About the Role

The Optical Frequency Metrology (OFM) group at NPL invites applications from experimental physicists with a strong background in cold atom research to contribute to development of the next generation of neutral atom based optical lattice clocks.

Optical lattice clocks are at the forefront of frequency metrology and embrace the latest developments in cold atom experimental techniques to push measurement performance to new limits. At NPL we target world leading performance and have a well-funded programme of research pushing on both fundamental investigations and exploitation in practical applications, including contribution to the possible redefinition of the SI second.

The project has two well established clocks based on Sr [1,2] and is in the process of expanding with the development of new systems based on Yb. Of recent, we have focussed our attention on combating Dick-limited instability (inherent in the way a conventional lattice clock operates with significant measurement dead-time) through the application of quantum non-demolition measurement [3]; the target being to explore instability at the standard quantum limit and beyond.

We operate alongside and with the support of several research teams focussed on developing the state-of-the-art in optical reference cavities and frequency combs, ion-based optical standards, and international phase-stabilised fibre links which allow us to compare clocks internationally with our European collaborators.

We are now working in a hybrid way, with a mix of remote and office working. We strive to offer a great work life balance - if you are looking for part time or flexible options, we will try to make this work where business possible. This will be dependent on the kind of role you do and part of the business you work in.
About You

We are looking for someone with a PhD or equivalent in cold atom research with an inquisitive nature and the drive and aptitude to evolve the experiments beyond their current limits. The role will require a broad mix of skills, from optical, mechanical, and electronics design, to having a good grasp of atomic physics and cold atom experimental techniques. Previous experience with data analysis and simulation tools in Python is a strong plus. Excellent technical communication skills—both written and spoken—are a must. 

Essential skills:

  • PhD in experimental atomic physics, or a closely related area
  • Practical aptitude for engineering complex cold atom systems
  • Good knowledge of methods for preparation and manipulation of ultracold atoms
  • Awareness of precision measurement techniques
  • Ability to tie together observation with physical models
  • Positive attitude towards record-keeping, documentation, and version control

Desirable skills:

  • Experience developing and operating lab instrumentation and control systems, e.g. closed-loop control laser frequency, phase, and power stabilisation
  • Experience developing hardware control and data analysis scripts, e.g. experimental sequencing, and data acquisition and real-time processing, preferably with Python (some LabView might also be useful)
  • Track record in publishing high quality journal articles
  • Experience with ARTIQ experimental control systems
  • GitLab and CI/CD pipeline workflow (with Python)
  • Atomic state readout using cavity enhanced quantum non-demolition techniques
  • Creation of fermi-degenerate gasses

For further technical information about the project and role please contact careers@npl.co.uk.

  1. A strontium optical lattice clock with 1 × 10−17 uncertainty and measurement of its absolute frequency Richard Hobson, William Bowden, Alvise Vianello, Alissa Silva, Charles F. A. Baynham, Helen S. Margolis, Patrick E. G. Baird, Patrick Gill, and Ian R. Hill, Metrologia 57, 065026 (2020)
  2. Cavity-enhanced non-destructive detection of atoms for an optical lattice clock Richard Hobson, William Bowden, Alvise Vianello, Ian R. Hill, and Patrick Gill, Optics Express 27, 37099-37110 (2019)
  3. Improving the Q Factor of an Optical Atomic Clock Using Quantum Nondemolition Measurement William Bowden, Alvise Vianello, Ian R. Hill, Marco Schioppo, and Richard Hobson, Physical Review X 10, 041052 (2020)

Applications will be reviewed, and interviews conducted throughout the duration of this advert therefore we may at any time bring the closing date forward.  We encourage all interested applicants to apply as soon as practical.


About The Company

NPL and BEIS have strong commitments to diversity and equality of opportunity, and welcome applicationsfrom candidates irrespective of their background, gender, race, sexualorientation, religion, or age, providing they meet the required criteria. Applicationsfrom women, disabled and BAME candidates in particular are encouraged. Alldisabled candidates (as defined by the Equality Act 2010) who satisfy theminimum criteria for the role will be guaranteed an interview under theDisability Confident Scheme.

We’re transforming. As a national laboratory, we’re exploring even more commercial routes to market and that’s presenting us with greater opportunity – for you and us. Our success relies on the diversity and talent of our people, we strive to nurture and respect individuals to ensure everyone feels valued and supported to excel in their chosen field. This value is at the core of our organisation.

We believe in a culture of fairness by treating everyone on the basis of their own individual merits and abilities regardless of their own or perceived identity, background or any other factor irrelevant to a person’s work. At NPL we are committed to the health and well-being of our employees. Flexible working and social activities are embedded in our culture to create a positive work-life balance, along with a broad range of benefitsNPL’s values are at the heart of what we do and they shape the way we interact, develop our people and celebrate success.

As part of our commitment to diversity & inclusion, we signed up to the Institute of Physics' Project Juno in 2015 as a Juno Supporter. NPL were proud to be awarded Juno Practitioner status in 2018. NPL also joined Stonewall as a Diversity champion in 2015, participating in their annual Workplace Equality Index for the equality of LGBT+ community at NPL. In 2018, NPL became a member of the Business Disability Forum and joined the disability confident scheme as level 1 committed employer.

To ensure everyone has an equal chance, we’re always willing to make reasonable adjustments to the recruitment process. If you would like to discuss, please contact us.