Go on, think the unthinkable

Help create tomorrow's world today.

DERA IS the single largest employer of scientists in the UK. Formed by the merger of a number of Ministry of Defence research establishments, it is now a government agency - providing scientific and engineering research and development for military and, increasingly, civil use.

Although the organisation's roots lie in military defence, DERA's activities are increasingly becoming focused on adapting and developing military technologies for commercial clients as MOD budgets are cut back. As a result of this and its size, DERA employs a staff of 12,000, and its annual turnover currently exceeds pounds 1bn. The good news for graduates is that the organisation needs to take on more than 500 of them each year.

"Think the unthinkable" is the organisation's graduate recruitment theme. "We are looking for people who can prove they look beyond the surface, people with inquisitive and innovative minds," graduate recruitment co- ordinator Caryn Baker explains. In return, DERA offers unrivalled opportunities to work across a broad range of technical business areas, from aviation, chemical and biological defence through electronics and human sciences to signals, processing and space technology.

One of DERA's many roles is providing specialist test and evaluation equipment for the UK forces. The organisation played a vital role in developing the UK's first jet engines. More recently, it has become involved with research and development projects for commercial clients such as BMW and Rolls-Royce. DERA has one of the world's few facilities able to test engine performance at speeds of up to Mach 2.2 in the subzero conditions encountered at high altitude.

Carbon fibre, liquid crystal display, flat-screen television, portable thermal imaging, ocean mapping, modelling technology and satellite propulsion systems are some of the advanced technology fields in which DERA scientists work. Formula One designers are some of those who have used DERA's wind- tunnel facilities.

DERA's aviation scientists developed a concept for ultra-thin loudspeakers able to be concealed as paintings on a wall, or within TV or PC screens. Meanwhile DERAMan, one of the world's most intelligent crash-test dummies, was developed by DERA to measure damage to the brain from impacts to the head, enabling physical responses from impacts to be quantified simultaneously.

At the core of DERA's activities, however, are its defence-related research and development projects. DERA scientists have been closely involved in research into air, sea and land systems as well as electronics and structural materials. Then there's the weapons testing and work on developing the Eurofighter 2000.

DERA does not operate a centrally structured graduate programme. Instead, it invites applications from science and engineering graduates to its graduate recruitment department which then distributes details of the strongest candidates to each of DERA's 13 technical departments which, in turn, approach, select and recruit candidates direct.

"Graduates apply to work with DERA in a particular technical area," Ms Baker explains. "Although they can state preferences such as where they would like to be based." DERA has 17 major sites throughout the UK and a further 33 or so smaller ones, including test facilities.

The bulk of those taken on through this process are science and engineering graduates with first degrees. Others include maths-related graduates, M.Sc. and Ph.D-holders. A smaller number of more senior personnel and management roles are open to arts and humanities graduates, depending on the level of work experience. Recruitment occurs throughout the year and vacancies are increasing as DERA's business grows. Ms Baker says: "We do not operate assessment centres and while those appointed do participate in an induction course, successful candidates start work on live projects very soon after joining the organisation."

Even so, competition is fierce - with applicants outnumbering vacancies by 10 to one. DERA competes for the best graduates against commercial sector employers such as British Aerospace, Ford and Nissan - particularly for IT and software engineering expertise. However, the bulk of those taken on by the organisation each year are physics graduates and computer scientists.

Successful graduates join DERA in the role of research scientist or research engineer, working in project teams from day one. Initial progress as well as longer-term career development is managed on a one-to-one basis by a mentor known as a resource manager. All are encouraged to present research papers at relevant technical symposia.

"Recruits must take responsibility for their own career development and training, although they are supported by a structure which nurtures talents and encourages training," Ms Baker adds. DERA helps graduates to gain chartered status within the organisation - the DERA chartered engineer scheme is accredited by the Royal Aeronautical Society, among others - and membership of a professional body, as well as sponsoring participation in Ph.D or MBA programmes.

Starting salaries are up to pounds 18,500 p.a., depending on qualifications and experience. Potential salaries a few years into the job are difficult to gauge, however, as promotion is not automatic within this structure. Staff must compete for job vacancies, which are advertised first internally.

Those wanting to move eventually into a managerial position are now able to combine administrative and technical roles within the organisation. "This is a significant appeal to many people who in the past opted not to move up the ranks because they wanted to remain 'hands on'," she says. The progression from entry level is towards the role of project manager.

DERA's immediate plans include developing a number of science parks to encourage the transfer of technological expertise from the military to local industry and universities.

"We aim to be at the cutting edge of research and development and can offer unparalleled opportunities to graduates wanting to work in an innovative environment," Ms Baxter says, claiming that the only comparable experience would be pursuing a career in academia. "More and more, now, DERA's work is not just concerned with inventions but inventing and innovating within the time and cost constraints of the consumer."

Voices
voices
News
President Obama, one of the more enthusiastic users of the fist bump
newsBumping fists rather than shaking hands could reduce the spread of infectious diseases, it is claimed
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
newsHad asteroid hit earlier or later in history, the creatures might have survived, say scientists
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Supply Teacher - Chelmsford

    £100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We urgently require Primar...

    Year 5 Teacher

    £21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to wo...

    Training/Learning and Development Coordinator -London

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Training/Learning and Development Co...

    Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

    £28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried