UCL's Mullard Space Science Laboratory is the UK's largest university space research group. We aim to unravel the mysteries of space through research in fields ranging from the Earth's climate to the most distant galaxies in the known Universe, using innovative space instruments.
MSSL is UCL's Department of Space and Climate Physics. UCL was one of the first universities in the world to become involved in making scientific observations in space. Since MSSL was established in 1966, we have participated in over 35 satellite missions and over 200 rocket experiments.
The laboratory is located in a Victorian mansion set in 30 acres of land in the Surrey Hills, 35 miles from London, with spectacular views across the Surrey and Sussex countryside. Here we have the unique capability of designing, building and testing instruments and other spacecraft systems on site. Five research groups supported by specialist engineers conduct our scientific research. Staff also teach space-related courses at UCL.
In all, MSSL employs around 150 scientists, engineers, computing staff, administrators and students. This collection of career profiles aims to provide information about the wide variety of jobs available in space research at MSSL (and elsewhere); what the work involves, why people are motivated to do it and how they have found their way into it. Follow the links to learn more.



Scientists at MSSL carry out research in Astrophysics, Solar and Stellar Physics, Space Plasma and Planetary Physics, Detector Physics and Climate Physics. A typical career in space science at MSSL will begin, after having gained an undergraduate degree in a physics-related subject, with research towards a PhD.
This is a three-year research apprenticeship, supervised by an experienced scientist, which culminates in the writing of a thesis.
This is followed by several years on short-term contracts as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, and finally, with some luck, a permanent appointment with the university.
Permanent academic posts involve university teaching and public outreach as well as research. There are different grades of academic; in increasing order of seniority, Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader and Professor. The teaching and managerial load can increase along with promotion and this needs to be balanced with scientific research.
After the PhD and Post-doc stage some scientists leave academia and go to work in industrial and governmental research organisations.
Some also go on to work for the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA. 


MSSL employs electronic, mechanical and software engineers, whose task is to support the research of the science groups. In the electronic and mechanical engineering groups, there are three main categories of employee: engineers, draghtsmen and technicians.
The engineers are responsible for the design of hardware. The draughtsman's task is to turn the engineer's schematic ideas into the detailed plans used by the technicians to build the hardware in the mechanical workshop or electronics lab. Testing of the finished project is carried out by the engineers themselves, bringing the process full circle.
Draughtsmen and technicians usually have at least HND level qualifications (or have done apprenticeships), whilst the engineers are generally educated to degree or PhD level. The entire process is overseen by project managers, who arrive from a variety of backgrounds.

Software engineers at MSSL might work on either spacecraft on-board software, which controls scientific instruments and subsystems, or on data analysis software. On-board software programming overlaps with the work of the electronic engineers, whilst those engineers writing science analysis software may also be involved in scientific research. These engineers usually have a Master's degree or PhD.
Space Science is computer-intensive. MSSL contains many different types of computer systems, from various varieties of UNIX through to Mac and Windows machines, which requires the system managers to have a broad range of experience. Keeping the Lab's computer network, hardware and software going is the demanding task of the computing group. Some members of the group have come to this from a science background, whilst others are specifically trained in computing.


 The maintenance of the 'human systems' and physical fabric of the Lab is a crucial area, and this is where the administrative and support staff come in. 
They include a general administrator, secretaries, accountants, a driver and maintenance staff, and provide logistical support for the activities of MSSL employees both at the Lab, elsewhere in the country and around the world.


No comments:

Post a Comment