One of the most enjoyable parts of my work is the freedom I'm given to direct my research if I find something interesting.
How did you decide on your degree choice?
I chose my undergraduate degree of Chemistry with Industrial Experience [MChem] as it is one of the best ways to truly experience an industrial environment whilst continuing undergraduate study.
Following my undergraduate degree at the university, I opted to continue my study under the same supervisor I had been working with for my Masters project. Despite being in a different area of chemistry, I felt this work would be ideal since it would draw on organic chemical knowledge that I had gained in industry.
When applying for my undergraduate degree, Manchester was the most appealing place for a number of reasons: I liked the city and the people at the university, but mostly it was the industrial course that directed me here. At some universities, the industrial year is in the final MChem year of the course. At the time I thought this would be a bit unnecessarily challenging when other universities (including Manchester) gave the option of a third year sandwich placement.
In addition to this, I also considered the university’s brilliant ties with many companies to be a deciding factor; something I had learnt was not the case at other universities. Another thing I considered when choosing the university was the Manchester Success Scholarship, from which I received £1,000 a year for achieving 3 As at A-Level.
What were your first impressions of the university and the city?
My first impression of the university (in particular the chemistry department) was that it seemed really big! I had visited a couple of other universities and this department was the largest, which was an aspect I quite liked.
And the city? Well, after 18 years of my life in a village, I really wanted to live in a place with all amenities on my doorstop. Manchester seemed to be an ideal place to meet these needs.
What are you most enjoying about your course?
At present, one of the most enjoyable parts of my work is the freedom I'm given to direct my research if I find something interesting.
What skills and attributes do you think you have gained from your course and co-curricular activities so far?
Both my undergraduate and postgraduate courses have taught me to be much more confident in myself and my work. I've learnt the real value of communication in both academic and industrial environments.
How do you think you are benefitting from studying at Manchester?
It is a privilege to work at such a prestigious institute and I'm sure holding qualifications from the university will greatly improve my job prospects.
What are the benefits of the industrial placement year?
For my third year, I worked in Alderley Edge at the pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca. My role at the company was as a synthetic organic chemist, which consisted of working in a laboratory trying to synthesise target compounds as potential drug candidates. By the end of the placement, I did not enjoy the type of work I was carrying out and was beginning to examine my alternatives. Despite this change of heart, I feel that my placement was vital in teaching me about chemistry and the workplace, which is very different to the undergraduate teaching labs!
Not only did I learn this valuable information, but I also earned a fair sum of money – something that I'm sure is becoming increasingly attractive as tuition fees rise.
Having a year of industrial experience that many other graduate students will not, could be a potential selling point when considering job prospects after finishing a degree.
An advantage of working at a large company like AstraZeneca was that I was able to visit many different departments in order to acquire a broader knowledge of the opportunities that a degree in chemistry can offer.
In the end, my year in industry had a great impact on my academic life. During my placement it came to my attention just how valuable it is to have a PhD qualification, which is one of the reasons that I am in the position I'm in now.
What advice would you give to students considering applying for the same course that you took?
The course itself only differs in its third year of study, but this can make a big impact on the outcome of your degree. Not only is the year in industry demanding in terms of time, but it also means that you miss out on many of the courses that the students on the straight chemistry degree study in their third year. In the Masters year this can mean that you feel behind in some of the lectures and possibly in your project.
Having said this, I think my year out in industry was one of the most rewarding and directing years of my life. I feel as though I gained a lot of valuable knowledge about the workplace and career prospects for a chemistry graduate. In conclusion, I would greatly advise students to consider this choice of degree, though I would stress that this is only suitable for those willing to put in the extra time and effort.