Experience Diamond!

Danielka and Emelia (Health Physics) overlooking the experimental hall floor.
Danielka and Emelia (Health Physics) overlooking the experimental hall floor.

In the first week of July 2017, Diamond Light Source opened its doors to welcome a new group of students from across the UK, all eager to gain an invaluable insight into life at the UK’s National Synchrotron.

In total, 27 students completed 14 projects (roughly two people in each group), thereby expanding their knowledge in a variety of different areas. Each team was allocated a task to carry out within their respective fields, making them apply their skills to real life situations. Although it was a step up from their general curriculum, they found it satisfying to have been given genuine responsibility in a professional workplace.

Facing numerous challenges with constant enthusiasm, the students actively encouraged supervisors to push them beyond their limits in order to take as much away from the projects as possible.


As work experience students ourselves, we experienced first-hand how friendly the community of Diamond is and how the atmosphere of scientific curiosity permeated the building. When interviewing other students, we could hear how engrossed they were in their projects as they explained to us what they were trying to achieve.


Projects around the synchrotron

Fleur and David (Computational Biology) showing us their experiment in the B24 laboratory.
Fleur and David (Computational Biology) showing us their experiment in the B24 laboratory.
Those doing a project in mechanical engineering were given the task of using a 3D modeller to figure out how to move a 4 tonne block of granite in the most efficient manner. They also looked at using CAD software to model objects to later print using a 3D printer.
The electronic and computer related projects involved using Python code to display a list of prime numbers; applying programming skills to create and label a 3D image of a cell; and employing computing software to examine a sample.  Another group applied their knowledge into creating a program to make pictures of samples clearer by removing the noise. 

Other projects consisted of utilising the students’ knowledge of chemistry and biology to prepare samples of compounds and use various instruments to analyse their properties.

James and Jawwad (Crystallisation) making crystals in the Membrane Protein Laboratory.
James and Jawwad (Crystallisation) making crystals in the Membrane Protein Laboratory.
Diamond’s conscientious health and safety standards gave a group of students the perfect chance to learn about Health Physics and set up an experiment to detect different types of radiation.
Students with a love of physics did everything from soldering circuits to investigating magnets.
As students working with a the Communications team, we were given the job of writing this article about our time at Diamond. We learnt how to follow a brief and a style guide in our writing, as well as getting to know how to interview people in an effective manner.
By participating in tours around the synchrotron, we saw how good the guides were at audience engagement. We were also given the wonderful opportunity to meet with Andrew Harrison, CEO of Diamond. 

When we asked Andrew about if he had participated in any work experience, he said he hadn’t but he had in fact worked in a few shops and did a paper round. He told us that when he was our age, he wouldn’t have imagined himself working as CEO in the future, however, whenever an opportunity arose, he took it.
“If there’s an opportunity and it looks interesting, go for it.”
–A. Harrison, CEO of Diamond Light Source
This journey demonstrates the variety of job prospects available for those who are interested in STEM careers. Whether you are interested in cells, coding or crystallisation, there is always an opportunity for you.
Overall, this experience has been highly rewarding and truly incredible for everyone who participated. The most positive feedback that we received from the students was that they felt like they understood the reasoning behind their actions rather than just copying from a textbook. We all gained valuable skills that will help us in the future, whether it be in university or in the professional workplace.
Stuthi and Cate
Stuthi and Cate


This article was written by Cate Mandell and Stuthi Hegde from the Diamond Work Experience Program. They are Year 12 students from London and Aberdeen who are interested in studying mathematics and computer science respectively.