Monday, 14 March 2011

State-sponsored research: DSTL

With talk of pensions being reviewed, job cuts and a salary freeze, you may think that now may not be the best time to sign up to the civil service. However, if you fancy your chances of survival and want to work for a research agency mostly funded by the government, here is the first in a series of options.

Who? The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) has around 3500 employees, of whom 85% are science and technology professionals. As an agency of the MoD, their goal is to “provide essential, impartial, high quality, timely advice on science and technology issues”.

Where? Locations include Salisbury, Portsmouth and Sevenoaks, Salisbury - known as DSTL Porton Down - is familiar to many as a site used for UK R&D into chemical defence. In 2001, after a lengthy family tree of company amalgamations and re-branding, the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (DERA) - as existed then - was split into two: now-commercial QinetiQ and the DSTL.

What? Chemistry-related projects detailed on their website include: the development of a spray that changes colour in contact with chemical warfare agents; a Chemical Technologies Team that focuses on the environmental impact of the MoD/DSTL; and chemical detection using spectroscopy.

Are they recruiting? There are a wide range of scientific/engineering jobs advertised on their careers page. A couple of particular interest to chemists (both based in Porton Down) include:

  • Two 2-year graduate roles for physical scientists (link broken) to work in the Detection department to carry out research and development into optical and ion-based technologies for the detection of chemical materials. A 2.1 degree in a physical science is essential, experience is not required, a PhD is desirable - closing date Sun 20th March - £23k.
  • Alternatively there is a vacancy in the Environmental Sciences department for a trainee trials conducting officer. This role includes providing technical input into the trials activities in the areas of toxic chemicals, explosives or instrument development. A good team player with flexibility for unsocial working hours and a good level of fitness for outdoor working is required - £26.5k.

There are pros and cons to working in a civil service-type environment. The benefits include 27 days holiday – rising to 32 after 5 years; an impressive pension scheme (although who knows what may happen with this in the future); a subsidized on-site gym and more. For the alternative view, it may be worth reviewing the results of a recent colleague engagement survey which can be found on their website.

Next up: the Atomic Weapons Establishment

[edit: 11/4/11 - fixed links as they've moved everything around in the last month]

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