About the Role

Our world-leading Time & Frequency department is seeking a highly motivated Scientist with the drive and aptitude to implement new ideas.

This full-time Higher Scientist position offers a generous salary and benefits package.

You will join our ytterbium ion (Yb+) optical clock team to develop a world-leading frequency standard for applications in metrology and fundamental physics. You will use your experimental physics experience to contribute to our expanding programme of high-performance optical clocks. 

Optical clocks are at the forefront of frequency metrology, with measurement uncertainties reaching a part in 1018.  Such high-performance clocks could form the basis of a redefinition of the SI second, so we collaborate with other national measurement institutes worldwide, regularly comparing clock frequencies via satellite or optical fibre links to check that clocks in different countries all agree.  The Yb+ optical clock is also particularly sensitive to variations in the fine structure constant, and we exploit this to make precision measurements that test physics beyond the Standard Model, including searches for dark matter.

Key responsibilities:

Work collaboratively as part of our team to carry out novel research contributing to the redefinition of the SI second and tests of fundamental physics
Develop new ion traps and probing sequences to enable the Yb+ optical clock to perform beyond its current limits
Take a hands-on approach to working with optics, vacuum systems, electronics and software control
Maintain a high level of attention to detail, with a positive attitude towards record-keeping, documentation and version control
Write technical documentation and scientific publications, both collaboratively and independently

The leading-edge nature of this work will offer realistic opportunities to publish your work in high-impact journals and to present your work at international conferences.

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 full time, 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 believe that diversity and unique perspectives are key to the success of our science projects. For this role, we particularly encourage applications from candidates underrepresented in STEM disciplines, in particular women, disabled, black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates.

To be successful in this role, you will have the following skills, experience, and qualifications:

  • PhD (or equivalent experience) in experimental atomic physics, or a closely related area
  • A strong background in cold atom or ion research
  • A practical aptitude for laser optics and ultra-high vacuum setups
  • You are able to communicate clearly and collaborate with colleagues in your team
  • You are committed to personal development and taking on learning opportunities to get the most from the role

Highly desirable:

  • Design and operation of rf Paul traps for single or multiple ions
  • Scientific computing e.g. Python, Matlab, SolidWorks, ARTIQ,
  • Electronic control systems, e.g. PID servo loops
  • Version control, e.g. GitLab

For further technical information about the project and role please contact [email protected].

Selected Publications:

[1] 171Yb+ optical clock with 2.2 × 10^18 systematic uncertainty and absolute frequency measurements[RG1] 

A. Tofful et al., Metrologia 61, 045001 (2024).

[2] Search for transient variations of the fine structure constant and dark matter using fiber-linked optical atomic clocks

B.M. Roberts et al.New Journal of Physics 22, 093010 (2020).

[3] A single-ion trap with minimized ion–environment interactions

P.B.R. Nisbet-Jones et al.Applied Physics B 122, 57 (2016).


Please note:  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.

We actively recruit citizens of all backgrounds, but the nature of our work in specific departments means that nationality, residency and security requirements can be more tightly defined than others. To work at NPL, you will need to obtain BPSS security clearance. Some departments may require a higher level of security clearance. 

About Us

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is a world-leading centre of excellence that provides cutting-edge measurement science, engineering and technology to underpin prosperity and quality of life in the UK. 

NPL and DSIT have strong commitments to diversity and equality of opportunity, and welcome applications from candidates irrespective of their background, gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, or age, providing they meet the required criteria. Applications from women, disabled and black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates in particular are encouraged. All disabled candidates (as defined by the Equality Act 2010) who satisfy the minimum criteria for the role will be guaranteed an interview under the Disability Confident Scheme. 

At NPL, we believe our success is a result of the diversity and talent of our people. We strive to nurture and respect individuals to ensure everyone feels valued by treating everyone on the basis of their own individual merits and abilities regardless of their own or perceived identity, as part of our commitment to diversity & inclusion, we hold memberships and accreditations to ensure we’re creating an environment where all our colleagues feel supported and welcome, please see our Diversity & Inclusion page.

 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 benefits. Our values are at the heart of what we do, and they shape the way we interact, develop our people and celebrate success. 

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.