On placement with the Department of Physics

Hi, I’m Finn, a Natural Sciences student. I’m currently doing a placement as a Medical Microwave Imaging Research Technician & Project Coordinator in the Department of Physics here at York.

Why did you decide to do a placement?

I decided to undertake a placement year for two key reasons. The first was to gain the technical skills associated with this particular project, particularly the computational side of it. As well as that, the project management skills I’d gain from a research and development role were really appealing. I had been itching to get involved with a project where I can learn and establish my machine learning and scientific programming abilities with the aim of building a working product.

I had become aware, during the course of my degree, that the steps involved from taking a concept for a technological innovation to a product in the real world were, one, something I found really interesting and, two, something I hadn’t been able to practice yet.

How did you find the opportunity?

During the Easter holidays of my third year of university, my supervisor emailed me with the subject ‘Interesting idea?’. Since I had previously expressed interesting in developing technology for medical applications, he thought I would be interested in the chance to develop prototype for a microwave medical imaging device, based on the patents shared between the University of York and Sylatech, where I would be sponsored by Sylatech to undertake the project for 9 months. This of course meant the final year of my degree would need to be delayed and I would be graduating in 2020 rather than 2019. But, needless to say, I was indeed interested!

What’s your typical day?

The great thing about this project so far, 5 months in, is that my focus changes week-on-week. On a typical day, I arrive at either the York Plasma Institute (YPI) or the YPI’s nearby laboratories at 9am. If I’m turning up at the labs, I’ll be testing or conducting an experiment on recently-printed circuit boards with an antenna array, microwave synthesisers, and an anechoic chamber (which is one of those rooms that absorb reflected electromagnetic waves).

What did you get out of it?

I’ve been able to gain a lot of technical skills that I wouldn’t have been able to gain during my degree or my spare time. Designing circuit boards for microwave electronics and analogue-digital converters has given me an insight into processes required by technology companies across the world – and I can get my hands on the real results of choosing, routing, and soldering specialised components.

How has it influenced your future career options?

So far, it’s opened up my awareness of future careers, my own skills, and my own interests. It’s certainly made me see the benefits of both a PhD and working in industry even without explicitly choosing one of these two routes. I have a much clearer idea of what I’d want to be working on when going down either of these two paths.

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Hi, I'm Finn, a Natural Sciences student. I'm currently doing a placement as a Medical Microwave Imaging Research Technician & Project Coordinator in the Department of Physics here at York.