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Physics and Astronomy PhD – Quantum Technology Hub – at the University of Birmingham


Hi my name is Luuk Earl I’m a PhD student in the Quantum Technology Hub for Sensors and Metrology. My research
involves developing a gravity sensor based on cold atoms technology. I chose
to study in the Quantum Technology Hub because I really enjoy the hands-on and
diverse nature of the research, I really enjoy having an experiment I can
physically interact with. I also wanted to develop my skills not just in physics
but electrical engineering and systems engineering, the quantum hub really
provided a unique opportunity to follow research that provided this. A great part
of the research is that every day is different, I could be at my desk
designing an experiment using a computer, or it could be in the lab doing an
experiment with optics or something else. It’s really nice that every day is
really different and I can really drive that the direction of the research
myself. I really enjoy studying in the Quantum Technology Hub, we have
excellent facilities and access to equipment, but more than that is also
great to be connected with lots of passionate and motivated people.
Those connections don’t just extend to other universities, but
also to company partners and industrial placements, which is really nice.
As part of my MRes (Master of Research) course I did an industry placement at a industry partner, and that was Gooch & Housego, who are a world leading manufacturer of fiber
optics. They have a research and development division based in Torquay, I
was working with them for about five months over summer. With them I was
helping develop some custom electronics for a space mission to put some cold
atoms on a CubeSat. It was really good experience learning some new techniques
from industry experts, a really fun experience. I would definitely like
to pursue further research after my degree, whether that be an academic
institution or in industry I haven’t yet decided. Either way though, I think the
hub has really provided a good basis to go into either sector,
just through networking with people and understanding how research works in both settings. The facilities at the University are really excellent, the
labs we have in the hub really state-of-the-art, and we have really
great equipment. This extends to the university as well, there’s a library
that’s just opened and that has a space just for postgraduates to work in, which
is really nice. If I was going to give advice to someone contemplating whether to study with the hub, I’d say the most important factor is passion for the
research. When you are doing PhD the main driving force of the research has to
come from yourself, so a strong motivation is really key. The community
among students in the hub is really great, I’ve made some really great
friends and we often have social activities like going to the pub or
going out for meals, and this is also true for the the wider physics
postgraduate community. We’ve had poster sessions with wine and cheese, and also gone out for postgraduate meals and such which is a really nice atmosphere.
The big part being a postgraduate researcher at Birmingham is the
opportunity to really drive cutting-edge research, and learning the skills to be
able to drive that research in a direction I choose.
I’ve been involved in teaching of third-year group studies and also some
supervision of fourth-year masters students, which is a really great experience. You
get to broaden your knowledge of the subject and is it’s a good way to cement
your learning. I’ve also been working on some papers, so I’ve been doing some
experiments recently that will develop into papers and they are at various stages
of development. My PhD is fully funded by the school, and I also receive a
stipend to cover living costs which is equivalent to a wage. All travel expenses,
for example for conferences, are covered as well and this is true for all PhDs in
the hub

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