Transformational effects of applying systems engineering in laboratory scientific research

Through case study analysis of physicists working in quantum systems, we establish that knowledge of Systems Engineering (SE) will benefit scientists by ensuring that experimental apparatus is robust and fully meets the experiment requirements. We suggest a significant change to the training of early career research scientists to ensure they have a strong appreciation of the systems approach and experience of applying SE techniques. Two case studies were used: the first was a detailed analysis of increasing levels of SE in the development of a 3Dprinter for fabricating superconducting nano-circuitry. Applying SE techniques improved record keeping, reduced the risk of failure modes and took better account of future development through which scientific discovery may be exploited in practical devices. The second case study focused on a group of 30 quantum physics PhD students undertaking a short-course in basic SE, and used their opinions to check and add confidence to the findings of the first case study. A variety of tools were used in both studies and, in both cases, the Functional Failure Means Effects Analysis (FFMEA) technique was considered to be most useful. Recommendations are made for the future training of early career scientists to include some light-weight Systems Engineering.