Apply for the 2021 Placement Scheme

We are now accepting proposals for the placement of a PhD student data scientist for 3 months in your organisation.


Please complete the attached form with details of your placement opportunity and

return it to Placement and Business Engagement Manager.





Our students are exceptional data scientists who we expect to be the data science leaders of the future.  They are undertaking data-intensive PhD research projects in Particle Physics or Astrophysics and have been trained in data science through the DISCnet programme. Around 20 students are looking to undertake a 3-month placement this summer.

They are exceptional problem solvers, adept at applying a varied toolkit of data-science skills to challenging problems.  Their skills include programming, big-data handling, data analytics, statistics, high performance computing, and machine learning.

This placement will provide your organisation with an opportunity to solve some specific challenge, benefit from some fresh insights, or explore new avenues in data analysis, machine learning or artificial intelligence. Our student will benefit from the experience of applying their skills to real-world problems and from working outside a university environment.

Our placement scheme also provides a channel to engage with world-leading researchers at the universities of Sussex, Southampton, Portsmouth, Queen Mary University of London, and the Open University. For examples of previous placement projects you may find it helpful to refer to our DISCnet Brochure.


Frequently Asked Questions


How much will the placement cost?

Student salary and expenses

We suggest a minimum gross salary of £1500 for 4 weeks (37 hours a week), with higher salaries for placements in central London (which is consistent with the regular STFC student bursary). As it is a competitive process, you may wish to pay a higher salary. We would also expect that students will be paid reasonable travel and relocation expenses so that they are not out of pocket.


We will give priority to fully paid placements until all students have an industrial placement. If we do not have sufficient paid placements, we may offer some DISCnet-­funded placements with public sector and non-profit organisations.

Placement fee

There is a £1,000 fee for hosting a DISCnet student, which will be invoiced before or at the start of the placement period. This fee represents excellent value-for-money given the expertise provided by the student and is significantly lower than that charged by other comparable schemes. Placement fees are reinvested in the DISCnet residential training programme to the benefit of current and future DISCnet students.


When can the placement take place?

Students should take two three-month placements over the course of their study; ideally one at the end of their first year and one at the end of their third year. We are flexible on start and finish dates, and we would aim to find mutually convenient start and finish dates for both you and the student. It may also be possible for students to complete the full six months at once, with agreement from the student, Placements and Partnerships Committee (PPC), and supervisory team. Placements are a key part of our training programme and the minimum length must be three months.


Who employs the student?

We prefer the company to directly employ the student during the placement. In this way, the student will be covered by your employment benefits and covered by your employment procedures. Also, you can discuss with the student intellectual property (IP) rights and non-­ disclosure agreements if appropriate (we can provide templates of such agreements if you do not have your own).


We expect the student to be based within your company but more and more placements have happened virtually with the student working from home which may be your preferred option. We would expect that you will assist them with local accommodation and travel expenses (as they may have an existing rental contract at their host university) if working on your premises. During the placement we would expect you to treat the student in the same way as any other employee on a fixed term contract, in particular for reviews and probationary periods. The company is expected to give the student the same induction as other employees.  The induction should cover health and safety issues.


What kind of project is suitable?

All placement projects must be data intensive. The theme of the project should not be directly part of the thesis research of the student, but can exploit their existing training, expertise and skills. The project should not be solely software development or data analysis but include a mixture of research and development on a data intensive tasks and/or problems facing your company.  All placements will need approval by the DISCnet Placement and Partnership Committee (PPC) prior to commencing.


What supervision is expected by the placement organisation?

All placements need at least one named company supervisor. This person will provide daily management of the project and student employee during their time at your company. We also expect the student to stay in touch with their academic supervisors during the placement and there should be regular meetings (fortnightly) of the whole supervisory team during the placement (either in person and/or via video-­conferencing). These regular meeting will foster collaboration amongst the supervisory team, leading to a sustained deeper experience for the student, company and academic institution. These meetings will also form the basis for our assessment of the placement.


What skillset and experience can I expect DISCnet students to have beforehand?

All our PhD students will hold a high-­class degree in physics from a top university in the UK (or beyond) prior to starting their DISCnet studies (at least a 2.1 degree at undergraduate or Masters-level education). These students will already bring a range of problem-solving skills and have a level of maturity beyond the normal graduate. During the first year of DISCnet (before starting the first placement), these students will take a range of intensive, specialised training courses in data science, high-performance computing, advanced statistics, machine learning and possibly an IBM course in data analytics. This education will make our students some of the best­ trained data scientists in the world.


In addition to this formal training, the students would have begun their physics research with their academic supervisors, and already gained significant hands-on experience with data intensive tasks in astrophysics and particle physics. They will have extensive empirical experience in the management of large, complex data sets and problems.


The students will detail their education and skills as part of the application process.


How will I be involved in selecting students for placements?

Placements will be advertised to students via email. Students will apply directly to the company with materials requested by the company (e.g. CV and covering letter).


Employers will then perform a selection including arranging interviews if they wish (at their expense).  We are happy to be involved in that selection if the company would like our advice (on the likely experience and skill­set of such DISCnet students). The company would then inform all candidates of the placement.


Can we change the project once started?

We understand that your business may need to change over the time of DISCnet. Therefore, we wish to be flexible in how your industrial project and placement may evolve. Any changes to the project should first be approved by the whole supervisory team (including the student), and then the PPC.


What if the placement isn’t working well?

That would be unfortunate, and we expect uncommon, but we appreciate this may happen. We will prepare the students for placements with support and briefing where needed and we would suggest a pre-placement meeting with you (virtually or otherwise) to ensure that the students are aware of the company’s expectations.  If people are unhappy (student and/or supervisors), we ask them to first contact the DISCnet Placement Manager and/or the chair of the PPC to understand the issues and see if suitable changes can be made. If not, then we will try to find a suitable replacement, while still accrediting the work already achieved (see below).


We stress that as an employee of your company we expect the student to be covered by your HR procedures for reporting, and investigating, any inappropriate behaviour. The PPC will review such procedures as part of placement approval process.


How will the placements be assessed?

During the placement, we need to periodically assess the project as part of awarding a successful DISCnet PhD. We envisage this assessment will be performed by the academic supervisors. At the end of each placement period, the student will complete a placement survey and/or give a seminar on their placement project which will be assessed by independent peers.



Should the student give a seminar they will respect the terms of any confidentiality agreement and we would seek prior approval from the company before publicising any work performed by the student while at the company.


What next?

If you wish to propose a placement, please contact Michelle Limbert ( to start discussing your project. We will provide a short placement information form, which will capture the key information (team names, project title and abstract, length of placement, funding, etc). After an initial “light-touch” check, we will contact DISCnet students to advertise the placement. The company will then review applications (interviewing students as they wish) and make a decision to be communicated to students and Michelle Limbert made aware of those decisions.


The company will be responsible for informing all applications of the outcome of the selection process (including those who are unsuccessful).


Before the placement begins, the PPC may request a visit to the company (if in the UK) to discuss the pastoral care and working environment of the student while at the company and/or to establish further details about the project. This may involve a risk assessment by the host University


Once approved by the PPC, the placement can begin and will be administered by the Placement Manager Michelle Limbert on the DISCnet side.