Stephen David Worrall

I gained a first class degree from a first class university. The knowledge provided to us through a variety of engaging lecture courses and the techniques learned through taught laboratory sessions, along with the teamwork and leadership skills developed alongside them, fully prepared me for my chosen postgraduate path.

 

How did you decide on your degree choice? What appealed about Manchester?

Throughout school I had always preferred the sciences and mathematics and ended up taking biology, chemistry, maths, mechanics and physics at A Level. I thought I wanted to study medicine and had even started looking at universities with that in mind; when I suddenly realised (I suppose you could almost call it an epiphany!) that it wasn't what I wanted to do; I wanted to take a 'proper' science. Chemistry was advertised as the 'centra'’ science and as I wanted to keep as many options open as possible it seemed the one for me. It may look like an almost spur of the moment decision but if it was it's not one I've regretted!

I wanted to stay relatively close to my long-time girlfriend and so was looking at universities within about three hours of home. I looked around, applied for and interviewed at Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and York and basically Manchester was by far and away the best. It’s a fantastic combination of areas that feel like a campus university but situated in the heart of a city that has everything to offer that you could possibly need.

In terms of the course what really sold it to me was the quality of the undergraduate teaching laboratories which were in a different league compared to the other universities I looked at.

What were your first impressions of the university and the city?

My first impression of the university was that its size is more than a little daunting; both in terms of the actual size and the number of students Manchester is about as big as it gets! I soon realised that its size was a strength not a weakness though, as the huge diversity of people meant that there was pretty much guaranteed to be people you would make great friends with and activities you would enjoy.

I had lived close to Manchester all of my life so I already knew what to expect from it.

What did you most enjoy about your course?

The access to laboratory equipment is something that really makes Manchester stand out, not many universities have a dedicated NMR spectrometer for undergraduates! This extended into my Masters project where I always had ready access to any analytical technique I needed from chromatography to mass spectrometry. That and the fantastically helpful staff members involved in both running the laboratories and the analytical services made laboratory work the best part of my course.

What skills and attributes do you think you gained from your course and co-curricular activities?

I gained a first class degree from a first class university. The knowledge provided to us through a variety of engaging lecture courses and the techniques learned through taught laboratory sessions, along with the teamwork and leadership skills developed alongside them, fully prepared me for my chosen postgraduate path.

Throughout my degree I took part in outreach activities through the School. Not only did they help improve my confidence in talking about science, both to the informed and the not so informed, but they gave me experience of teaching, which was something I'd considered doing after my degree. I started off just helping out but by the end was leading visits to primary and secondary schools.

I also got to freeze things in liquid nitrogen and explode things on a regular basis - who can say no to that!

How do you think you benefitted from studying at Manchester?

The world recognises that Manchester is a top university and I believe that my degree will look even better for having been completed there. The facilities the University provides its undergraduates are truly first class as well, from the laboratory facilities I've already mentioned to the library - you certainly won't be able to blame your tools!

What are the benefits of the industrial placement year?

I cannot recommend the industrial placement year highly enough! I gained an invaluable insight into the world of industry, developed my skills as an experimental chemist by learning new techniques whilst working in a real laboratory environment, made friends I still see regularly and got paid at the same time!

I went to Intertek ASG, which is a contract analytical laboratory that is part of the Intertek group, which is listed on the FTSE 100. I was tasked primarily with developing new analytical techniques so that the company could offer analytical services to the "Nutraceutical" industry (things like vitamins, 'super-foods', bacterial yoghurts etc.) but was additionally given responsibility for completing work for external customers. This culminated in me being the lead analyst on a project for Durex. I think that really shows that you get out of a placement year what you put in, I applied myself fully and went the extra mile and was rewarded with increased responsibility and an extra 2 months (and 2 months' pay!) on the end of my contract.

What advice would you give to students considering applying for the same course that you took?

I would really, really encourage anyone thinking of applying for Chemistry to:

  1. Do it
  2. Do it at Manchester, and
  3. Take the industrial placement year if they can!

It is hard work, with longer contact hours than virtually any other degree but it's definitely worth it. The extra contact hours are hugely beneficial and you'll be fully supported through tutorials and the PASS scheme with anything you find you are struggling with. There's plenty of time for a social life as well so don't worry about that!

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