Science and Technology Facilities Council
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STFC technicians awarded prestigious new Institute of Physics Technician Award

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) congratulates members of staff Emma Meehan, Ian East and Donna Wyatt on winning two categories in the first ever Institute of Physics Technicians Awards. These awards recognise and celebrate the skills and experience of technicians and their contribution to physics that impacts all of us.

STFC’s senior science support technician Emma Meehan was recognised in the business/facility category for her work supporting the multidisciplinary science programme at the UK’s only deep underground science facility operating in a working mine in the north-east of England. Based over a kilometre beneath the Earth’s surface her current role managing the Boulby Underground Germanium Suite laboratory includes organising, developing and maintaining a series of complex instruments used to analyse materials sent by scientists from around the world.

She said: “I am absolutely thrilled to receive this award. I genuinely love my job! Every day is different and I have met so many amazing scientists, engineers, technicians and generally great people over the years who have shared their knowledge and experience with me.”STFC’s Central Laser Facility Micro Target Fabrication technicians, Ian East and Donna Wyatt, have won in the team category for their work creating targets that are feats of micro-engineering. The targets are made up of multiple components smaller than a human hair and assembled with precise alignment. Their work is immensely skilled and assists scientists working in the laser-plasma community.

Ian constructs three-dimensional microstructures used for high power laser experiments for STFC’s Central Laser Facility. Using a variety of handheld tools, he fabricates hundreds of targets for each experiment, modifying them according to the requirements of each experiment. He has recently been working on 250 coil targets for a long-running experiment looking at how cancer cells respond to protons accelerated by a laser.

Ian yesterday said:

“I’m delighted to be given this award; I never thought joining RAL as a trainee at 18 that I’d receive an award from the Institute of Physics. I love the varied nature of my job and the challenges that it brings every day. My role has changed a lot in my 15 years at STFC and this award is a very nice and unexpected pat on the back for my work here”

Donna is one of the most experienced micro target fabricators in the world. She has recently assembled by hand 16-component micro targets to a sub 10 micron level of accuracy and used a range of micro engineering techniques such as laser machining and photo etching. The targets were used on CLF’s high power Vulcan laser for an experiment investigating magnetic fields.

Donna yesterday said:

“After more than 21 years as a target fabricator, I am thrilled to receive this award. I love the challenge of producing bespoke micro structures that have never been produced before and ultimately doing a job that only a handful of people in the World do, in a globally renowned research facility is incredibly rewarding.”

IOP President, Jonathan Flint CBE, yesterday said:

“The IOP is extremely proud to be offering these awards. Technicians are science professionals in their own right, and it is time they received the status, acknowledgement and reward they deserve. We want these new IOP awards to help highlight the crucial role of technicians in education, research and industry, and raise understanding of their professional status.

“This is the first time that the IOP has awarded technicians to recognise the outstanding contribution they make to the physics community. Technicians help create and deliver the experiments that thrill school students and support the technical teaching of undergraduates and postgraduates. Without them, physics-based industries could not function and we could not expand our understanding of the natural world.”

STFC Executive Director, National Labs, Dr Neil Geddes congratulated all three STFC staff: “The work that Emma, Donna and Ian do on behalf of STFC is key to the success of the complex experiments undertaken in our Central Laser Facility and in the Boulby Underground Laboratory. It is wonderful to see the physical sciences community recognising their important contribution. These awards confirm what we already knew: that our technicians are great!” All the winners receive a prize of £1,000, a trophy and a certificate, which will be presented at the IOP annual awards dinner in November.

STFC is a signatory to the Technician Commitment, which aims to ensure visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability for technicians working in higher education and research, across all disciplines.Notes:

About the Science and Technology Facilities Council

The Science and Technology Facilities Council is part of UK Research and Innovation – the UK body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. STFC funds and supports research in particle and nuclear physics, astronomy, gravitational research and astrophysics, and space science and also operates a network of five national laboratories as well as supporting UK research at a number of international research facilities including CERN, FERMILAB and the ESO telescopes in Chile. STFC is keeping the UK at the forefront of international science and has a broad science portfolio and works with the academic and industrial communities to share its expertise.

STFC’s Central Laser Facility is one of the world’s leading laser facilities, providing scientists from the UK and Europe with an unparalleled range of state-of-the-art laser technology. CLF’s wide ranging applications include experiments in physics, chemistry and biology, accelerating subatomic particles to high energies, probing chemical reactions on the shortest timescales and studying biochemical and biophysical process critical to life itself.

STFC’s Boulby Underground Laboratory is the UK’s deep underground science facility located 1.1km below ground in Boulby mine, a working potash, polyhalite and salt mine in the North East of England. Boulby is used for research that requires acess to the geologically interesti​ng and ultra-low background deep underground environment. 

The Institute of Physics (IOP)

The Institute of Physics (IOP) is the professional body and learned society for physics in the UK and Ireland. IOP’s mission is to raise public awareness and understanding of physics, inspire people to develop their knowledge, understanding and enjoyment of physics and support the development of a diverse and inclusive physics community. As a charity, the IOP seeks to ensure that physics delivers on its exceptional potential to benefit society.

The IOP Technician Awards

The IOP Technician Awards enable the physics community to recognise and celebrate the skills and experience of technicians and their contribution to physics.

More information here

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