and networking skills.

The 3-hour sessions looked at a range of potential career options/paths in physical sciences; explored a number of important scientific trends/issues in physical sciences (industry-centric) and participants developed networking skills and actively expanded one’s network.

A huge thank you to our industry partners for taking the time out to share their career transitions; explaining their roles in industry and how to create your own opportunities as well as providing top tips for networking.

  • “This was an excellent event for networking.” PGR, University of Kent
  • “If you are unsure about job opportunities post PhD this is the training for you!” PGR, University of Herts
  • “It has been an extremely useful experience and really opened my eyes in terms of the different available options at the end of my PhD.” PGR, University of  Sussex
  • It was a really great opportunity to make connections and learn about lots of options for post-PhD careers.” PGR, University of Surrey

Finally, thank you to Zach Sorrells and Dr Hannah Roberts for facilitating the sessions and making them fun and interactive.

National Physical Laboratory “Trends in Science”:

Monday, 5 July:  “NPL Foresighting”  Dr JT Janssen, Chief Scientist, National Physical Laboratory,

Tuesday, 6 July:  “Machine Learning “:  Dr Spencer Thomas – Senior Research Scientist, (Data Science) and Ashish Sundar – Research Scientist (Data Science)

Wednesday, 7 July:  “My adventures in interdisciplinary research with “real world” scientists!”:  Geraint Thomas:  Professor of Biochemistry, UCL

Career Panellists:

Monday, 5 July:  

Dr Rebecca Douglas, Patent Attorney, Hindles Patent and Trade Mark Attorneys

Dr Sonali Mohapatra, (Ex Sussex), Space Quantum Technologies Developer, Craft Prospect, Space Quantum Technologies

Dr Jamie Wickham-Eade, (Ex Kent), Study Manager and Systems Engineer, Airbus

Tuesday, 6 July:

Dr Lientjie de Villiers, (Ex Herts), Quantitative Analytics manager in the Risk Portfolio Modelling and Forecasting team, Santander

Dr Philip Marsden, (Ex Southampton) Physicist and Managing Director, Unitive Design and Analysis

Dr Jefferson Ridgeway, Head of Science & Mechanical Engineering, Ultra Electronics

Wednesday 7 July:

Dr Adam Bozson, (Ex RHUL), Machine Learning Scientist, Dyad

Dr Heather McAslan, (Ex Sussex), Data Science Lead, InCrowd Sports

Dr Simon Steel, Tritium Scientist, UKAEA 



GRADnet Online Quantum Computing Workshop: “awesome” event!

On 28 April 2021 GRADnet delivered the online quantum computing workshop to over 35 SEPnet and international delegates.  The face-to-face event was unfortunately postponed from April 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Thank you to Dr Eran Ginossar, Advanced Technology Institute, University of Surrey for delivering this workshop which was described by one of the delegates as “awesome”!

Thank you to our high-profile speakers from around the globe for participating in this event and for covering a variety of topics:

Delegates said: “the workshop brought a number of strands together and presented them in a largely understandable form.” They found the speakers “outstanding” and the talks “really informative with lots of pertinent information”.  They appreciated the “variety of topics, with good explanations” but wanted an extra day or two!

GRADnet hopes to deliver a physical event in quantum computing in 2022-3 with opportunities for networking hosted by the University of Surrey.


Running a successful virtual conference – Optics and Photonics for Scientific Progress (OPSP 2021)

Article by Hall Dorrington, University of Kent

The SEPnet student led conferences are an annual series of networking events created and organized by postgraduate students from SEPnet universities. The scheme awards students with the funding and guidance necessary to create a 2-day conference on a subject of their own liking. On the 13th-14th of April 2021, ‘Optics and Photonics for Scientific Progress (OPSP 2021)’ took place, accumulating a total number of 99 visitors throughout, and a concurrent peak of 41.

Planning OPSP2021 took over a year from its earliest conceptions, having its origins as an idea for a one-day event focused on employability and career development for students. This initial idea was a consequence of networking between two student chapters of The Optical Society (OSA), representing the Applied Optics Group (AOG) at the University of Kent and the BioPhotonics Group at the University of Surrey respectively, a chapter connection that was facilitated by Yann Amouroux, director of OSA Europe. Soon later, the idea was adopted by Julien Camard, of the AOG, who further developed the idea into a plan for a full 2-day conference aimed at enhancing optics in science which he proposed to SEPnet and successfully won funding with.

As time progressed, the overhanging pandemic continued in its potency and we eventually made the decision to begin planning for a virtual conference. The task before us was challenging, how to orchestrate an engaging, enjoyable, and informative conference for attendees who would ultimately be staring at a screen for the whole time? Our solution was to create a virtual conference space, to simulate a real conference and not just host another series of zoom meetings! This was possible using ‘’, an online resource that enabled us to create a virtual world in which to host our conference.

The result, it “was amazing”, said an attendee. Another remarked that the “environment was very informal and laidback [which] made everything very enjoyable.” The use of ‘’ was particularly popular, with one guest saying it was a “brilliant way to make virtual conferences not be boring.”

We also thrived in hosting a multinational event. Going virtual meant we were able to secure speakers from around the world, with some joining from as far as Canada, Mexico, and the US. Likewise, international attendees were able to join effortlessly, and at a fraction of the usual CO2 costs normally incurred in traveling to an international event.

One of our initial goals in organizing the conference was to strike a balance between academic presentations/industry professional career guidance with a range of personal development workshops. We were proud to have executed this well, having “many different topics” says an attendee.

A prominent feature of the conference was the shared poster session, which took place in ‘’. The cohort of optics posters were merged with entries from another conference run in parallel to OPSP 2021. This extended our networking to include particle physics students. Attendees mingled amongst the posters as they would in real life, much to their enjoyment. At the end of the session attendees made their way to a main stage, where the winners were announced.

Congratulations to Anja Borre of Danmarks Tekniske Universitet for winning the Public’s Choice Best Optics Poster, and to Paulo Robalinho of Universidade do Porto for winning the Judge’s Choice Best Joint Poster.

Deserving of congratulations are the team of students that made OPSP2021 happen, from Kent: Julien Camard, Rachel Sully, Adrian Fernandez Uceda, Alejandro Martinez Jimenez and Hal Dorrington; and from Surrey: Gavrielle Untracht and Abdullah Durrani. We are also all very grateful to Cristobel Soares, SEPnet Graduate Network Manager who has given us guidance and inspiration throughout. Finally, special thanks are due to Julien and Gavrielle, who worked wonderfully to coordinate the conference and to lead us as a team so effectively.

Personally, I had the opportunity during the conference to chair a panel discussion featuring eminent scientists. To be given the opportunity to demonstrate professionalism and to be part of such a knowledgeable discussion was a brilliant experience, one which without running a SEPnet conference I would not have been granted. All of us members of the team have learnt a lot from stepping up to the challenge of running a conference and we are so much more confident now as a result.

Reflecting on our experience, we can say that is has been a lot of work, but overall, it has been very rewarding and has left us proud of our accomplishment. The process of inviting speakers to the conference was a great opportunity to network and build connections with renowned researchers.

Running a SEPnet conference is a rare opportunity to gain great confidence and proficiency at interfacing with professionals in the field. If you are considering applying to lead a student conference – do it! Say yes and grow. 



Why get involved in organising a GRADnet Student-led Conference?

13-14 April 2021: Novel Ideas in HEP: From Theory to Detector

In July 2020 my team and I were given the opportunity by SEPnet to organise a student-led conference and design the programme. We were excited to do this as it was a unique opportunity to make a student conference our own.  Armed with advice from the organisers of last year’s online student-led conference and the support of GRADnet we were able to handle the practicalities of organising an online conference during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With regular meetings with Cristobel Soares, the Graduate Network Manager, who handled the logistics of the conference, we were able to focus on the scientific aspect as well as deciding how best to hold the conference online.

As lead organiser for our conference I worked closely with Julien Camard the lead organiser of the parallel conference: ‘Optics and photonics for scientific progress’.   We had regular catch ups with our teams to discuss how best to produce joint sessions such as an opportunity for attendees to learn about post-PhD career options both in and out of academia as well as a joint poster session. In this latter session we used the software ‘GatherTown’ to hold an online meet and greet where we could discuss attendees’ posters and the conference at large – a unique setting for a unique time. 

Organising the conference was a team effort and couldn’t have happened, let alone be as enjoyable as it was, without the other members of the organising team; Ciara Byers (University of Southampton), Arran Freegard (Queen Mary University of London), Billy Ford (University of Southampton), Ross Glew (University of Southampton) and Charlie Woodward (University of Southampton). Together we overcame the challenges of organising an online conference and how to make it interactive and informative.

Thank you to all the invited speakers, including Professor Daniel Litim (University of Sussex), Professor Carlos Nunez (Swansea University), Dr Vera Guelpers (University of Edinburgh), Dr Stefan Prestal (Lund University), Professor Veronica Sanz (University of Sussex), Dr Ian Tomalin (Rutherford Appleton Laboratory) and Dr Sadie Jones (University of Southampton) as well as our student speakers, poster presenters and attendees for making the conference a success.  Thank you to Professor Stefano Moretti (University of Southampton) for his invaluable support. 

I would recommend organising a student-led conference because it is an opportunity to practise transferrable skills in a scientific context such as working in a large collaboration, public speaking and chairing, organising/recruiting people and many others.  My team and I have shared experiences we wouldn’t have expected when we first started our PhDs, experiences which I anticipate will be invaluable going forward in our careers and set us apart from the crowd.  

The conference went very well and as you can see from the feedback below the participants enjoyed it too!

“The talks were a good length and there was a good structure to the conference”

 “There was a very broad range of talks but each was introduced very well and pedagogically by the invited speakers”

 “I most enjoyed some talks which were not so related to my research, which is a good indication that they were aimed at the perfect level of complexity”

Article by Alex Mitchell-Lister, University of Southampton