Lockdown: How My Placement is Affected

What are the benefits of finishing my placement at home?

Hi, my name is Neelam and I am a Physics with Astronomy student. I have been working at the Science and Technology Facilities Council near Didcot for the last 9 months while completing my placement year. My role involves writing and creating online learning materials based on the research done at ISIS Neutron and Muon Source.

This is my second blog on my placement experience; in my previous blog, I talked about working at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) and my experience living in Oxford. However, recently STFC have made some changes in how they operate due to Covid-19 that have had a huge impact on my working life.

Working from home

Like many other people during this time, I have been working from home. As I have an office-based job rather than a lab-based one, I’m still able to complete the majority of my work. At the moment I’m writing courses on how to use the software Mantid for data analysis in muon spectroscopy and neutron scattering experiments, and I’ve been working with the Mantid team to improve the usability of their documentation. However, I can’t get involved in science outreach events and tours anymore, which is definitely something that I miss about working at RAL.

There are some challenges when working from home that you don’t experience in the workplace. For example, it’s much more difficult to stay in contact with your colleagues when you can’t see each other in person. I’ve been having regular Zoom meetings with my manager to make sure I receive the guidance I need on my work. It can also be difficult to be productive; I try to have a designated space for working, and to take breaks when I need them.

My new workspace since working from home

Life under lockdown

My life outside of work has also changed quite a bit since the lockdown rules have come into place. I have moved back to my parent’s house and am no longer living in Oxford. I’m definitely missing the more social side of working at STFC, but I and the other placement students keep in contact and have regular Zoom coffee breaks together.

One of the benefits of working from home is that to gives you a lot more flexibility in the day, giving you more time outside of working hours. I’ve started running by following the Couch to 5K program, and spending time on hobbies that I didn’t have time for before, such as reading and playing guitar.

Working from home has given me the time to take up new hobbies, such as running

Final thoughts

My placement year has been really valuable to me in terms of the skills and the science I’ve learnt, and the experiences I’ve had. While there are many things I can’t do anymore because of the lockdown rules, I’m finding I can still have a positive placement experience while working from home.