Time and frequency careers

We are the source of time for the UK. NPL operates the national time scale and the UK primary frequency standard, which we use to contribute to global timekeeping. We also disseminate accurate time and frequency to users across the UK.

Having produced the first practical Caesium atomic frequency standard, our focus is now on a new generation of optical atomic clocks, based on optical rather than microwave transmissions. NPL offers fascinating research careers in science and engineering in a fast-evolving field.

Why join us as a scientist in Time and frequency?

It’s an excellent time to join us and become part of the wider NPL quantum activities known as the Quantum Metrology Institute. In NPL’s new Advanced Quantum Metrology Laboratory (AQML), the team will have four new high-spec dedicated lab spaces including new facilities to test clocks and other timing technology.

As part of the team, you can contribute to cutting-edge projects with potentially transformative impact. For example, our work on the next generation of optical atomic clocks, accurate to one second in the lifetime of the universe.

Our atomic clocks are connected by dedicated fibre links to Paris and on to Italy, enabling tests and comparisons. Ultimately, the increased accuracy of these new atomic clocks will require a redefinition of the SI second. It’s exciting to be part of the global community of scientists working towards that moment.

Climate change modelling is another promising practical application of our work. Portable clocks open up possibilities for gravitational measurements, leading to capabilities for measuring sea levels in real time and identifying long-term trends in ice sheet movements.

There is a really wide mix to our projects. We provide timestamps to ensure the probity of financial trading and even designed the time scale facilities for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), a radio telescope that will be formed from thousands of antennas located in South Africa and Australia.

And, while the focus of our work is real world application, we also apply our expertise to test the fundamental theories of the universe.

Time and Frequency Careers
Time and Frequency Careers

Engineering in Time and frequency

We’re looking for engineers with skills in test and evaluation, instrument development and product development – across a range of disciplines: electrical, mechanical, cryogenic, optical, systems, software engineering and more.

You will get to collaborate with leading scientists and researchers – to build the never built before, and then see the real-world impact. Products like portable atomic clocks based on laser-cooled trapped ions and atoms will be massive steps forward.

Crucially, we’re ready to upskill you in the latest quantum tech if you have the right aptitude for scientific innovation. We also provide support in gaining chartered status. This is a rare opportunity to future-proof your career in the rapidly-evolving quantum field.

The photograph shows our current commercial atomic clock, the Caesium fountain primary frequency standard apparatus. It comprises a physics package, lasers and optics for cooling and probing, as well as control electronics.

What’s the real-world impact?

UK and global timekeeping

Satellite navigation

Climate change modelling

Astronomical research

Trading timestamps

Current opportunities

Senior, Higher and Research Scientists

Electronics Engineers 
Hardware Engineers
Software Engineers
Systems Engineers

For more information on Time and frequency