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Happy symbiosis between tutor and trainee


Every year the ESRF offers more than 100 traineeships to enthusiastic and committed students pursuing studies at or below the Masters level. Students worldwide are welcomed for periods from several weeks to several years depending on the type of training involved.

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The ESRF knows no frontiers when it comes to young and talented brains, “These last few years, I’ve had students from as far afield as Brazil, China, Greece and Siberia”, says Fabio Comin who runs a nano-manipulation laboratory.

Traineeships are proposed in a wide variety of disciplines. Naturally, science and engineering are largely represented, however placements are also regularly proposed in communication, finance, human resources, administration, business and industry.
The trainee-tutor arrangement is rewarding for both the student and the employer. Students evolve in an international environment and get to work at the world’s foremost synchrotron radiation source. They can learn French and improve their English. 

An international environment and world-class instrumentation

For Andy Fitch, “Students get the opportunity to see some unique science and leading scientists in their respective fields. From time to time , they even get the chance to hear a Nobel prize winner give a talk!” Andy is scientist in charge of the high resolution powder diffraction beamlines, and has tutored third year chemistry students from Bath University for many years.

“The ESRF offers a multi-cultural environment integrating various high-level techniques. This is something that doesn’t exist in industry. As a research lab, the accent is not put directly on productivity, but more on quality”, says Michel Renier, engineer on the biomedical beamline and facilities and regular tutor to trainees in their third to fifth year at university.



“The diversity of the ESRF has been a major advantage in my training. The staff are very dedicated and willing to help out.” - Anne Leonard, aged 21, currently on a one-year sandwich course in the human resources department

Fresh enthusiasm vs experience and guidance

For the employer, the original investment in time and effort is usually compensated by the enthusiastic team spirit and curiosity that accompanies the apprentices. New projects can be started and ideas tested thanks to an extra pair of hands. Having students around helps employees better organise or relate to their work, “In order to teach the student the way to solve a specific task, that task must already be clear in our minds.” says Elke Braeuer-Krisch, engineer on the biomedical beamline and facilities. “Having a lot of Master students around creates a very pleasant atmosphere: among themselves and also within the group. I have had very positive feedback from students.”


“The ESRF has made me more conscientious and independent in my work. I’m lucky to have a supportive tutor who is available when I need him” - Harold Balmy, 21, currently studying tomography in the X-ray imaging group as part of a one-year sandwich course.

For Georges Gautier, engineer in the Accelerator and Source Division, students inject fresh ideas into a group which has a very low staff turnover, “They break up the routine and make us improve our communication and teaching methods”.

“Our trainees help us to keep contact with outside reality. They provide us with a strong link to the student community.” says Fabio Comin, who also stresses the additional manpower the students bring into the team. “Having several students working in a large group of 100 people means they not only have technical tasks linked to their studies, but they are also involved in teaching the younger students and managing a small team.”

So, more than just technical training, students can also gain practical experience and develop their skills in communication and management. Two very attractive assets for a future employer.

Kick-starting a career

The ESRF has served as a spring-board into the professional world for many trainees having passed through its doors, some of whom integrated the staff at the end of their course. Natasha Kupisz spent two years part-time in the Director General’s office while studying to become a management assistant. After obtaining her diploma, she was offered a contract to replace her tutor during a three-year parental leave. “The quality and relevance of the tasks I was given during my training at the ESRF directly conditioned me for what lay ahead. I grew confident in my capabilities and this first experience was fundamental to obtaining a job with responsibility.” Today, 12 years after leaving the ESRF, Natacha has never been unemployed. She currently works as management assistant in a 10-person team that specialises in engineering structures.


 “I feel positively challenged by the ESRF. It's really a great place to work, there are lots of interesting things happening here and I felt very welcome when I arrived.” - Michael Joyes, 20, working for 12 months to learn crystallography on ID31.

Simon Le Denmat combined two distinct training courses at the ESRF, staying for a total of three years. While in charge of technical support in the ESRF’s Surface Science Laboratory, he was involved in more than a dozen scientific projects. He qualifies his experience at the ESRF as “The best you can have”, stating that he had built his career on it. On finishing at the ESRF, he was immediately recruited to take charge of a teaching platform at the Centre Inter-Universitaire de Microélectronique et Nanotechnologies in Grenoble.

One foot through the door

Trainees are ideally placed to integrate the permanent staff of the ESRF if an appropriate vacancy arises. Today, Lionel Lardière holds the position of beamline technician on ID13. He first came to the ESRF on a one-year sandwich course and was able to work on different beamlines through his placement in the beamline project office. When a short-term contract was opened on ID14, his application was reinforced by the reputation he had earned during his training and was backed by his supervisors. “The fact that I had already developed a network within the company and that I would be immediately operational was definitely an advantage in obtaining the job”, says Lionel. When a permanent position became available some months later on ID13 “it was the next logical step in my career. The company already knew me and the way I worked and so the risks were minimised.” 

The trainee-tutor experience also reflects the positive feedback concerning staff training at the ESRF. Each year almost 650 K€ are spent on staff training programmes. In 2013 the main objectives of staff training are to develop soft skills – communication and team building, for example– project management and proficiency in English and French (for foreign staff members and their spouses).

Most students interviewed had discovered traineeships at the ESRF directly through their course teachers or university. To learn more about traineeship offers at the ESRF, consult our dedicated pages.

If no offer corresponds to your path of study, you can still submit a non-solicited application. You will be contacted if a vacancy in your area becomes available. Send your CV and motivation letter to ESRF, Myriam Perrin, 6, rue Jules Horowitz, BP220, 38043 Grenoble Cedex 9, France.

Some examples of tasks assigned to students depending on level of studies and length of traineeship:

During a three-month placement, a Masters student in business studies will devise and conduct a survey with industrial users to probe customer expectations, optimise business processes and improve future business communications.

A one-year chemistry student will be given tasks such as sample preparation and data analysis. Results will have to be presented in poster form at a suitable international conference.

A trainee graphic artist will work on projects including the conception of posters and brochures, or the definition of font sizes and styles for official publications.

A two-year sandwich course student in secretarial studies will help organise workshops, conferences and board meetings as well as taking minutes and writing reports in English.

Masters students studying medical physics have to implement programmes, perform specific high resolution dose measurements, compare new film dosimeter or benchmark treatment planning systems.

Written by Kirstin Colvin, ESRF.

Top image: Photo: Molyneux Associates