Research Associate – Optical Systems

December 6, 2021

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Job Overview

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    December 6, 2021
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Job Description

Research Associate 1 – Cambridge – UKLab based role12 month fixed term contract

Illumina is the world leader in DNA sequencing, with a mission to improve human health by unlocking the power of the genome. Illumina pioneers the use of cutting edge technologies to create revolutionary new platforms. For instance, the recently announced Nextseq 2000 was the world’s first DNA sequencer to use an advanced optical technology known as super-resolution. We are seeking an enthusiastic and ambitious individual to join our research team and help develop the next generation of groundbreaking DNA sequencers. Your work will have a profound impact on sequencing markets, and on those who receive clinical care based on genome sequencing.

The role will involve assisting research on cutting-edge optical technologies for application in DNA sequencing. Modelling and simulations will be performed alongside designing and building prototype sequencing systems. Furthermore, lab-work will be performed on the biophysical aspect of the technologies and systems.This challenging and interdisciplinary role will require a candidate with a broad knowledge base and a drive to learn more. This role would suit someone with a background in physics, biophysics, engineering or similar.

Responsibilities will include:

  • Assist in the design and development of groundbreaking prototype DNA sequencing systems, through a subject-matter expertise in advanced optics.
  • Build, align and test novel sequencing systems, to develop these technologies into prototypes for productization.
  • Perform the necessary trouble-shooting, system integration, and research on these systems, including rapid cycles of optical breadboarding and lab work.
  • Monitor industry trends and developments in the academia through literature and conferences. Screen and assess these developments for application in commercial DNA sequencing via the use of analytic and mathematical models.
  • Develop an understanding of the technological and commercial fundamentals of DNA sequencing hardware.
  • Design and execute rigorous experiments, and keep detailed notes, complying with good laboratory practice. Develop and document inventions, and assist in patenting procedures.
  • Provide regular, timely and comprehensible reports on progress to broad range of individuals within the global organization.
  • Collaborate extensively with local and global cross-functional and interdisciplinary teams, in order to develop new ideas and advance projects.

Required Background:

  • Master’s degree in physics, engineering, or a related subject.
  • An understanding of optical theory, including wave, ray and lens theory.
  • Experience with practical optics.
  • Highly numerate, and comfortable with mathematical modelling and analysis, as well as programmatic analysis of complex datasets.
  • Ability to code custom scripts and utilize tools such as Matlab, Python, Labview etc. for hardware control and data analysis.
  • Evidence of achievement, for instance through an excellent academic track record.
  • Strong inter-personal, communication, and collaborative skills.
  • An open and enthusiastic individual with a desire to share experience and a willingness to learn from others.
  • A creative thinker who can generate novel ideas and is able to execute these into tangible solutions.
  • The ability of work efficiently and prioritise a range of competing goals.


  • Demonstrable experience in tinkering with hardware, or hardware control (Arduino, Labview etc). Experience in designing, building and integrating systems.
  • Knowledge of, or experience in, state-of-the art microscopy or optical techniques
  • Knowledge of biochemistry or biophysics.
  • Experience using optical modelling and design tools, such as Zemax.
  • Demonstrable experience of working in a multidisciplinary team.

This role would suit an innovative graduate with strong background in physics, engineering, biophysics, or similar subject area that wants to work at the cutting edge of next generation DNA sequencing technology (NGS).We are based at a new state-of-the-art facility, just south of Cambridge, where we work on the key innovations which will ensure Illumina’s continued success. Illumina is frequently recognized for its innovation; company culture; and as a great place to work.Concerns regarding COVID-19 continue as positive cases are experienced in the communities in which we operate. Please be aware that, as a condition of employment, Illumina may require proof of COVID vaccination in accordance with local statutory requirements (subject to limited exceptions) beginning November 1, 2021.Illumina believes that everyone has the ability to make an impact, and we are proud to be an equal opportunities employer committed to providing employment opportunity regardless of sex, race, creed, color, gender, religion, marital status, domestic partner status, age, national origin or ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition, sexual orientation, pregnancy, military or veteran status, citizenship status, and genetic information.