Year in Industry or Abroad
Our MChem degree programmes offer the opportunity to work in industry or an overseas university during the third year. The work consists of a substantial original research project and is supplemented by modules taken by distance learning to maintain contact with Cardiff University.
Read what our students have to say about this experience.
Click here to view previous years in Industry or Abroad:
James Eaton – University of Toronto, Canada.
I spent a year at the University of Toronto, Mississauga working in the laboratory of Professor Patrick Gunning where I was researching the design of sensors for over-active kinases. Kinases are enzymes that have been found to be constitutively active in many types of cancer cell so being able to target these enzymes selectively may be a way to develop a new diagnostic tool for cancer. Most of my project was spent synthesising these sensor molecules so I learned a lot of organic chemistry and biology in my time there and I was using NMR, mass spectrometry and HPLC machines daily. Toronto is a vibrant metropolis that has everything one would expect a world class city to have. I really enjoyed my time there as it gave me the opportunity to research some cutting edge science, experience life in a different country and make some really great friends.
Neil Robinson - DSM Resolve, The Netherlands
For my year out I couldn't decide whether to undertake a year in industry or a year abroad. I opted for the best of both worlds and spent a year working for the Industrial Chemicals R&D department of DSM, near Maastricht in the Netherlands. DSM is a Dutch based multinational which specialises in materials and biopharmaceuticals, and each year takes on a number of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering and Business Masters students from Universities across Europe, and gives placements ranging from 3 to 12 months in length. My work entailed the comparison of a newly developed analytical technique with the more commonly used FID-GC, with regards to reaction product analysis and its reliability. This was done in conjunction with process chemistry research, for which I worked using a continuous reactor which replicated DSM's cyclohexanone-synthesising process, with the aim of producing caprolactam, which is then polymerised into Nylon-6. The research groups within DSM were highly international; with Chemists and Chemical Engineers who had moved from across Europe to work in the chemical plants and on-site research facilities, and so the placement provided me with a crash course on the importance of international collaboration. The working life-style was a big change from day-to-day University life, but was highly rewarding, and everyone in my department was very welcoming and always helpful. The year literally flew by and I had a fantastic time.
Timothy Dixon – Merck, Southampton
My placement was at Merck KGaA’s Performance Materials research facility, based near Southampton. Merck is a global player in various scientific fields, Performance Materials being one such area, which covers organic electronics (OE), organic photovoltaics (OPV) and reactive mesogens (RM) and more. I was placed into the Organic Electronics department, specifically in the Customer Team. My roles involved conducting general research and testing of the organic compounds for use in the electronics industry, which is seen as the future of electronics because of the ability to cheaply print these compounds onto substrates that have novel properties such as flexibility or transparency, opening the door to a wide range of applications for consumers. Being part of the Customer Team also meant dealing with issues encountered by Merck’s various customers, and trying to solve these problems. The year gave me an invaluable insight into a career in research, as well as important experience for the future.
Emma Sheldon- University of Granada, Spain
I spent my year abroad at the University of Granada in southern Spain in an inorganic chemistry research lab. My project focussed on the synthesis of ligands and their insertion into iridium complexes. Spending a year mainly working in the lab greatly developed my lab skills and was a good experience to have before starting my MChem research project in the 4th year. I thoroughly enjoyed living in Spain for a year as it was a great way to immerse yourself into a different culture, learn a new language, and meet other Erasmus/exchange students from all over the world. Although it was hard work at times to balance lab work, distance learning, and a social life, the professors and other researchers were helpful both in the lab and with advice on Granada. I had an amazing year with lots of opportunities to explore Spain plus a great deal of lab experience gained. I would really recommend a year abroad to everyone.
Michael Mordan – Münster University, Germany
Westfälische Wilhelms University Münster is recognised as one of the top universities in Germany and ranked 48th institute in the world for chemistry. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the research group of Prof. E. Hahn, an authority in the field of carbene chemistry. I was asked to investigate the kinetics of oxidative addition reactions using NMR spectroscopy. During my time in the group, I acquired and perfected a number of traditional laboratory based skills. These included the separation of target compounds from complex reaction mixes, the synthesis of precursor complexes and ligands as well as numerous Schlenk techniques. More advanced methods included the application of time dependant NMR spectroscopy experiments and high resolution mass spectrometry. After an initial period of acclimatisation, great freedom was given to investigate one’s own interests within the remit of the overarching topic. This meant access to whatever materials were required, academic staff and equipment, as long as one was able to justify the reason for why! This placement provided excellent opportunities to put into practice the theory Cardiff University had instilled and it was rewarding to see it come to fruition. I found the group to be friendly, highly social and very welcoming. I rapidly became imbedded within the culture and would have likened them to a second family. Having said that, this is not a placement for the work or socially shy. The Germans are well deserving of the reputation as world leaders and will expect self-reliance, active engagement and high standards. Speaking German is not a necessity, I spoke next to none, but they will appreciate any effort to integrate as much as possible into their culture, including learning their mother tongue. I would recommend this placement to anybody wishing to pursue a PhD, as it will stand you in good stead when that time arrives.
Maddison Hewitt – Dow Corning, Barry, Wales
Dow Corning are a manufacturer of silicone products and I spent the year working in one of their quality control labs. I had the chance to use a variety of analytical instruments including ICP-OES, XRF, GC and IR. Much of my time was spent developing and validating methods as part of a wide range of projects. Of particular importance was the development and validation of an X - ray fluorescence method which involved determining ideal preparatory conditions and specific analysis conditions. Another important project involved research using Gas Chromatography. This was a fantastic opportunity to apply the knowledge learnt in year 2 modules as well as gaining a wider knowledge of instrumental use. In addition to projects, I became involved in routine environmental testing and plant troubleshooting queries involving a range of sample types from non-viscous liquids to gums and rubber in the elastomers department. Throughout the year I hugely developed my time management skills, ability to work independently and intuitively and became much more confident on sharing and presenting my findings. It has been an invaluable experience with everyone at Dow Corning thoroughly welcoming me and treating me as part of the team. I highly recommend the year in industry to anyone who’s even mildly contemplating it.
Jonah Prout- DSM Resolve, The Netherlands
I did my year in industry with DSM in the Netherlands working on a project in the analytical sector, Resolve, using X-ray diffraction and thermal analysis to study polymers. It was a great experience learning to use these techniques which I had not done practically before. There was also plenty of opportunity to hear about the company and how things run in industry through cluster meetings and project meetings. My project involved working with another company on the research campus, so through project updates and meetings it was a good opportunity to get out of lab experience in communication and inter-company relationships. Moving to another country to work was a very rewarding experience: living in a different culture and getting to travel on weekends as well as international networking, which is great for the CV and interviews. The language barrier was also not really an issue as in some parts of the company language lessons are available and the Dutch speak very good English. The accommodation supplied by DSM housed most of the research-campus trainees from DSM, Sabic and Lanxess including those from Bath and York universities as well as non-UK students; so it was a great chance to make new friends and meant that there was a good social life outside of work and studying. Doing the internship abroad (in Europe) qualifies you for the Erasmus grant like those studying in Europe and tuition fees are waived for the year. The year also helped to prepare me for final year and studying whilst carrying out a project. I fully recommend doing a placement year.
Catherine Taylor – Monash University, Melbourne, Australia
My year abroad was spent at Monash University which is in Melbourne, Australia. My project involved the synthesis of novel bismuth (III) oximate complexes to test against deadly diseases such as Leishmaniasis. I believe working in a research laboratory teaches you so many invaluable skills that will definitely help you in your final year, as the same format applies. The year will definitely seem tough, and does require a lot of hard-work but it definitely pays off for your CV and your degree. Melbourne is a great city to live with plenty of festivals, museums and culture, it’s even been voted as one of the best places in the world to live in several times! I was even able to attend the OZOM conference with my group in Wellington, New Zealand, so you get to see a lot of fascinating and cutting-edge chemistry currently being explored by many people. Everyone was really helpful in helping me to adapt to working in a research laboratory, and I met some great friends there. Australia is a truly beautiful country, and Monash is definitely a great university for a year abroad.
Duncan Sinclair – Purolite, Llanharan, Wales
Purolite is a market leading ion exchange company that is growing quickly. It is the only company to produce solely ion exchange products. Recently, Purolite has begun a new venture - Purolite Lifetech. Lifetech is developing polymers to immobilise enzymes on as well as a range of other products targeted at the pharmaceuticals industry. My work was to improve & develop an existing product by using existing testing methods, altering production methods and developing my own test method. The opportunity to see your entire project work towards a goal is exciting. My project used chemistry from a variety of areas. I carried out many polymerisation reactions to produce the resin beads and worked on a cutting edge project to generate mono-disperse particles for polymerisation. Analytical work was also required to immobilise the enzyme onto the bead and then determine the activity. The test method I developed required research in literature and many trials to determine the accessibility of the functional group within the polymer. At Purolite I got a feel for the entire company by carrying out work over a range of products in collaboration with other researchers. It was an excellent environment to work in, I felt like a part of the company not just a placement student. It gave an interesting view of industry and gave me a privileged position to carry out my project. I would encourage everybody to find a placement like this.
Amy Lai – Northridge University, California, USA
The Biophysics research group at California State University Northridge studies various aspects of the enzymatic hydrolysis of phospholipid membranes. The University is situated in the San Fernando Valley - only about 30 minutes from Los Angeles (without traffic!). During my stay in sunny California I became a member of a multi-disciplinary team that involved both the physics and chemistry departments. I was treated as a part of the group immediately, and was soon given independent work as well as projects in collaboration with other team members. Whilst in the lab I employed the use of EPR, Dynamic Light Scattering, pH-Stat and Spectrofluorometry techniques. These were used to analyse samples and measure enzyme activity in real time. Unilamellar vesicles were used to model the phospholipid bilayer membrane. The focal point of our research was to determine the partitioning behaviour of hydrolysis products between the membrane and surrounding water, and how this varied with concentration and temperature. Through this placement I was able to gain experience and confidence within an academic research setting whilst gaining insight on the limitations faced by research. Also, of course aside from the invaluable skills gained in the lab, I was able to get a real taste of American culture, food and college life!
Ying Kit Chow – Bochum University, Germany
My placement was spent in Bochum, a small city in the north of Germany (Ruhr area, NRW). My project was to synthesis nanomaterials using microwave and ionic liquids, investigate the physical properties of the product and their catalytic ability. The physical properties of the product was examined and characterised using a wide range of analytical equipment such as XRD, IR, UV, SEM, BET/BJH etc. My supervisors and colleagues in my host university are very friendly and gave me massive support when I was doing my project. From this Erasmus year, I have met a lot of people from all over the world. I have managed to achieve what I wanted at the end without speaking any German when I first arrived. It was definitely worth spending a year abroad or to go on a work placement to broaden your horizons.
Lara Groves – Pfizer, Sandwich, Kent
I spent my industrial placement year working at Pfizer within the Analytical Research & Development team, where the subgroup was Project Analytics. The main focus of the year was my research project, which primarily involved investigating methods for stability assessment and accelerated ageing of several Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API’s). Within this, methods included the Accelerated Stability Assessment Programme (ASAP), electrochemistry coupled with mass spectrometry, Dynamic Vapour Sorption (DVS) and adaptations of purposeful degradation. As well as the project, other responsibilities have included UPLC and HPLC method development for Pfizer proprietary products, where development of a robust and reliable method has been business critical. The fundamental knowledge gained from this has been used when working with external parties, including PhD students from Cambridge University. As well as this, I have liaised with many colleagues in the UK and the US on other stability focused investigative projects. I have also been involved with the Pfizer community and academic team by becoming a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Ambassador. This includes going into local schools and working at events with a scientific focus, such as the Kent Science Festival. The idea of the team is to create opportunities to inspire young people to enjoy and pursue science. The main benefit of the placement has been to aid employability following graduation due to the development of many skills that are necessary for the workplace. Carrying out distance learning modules has forced the development of effective time management and organisational skills.
John Craigmyle – AkzoNobel, Slough
AkzoNobel is the world’s largest provider of decorative coatings, performance coatings and speciality chemicals, with well-known brands such as Dulux, Cuprinol and Hammerite. As a placement student, I worked in a group (the Global Interior Walls Expertise Group) within the decorative paints division. Throughout the placement year I was given the opportunity to lead and be a part of many projects and present my work the rest of my team. The work in this group was generally split into three different tasks; formula optimisation, novel raw material testing and performance matching. The majority of my work was novel raw material testing and formula optimisation against key properties such as opacity and durability. As the year went on I was given greater responsibility with roles in the raw materials team supplementing my previous projects. This year was also great fun with friendly colleagues making me feel welcome and part of the group; sports day and organising the Christmas party stand out amongst some great memories. Also my tutor was always willing to lend a hand with my project report and any problems I had throughout the year; preparing me for my dissertation in the 4th year.
Rebecca Yip - Quotient Bioresearch, Fordham (Now Quotient Bio Analytical Sciences, part of LGC ltd)
I worked in the Drug Discovery team in the Bioanalysis department, which meant that I got to do method development and sample analysis to support pre-clinical studies of potential upcoming drugs. The company was really welcoming to students and I was always treated as just another member of staff rather than as a junior member. I got to use all of the instruments, which gave me a really good understanding of LCMS/MS, something that we don't get much hands on experience in undergrad studies at Cardiff. The company always encourages us to do presentations/posters so I was able to do quite a few external presentations which have helped me gain more confidence in presenting scientific projects and will really help me with my final year presentation and/or presentations after university. The experience has helped me to put all the theory I have learnt into practice, as a result, my grades this year are much better than in the past 2 years. Definitely the best experience of my university life so far- I would recommend a placement year to anyone!
Katherine Reed – ENSCM Montpellier, France
The 10 months I spent in Montpellier were some of the most difficult yet enjoyable of my course thus far. I was working in a lab linked to the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Montpellier where my work was associated with methods used in the biofuel industry. My project specifically was based on the isolation of the three key components of lignocellulosic species with the main aim of valorising the presently underutilised component, lignin. I am pleased that I had previous knowledge of the French language, as I was able to make my fortnightly presentations to my research group in French which allowed me to become closer with my supervisor. Overall, my skills within the laboratory environment have been improved ten-fold and I feel confident that my experiences of another culture and lifestyle will greatly enhance my CV for any future career I may consider.
James Tancock – Leipzig University, Germany
For my study abroad I spent a year in Leipzig, Germany, in the work group of Prof. E Hey-Hawkins. My chemistry work involved the design and synthesis of new phosphorus ligands for metallamacrocylces. The experience gained from the research work was invaluable. I quickly developed many aspects of my practical skills, such as spectral analysis, working under inert conditions and purification method that you just don't get the time to experience in teaching labs. The knowledge gained will go on to serve me well for my final year in Cardiff. Asides from Chemistry, my placement was the perfect opportunity to visit so many places; Germany has so much to see, and you can learn a new language at the same time. My CV and life have both been transformed because of ERASMUS and I would recommend it to anyone.
Sian Pugh – Campben BRI
I completed my industrial placement at Campden BRI, a food and drink research and development company. The company aids the food and drink industry from the very first stages of farming and manufacture to the analysis of the final product. I worked in the chemistry section of the company, in the biochemistry lab. Over the year, I was involved in a number of different projects including meat and fish DNA profiling, the testing of foodstuffs for allergen levels and identifying genetically modified crops through DNA analysis. Spending a year in a commercial lab has really helped me decide on what to do after university and has prepared me for my final year research project. It is also an invaluable addition to my CV.
James Cruickshank – Leipzig University, Germany
I spent my Erasmus year in Leipzig, Germany, which is about an hour or two away from Berlin. It’s a great city to live in. My project was on organic synthesis, specifically asymmetric organic catalysis. The PhD and Masters students working in my group spoke very good English and were all extremely helpful and friendly, and I learned a lot out there. I became very familiar with lots of new techniques and equipment and became much more confident in a lab as a result. The public transport in Leipzig is very good (especially the trams) and really cheap for students, and there’s plenty to do. While learning the language isn’t essential, I would strongly advise anybody considering going to learn as much as you can before you get there. Most people speak at least a little bit of English, however I found myself in a lot of situations where they didn’t. There’re a lot of other Erasmus students out there as well, most of whom will speak decent English. It’s definitely a good idea to try and meet as many people as you can – I’m still in contact with many of the friends I made out there.