Year in Industry or Abroad 2010/11
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.
Giulia Primavesi - Münster University, Germany
I chose to study in Münster, North Rhine-Westphalia, which I think is quite small for a city (I'd say it's smaller than Cardiff) but it is very pretty and has quite a good nightlife if you know where to go! There are bikes EVERYWHERE and everyone will tell you you need one but I’m living here very happily without one - since I'm not a great bike fan. The buses are free once you've received the semester ticket and I think they are really good, which is lucky since I live quite a distance from the centre. Being able to speak German is not vital, but it definitely comes in handy.
The university is really different but I think it's really good too. I’m basically pretending to be a PhD student with a LOT of help. Everyone speaks really good English, although they naturally prefer to speak in German. The working group I'm in has loads of really cool people and I am learning so much! The work is harder, but the workload is definitely less than second year so plenty of time to party with Erasmus people! Almost all the Erasmus people speak English and some of them are better than me!
Emily Langdon-Jones – Chemtura (Evesham)
My Year in Industry was spent at the Agrochemical R&D Site of a global company called Chemtura; one of the largest speciality chemical companies in the US. The site itself was large consisting of much farmland (for field trials) and hence it was a very different type of placement to most. The site only employed around 40 members of staff but I worked in the Formulations Department which only had 10 colleagues, 2 of us being placement students. The supportive and friendly atmosphere was apparent from day one. My position, as a Formulation Technician meant that the Chemists would give me a specific mix of chemicals to formulate and later put on storage trials. I would then draw conclusions from results and give feedback as to how the new/improved products had performed, normally regarding surfactant/colloid science. For me the placement was vital in helping to decide what path I wanted my career to take and I would certainly recommend one due to the sheer strength it gives your CV. In addition it helps you to link many different areas of chemistry and see how the chemistry we learn at university is applied in a commercial or industrial arena. Therefore it really helped me to understand the purpose of my degree in the wider world and how I can use it.
Daniel Griffiths – GlaxoSmithKline (Stevenage)
My placement was in Fragment Based Drug Discovery and was enjoyable because I got to experience working as part of a team. The skills I learned can be applied to many projects which contain both computational and chemical hurdles. The main project I worked on contained a large amount of computer programming in various programming languages. I compared algorithms which broke apart large long chain potential drug molecules into smaller fragments. This resulted in a large database of unique 'fragments' or parts of molecules (1 to 20 atoms) with over 30 million fragments contained within and with various property filtrations available. I then built a graphical front-end to this database. The chemistry research I undertook was designed to give drug developers increased novelty and notions about where to expand the particular chemical series they were testing when struggling for ideas.
Rebecca Howarth – AkzoNobel Decorative Paints (Slough)
I spent my year working for AkzoNobel based in the Decorative Paints Business Unit. My role was within the Research Innovation Group working at the forefront of new research strands for the company. I got the opportunity to apply my chemical knowledge to real products in a fast-paced commercially driven environment. However a year with AkzoNobel is more than just paint, the company has a really friendly atmosphere with inter-departmental sport’s day and team lunches being amongst the activities. At AkzoNobel you were never treated like a student, you were working on real projects with the same responsibilities as permanent employees from day one. With experience of taking industrial placement students, with an average annual in-take to the R&D department of 12, you were given as much support professionally, academically and personally as was necessary. Completing a year in industry was the best decision I ever made and that is largely thanks to AkzoNobel.
William Dean –AstraZeneca (Charnwood)
I spent my year in industry working for AstraZeneca, a global biopharmaceuticals company, working in the Chemical Sciences (Process Chemistry) department. In layman's terms, it was all about scaling-up reactions -making processes capable of producing kilos to tonnes of material by modifying the route to meet safety, environmental, legal, economic, control and throughput (SELECT) criteria. It was great to be able to apply the two years of theory which I'd learnt in Cardiff to some real-life problems, and they really do get you on important work. The great thing about a year in industry is that no one expects you to know everything - they realise that you haven't finished your chemistry degree yet and are more than willing to answer even your most simple questions. The experience developed far more than my chemistry skills as I regularly had to present my work to my team and department, and attended many training courses organised by AstraZeneca throughout the year. Having a year in industry sets you up well for your future career, from your 4th year MChem project to getting a job (whether that's in chemistry or not). I can't think of a downside of doing a year in industry, and I'm told that some of my work is going to be published later this year.
Ryan Nicholls – 3M Healthcare Ltd (Loughborough)
My placement was spent working for the drug delivery section of 3M as a value stream engineer. In this role I was involved in the manufacture and process improvements of pharmaceutical products, such as tablets and inhalers. The work involved a number of advanced techniques and processes that aren't routinely taught as part of undergraduate chemistry courses, and served as the perfect insight to how the pharmaceutical industry works. Aside from learning new chemistry and business skills I also made many new friends and had an amazing year that I’ll never forget.
Dafydd Davies – Synthomer Ltd (Harlow)
Synthomer Ltd. is a polymers chemistry industry which produces a range of products for many different industries for every day usage. Choosing to go on a year’s placement was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Not only did it improve my skills as a chemist, and brought an insight into the world of industry, it also gave me the best experience for my future in the field of chemistry. I made friends for life on the placement, and found it was a differing work environment compared to a year spent in University where I was allowed to use the skills I had been taught in teaching laboratories in real life scenarios.
John-Louis Cruci Tushingham – GE Healthcare (Amersham)
My project was exploring the reactivity of fluorine-18, which included working with radioactivity both manually and on a specialised automated platform. As part of my project I also undertook organic synthesis projects, utilising techniques such as flash chromatography that I had never before encountered. I was also given the opportunity to use several analytical techniques, many of which I had been taught the theory of during lectures in the first two years at Cardiff. I found applying that knowledge at GE really gave me an appreciation and deeper understanding of techniques such as HPLC and NMR.
I was lucky to work with an absolutely brilliant group of people, all of whom were very willing to discuss their work with me and let me take part where possible. This to me was probably the most valuable aspect of the year and being able to engage in scientific discussion and provide valuable input has provided me with the confidence to tackle whatever my future may have in store!
Jessica Bradley – Azko Nobel (Slough)
AkzoNobel is the largest global paints and coatings company and I worked within the development team. I had the opportunity to work on many famous household brands such as Dulux and Glidden and even launched my very own product after the first two months! Throughout the year I developed many contacts globally from working on products for countries such as Indonesia, Vietnam, United States and Canada as well as being able to liaise with marketing and supply chain. Whilst at AkzoNobel I did not feel unequal as a student and was made to feel an important part of the team. There was also many staff events carried out during the year whether for charity or just to have a good time such as sports day in July with Hog Roast and free drinks! Other annual events included the Christmas Charity Quiz, Rounders, weekly Football matches, Brewery tours and nights out in Windsor or London. I would definitely recommend students to go on placement to learn about how companies work. Another big factor is acquiring skills you wouldn't necessarily be able to within a university environment and also not forgetting all the friends you make throughout the year!
Henry Jelley – Infineum (Abingdon)
During my placement year I worked for Infineum, a company which develops and produces additives for the fuel and lubricants industry. The department I worked in focused on blending these additives together and then selling this formulation to global fuel and lubricant suppliers. The aim of my project was to understand how commercial motor oil is nitrated in the presence of nitrogen oxide species (NOx). This involved mixing the additives to make motor oil, then artificially ageing it using a specially designed piece of equipment. Finally I would have to analyse the oil using a range of techniques including FTIR, kinematic viscometry and elemental analysis. From the first day that I arrived at Infineum, everyone was very friendly and helpful, and there was a great sense of comradery within the group. The training I was given was very thorough and comprehensive, which included a two day course at a specialist analytical company for some extra training in analytical techniques. The greatest skill I gained during my placement was the confidence to work individually and take control of my project. I have also greatly improved my presentation giving skills by giving lots of presentations to different technical groups at Infineum. I have thoroughly enjoyed my placement experience and would recommend industrial placements to anyone considering taking a year out.
Elizabeth Emery – AstraZeneca (Macclesfield)
My placement year was spent working for AstraZeneca, a multinational pharmaceutical company. I was based in the analytical chemistry department, where I worked on drug substance analysis and gained experience in techniques such as HPLC, UPLC, GC and NMR. I was also able to work on some drug product analysis, which involved testing tablets and creating a chiral NMR method. I found that everyone was very welcoming, friendly and I feel like I gained a great deal and definitely enhanced my CV. I would certainly recommend the experience to other students.
Katherine Hunter – Vectura (Chippenham)
From the beginning of my placement, I was treated like a permanent employee and became part of a project team who were developing a product to launch in the USA. The company specialises in pulmonary drug delivery and we worked on development of the combination of dry powder formulations in the inhalation device. It involved use of equipment I had learned about in my first 2 years of university and some specialist industry techniques. I was able to work with brilliant people who had superb knowledge. I gained a great insight into the workings of a pharmaceuticals business and was given more responsibility as I progressed. I really enjoyed being part of a smaller company where my input was noticed, instead of working for the pharmaceutical giants where I would’ve been a small fish in a big pond. My practical and theoretical knowledge base improved far more then I had hoped from this experience, and now know what to expect when I graduate. I highly recommend for everyone to do a year in industry, it was the best choice I ever made.
Kirsty Wedgwood – Northridge University, California
My project was largely focussed on physical chemistry, involving examination of the properties of micelles using a variety of techniques. It gave me the opportunity to learn how to operate differing types of laboratory equipment first hand and perform the initial characterisation of new surfactants. As it is part of Los Angeles, Northridge offered a wide variety of things to see and do. Everyone was really friendly, particularly at the international club on campus, where I met people from all around the world. By living in a different country, I experienced a completely different culture and gained independence and confidence. I have never done so many new things in such a short space of time and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
Celine Shepherd – Montpelier University, France
My placement was spent in Montpellier, south of France. I was enrolled in the prestigious chemistry institution École Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Montpellier (ENSCM) for the first semester until Christmas. I then undertook a six month project in one of the laboratories linked to the school focusing on microporous materials. I worked on a gas chromatography machine investigating the separation of different hydrocarbons on a range of Metal-Organic Frameworks (MOFs). It was a very challenging year balancing the language, the intense classes and exams at ENSCM, the independent lab work, as well as adapting to a new environment and culture. I will however always appreciate the wonderful opportunity that honestly pushed me to my limits, giving me two diverse, unique experiences of studying and researching in a foreign country. I would encourage every student to take this opportunity as you will learn about a new country and culture and realise your personal potential.