Electronics Engineer (Firmware Specialism) - Physics and Astronomy

Country: United Kingdom;

City: Birmingham

Vacancy added: 04.09.2019

Employer: University of Birmingham

Resumes due: 04.10.2019


Position Details:

Area: School of Physics and Astronomy in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences 
Salary: Full time starting salary is normally in the range £40,792 to £48,677, with potential progression once in post to £54,765
Hours: Full time
Duration: Fixed-term until 30 September 2022
Location: Primarily based at the University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK, with frequent trips to CERN, Switzerland

Closing Date: 4 October 2019


To contribute to the creation of knowledge as the lead engineer in the experimental particle physics group, primarily by developing FPGA firmware as part of our commitment to develop trigger and data acquisition electronics for future experiments and upgrades, including those at the CERN Large Hadron Collider.

Summary of Role

The post-holder will be the technical lead in the particle physics group’s development, construction and operation of trigger and data acquisition electronics for major particle physics experiments and their upgrades. Current projects include upgrades of the first level calorimeter trigger for the ATLAS experiment at the CERN Large Hadron Collider and developments of aspects of the data acquisition for the DUNE future long baseline neutrino oscillation experiment at Fermilab. The primary aspect of the role is the development of new techniques and solutions, implemented in highly specialised FPGA firmware, to control the complex electronics. It may also include involvement in design of aspects of the electronics at the hardware level. These activities will lead to technical publications on the electronics solutions themselves as well as facilitating particle physics research.

In consultation with academics, the post-holder will carry coordination responsibilities in strategic planning for future projects, developing corresponding bids for project-specific grants and organising our team of engineers, technicians and PhD students in the delivery of tasks. Regular communication will be required with senior academics from Birmingham and collaborating institutes. Contact with external industrial suppliers will also be required for tool development and optimisation. The post holder will constantly monitor the effectiveness of the procedures in use for our various projects.

Main Duties/Responsibilities

Specifically, the post will entail the following, both through personal work and through roles in the coordination and supervision of others.

  • The design, simulation and implementation of firmware which contains algorithms for the phase-2 upgrade of the first level calorimeter trigger processor of the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. 
  • The design, simulation and implementation of firmware for the Data Acquisition system of the DUNE liquid argon time projection chamber readout.  
  • Involvement in strategic planning of the group’s involvement in future electronics projects as opportunities emerge, and in development of corresponding grant proposals.
  • Development of the specification of the associated algorithms and/or electronics, in collaboration with external partners.
  • Presenting regular status reports at internal and international external meetings.
  • Taking a significant role in directing and supervising the group’s more junior electronics engineer, technicians and PhD students.  
  • Maintaining the group’s up-to-date specialist understanding of developments in firmware design, both in industry and in particle physics experiments.
  • Where opportunities arise, exploitation of the group’s work through the development of industry-facing knowledge transfer activities. 


Person Specification

Essential criteria

  • First degree in a relevant subject (e.g. electronics engineering, physics or software engineering).
  • Experience of the development of FPGA firmware.
  • Familiarity with the basics of electronics board design and layout.
  • Ability to communicate complex information clearly in presentations and at a personal level.
  • Ability to contribute to grant proposals by assessing and justifying resource requirements.
  • Ability to contribute to management / administration and the coordination of the work of others in a small technical team. 
  • Very strong general programming skills.
  • Experience with PCs running windows and linux.
  • Good time and priority management.
  • Excellent technical problem-solving skills.
  • Willingness to travel for short periods within the UK and abroad.


Desirable criteria

  • Higher degree in a relevant subject
  • Experience with Xilinx Vivado design tools and simulation / verification using Vivado and ModelSim / QuestaSim
  • Experience with digital electronics design and layout from a hardware perspective
  • Previous firmware programming experience in a particle physics context
  • Experience with high-speed FPGA-based electronics.
  • Good presentation and inter-personal skills.


Informal enquiries can be made to Prof Paul Newman; p.r.newman@bham.ac.uk, Prof Dave Charlton; dave.charlton@cern.ch, or Dr Alan Watson; atw@hep.ph.bham.ac.uk

We value diversity at The University of Birmingham and welcome applications from all sections of the community

Valuing excellence; sustaining investment

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