Engineering and design student insights

Student projects, placements, research and study experiences in the Faculty of Engineering & Design

Topic: Department of Chemical Engineering

My semester abroad in Brisbane

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📥  Department of Chemical Engineering, Undergraduate

Author: Nicola Morris

When I first applied to study at Bath I knew I wanted to do my research project abroad, it’s a rare opportunity for engineers that I knew I had to take! I originally wanted to go to Toulouse because the projects sounded perfect, but I also managed to secure a place at the University of Queensland, Australia. Anyway the Toulouse application fell through and all of a sudden I was booking a flight to Aussie land. Moving to the other side of the world sounded a little drastic, but here I am, and I’m so happy with my decision.

So in 2 days’ time I’ll have been here for 5 weeks! Time is going crazily fast and now I’ve found a weekly routine I feel completely settled in. The campus is beautiful, I’ve joined some societies and I’m happy with where I’m living! Before I moved here I contacted my Dad’s relatives who live in Brisbane, just to say hi, it turned out him and his wife had a spare room and were more than happy for me to stay with them! I’m living quite far away from Uni which is the only snag, it takes me an hour to commute but it means I get to take the ferry every day! In Brisbane the CityCat ferry service is very popular and is a great way to get around. Personally the novelty of travelling to Uni by boat every day still hasn’t worn off, I sit outside on the deck in the sun with the wind whipping through my hair smiling to myself, definitely beats First buses!

The project is pretty chilled as well, the days in the lab are long but we manage our own time and have a lot of independence. As ‘occupational trainees’ we are technically staff so we’ve even got our own office! I enjoy the fact the project feels more like a job than Uni, after 5pm I can switch off and go home without feeling any guilt! It’s also great because the weekends are 100% our own, so we’re taking trips to different places and just generally having a great time. 2 weeks ago we visited the Gold Coast, we took the train for an hour south and spent a night in a backpacker’s hostel – which is an experience by the way if you haven’t stayed in one before. We had an amazing beach day, then after a game of beer pong and rage cage (if you don’t know what that is you’re missing out) we headed out. The Gold Coast has good nightlife for the record. Last weekend we went to Byron bay, which was also an awesome place. It’s a lot less commercial than the Gold Coast but the beach is just as good, it’s a popular backpacker’s destination and has quite an alternative vibe - very cool. The highlight was trekking up to the lighthouse on 3 hours sleep to watch the sunrise from the most easterly point of Australia. Definitely make the effort to do things like that! It was a surreal experience and I’ll never forget it.

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So the project continues, the work is interesting but days in the lab are tiring and take a lot of patience, but knowing that we’ve got beach plans for the weekend makes it very easy to tolerate! Last semester was very challenging and stressful, so I’m happy to say that I am having the time of my life right now, it’s such a breath of fresh air.

Reader, if you are considering travelling or going on exchange but aren’t sure, I’ll relieve you from your reservations… go! Even if you’re anxious, even if the first few weeks are tough, I assure you you’ll have the time of your life.

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It started with a car...

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📥  Department of Chemical Engineering, Undergraduate

Author: Claire Guest


I was asked to write a poem about the student experience at the University of Bath for our 50th anniversary celebration in the Abbey, but doing it concisely wasn’t easy. I felt like I could have written the entire piece on the blessing Google is to students who can’t cook. I wanted to express how much university has changed me, and in ways I didn’t expect. My time at Bath has taught me not just how to be a chemical engineer, but also how to be an adult!

I would like to thank Lucy English, who helped me to edit my piece and Alex Homewood for giving me this amazing opportunity.

Watch the video on Vimeo.

 

11 Tips for Three Minute Thesis Contenders (and anyone giving a presentation really)

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📥  Department of Chemical Engineering, Postgraduate

Author: Jemma Rowlandson, winner of the 2016 Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.


The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) competition is a fantastic idea, a great exercise in explaining your research quickly and to a non-specialist audience. It not only comes in handy when engaging the public, but also in your research career. Poster sessions, pitching for funding, and even vivas all require you to think on your feet and explain your research in a concise but informative manner. Squashing your entire PhD into three minutes however is no mean feat, and so here are some tips to get you started…

“An 80,000 word thesis would take 9 hours to present.

Their time limit... 3 minutes”

– threeminutethesis.org

Before the day:

Have a killer story

This is probably THE most important thing you can possibly do. Everyone loves a good story, so ensure your presentation has one, include a beginning, middle and end. Ensure your last sentence focuses on the take home message. This not only makes it easy for the audience to follow, but a good story is also memorable.

Check out other people’s stories

One of the most useful things I find, is looking at what other people have done before me. For the 3MT competition especially, it’s unlikely you’ve ever done anything like this before. Looking at how other people tackled the problem can be very helpful. The 3MT website has lots of fantastic examples from previous winners and finalists, and the University of Bath too has videos of their previous entrants.

Make it relatable

A good analogy helps. Your research will likely span several complex research areas. The real key to this is explaining them in a relatable way. Now this does not mean ‘dumbing down’ your research, you do not want to trivialise what you do. Instead focus on the big picture and find inventive ways to describe your research. My analogy was using Leerdammer cheese to explain adsorption of water toxins. Tricky topic, killer analogy, everyone goes home knowing what adsorption is.

Humour can work well

Humour can go down well in a presentation, and it can help make your story more memorable. However, be prepared for all outcomes. If your joke goes well allow a few seconds before continuing to let the laughter sink in. Equally be prepared for the audience to find things funny that you didn’t expect. And if your joke unfortunately does fall flat, have a back-up plan. Either have a handy one liner to make it into a joke (i.e. ‘I won’t give up my day job then!’), or confidently brush past it onto the next part of your presentation.

Practice, practice, practice

Practice by yourself, in front of other people, and especially people who do not know what your research is about. Know someone else entering the competition? Grab them as a practice partner, you can give each other advice. Multiple people in your research group entering? Great, dedicate a group meeting to presentation feedback. For this, you can never practice enough.

On the day:

Find your happy place

Before your big moment, do something that relaxes you. Don’t go in stressed. Go for a run, eat lots of chocolate, just do something you enjoy. My thing? I listen to Taylor Swift, calms the nerves and puts me in a great mood.

You are the most important thing

The most important thing about the entire presentation is YOU. Sure, you have a slide but the audience came to listen to you, and they will mostly be watching you. Your body language and your enthusiasm are all part of the presentation. So…

Smile 🙂

If you don’t find your research interesting, then why should your audience? A smile goes a long way, the audience will immediately click with you, and it will help you yourself feel more confident. Show enthusiasm for your research topic, the audience will feed off it and enjoy the whole experience a lot more.

Don’t run over time, but don’t rush!!

The three-minute time limit is very strict. Do not go over, even by a second. However, that doesn’t mean you should talk at a million miles an hour to get every tiny possible detail of your research project in. The audience just won’t follow. Instead, have a good story and tell it in good time. Plan some buffer time into your presentation, so that if you do stumble you know there’s a few seconds of leeway.

Never give up

There can only be one winner, and if it wasn’t you this time, that doesn’t mean your presentation wasn’t awesome. Heck, just having the guts to stand up there and try it is something on its own. If it wasn’t your day then don’t worry, there will always be other opportunities. The only way to improve presentation skills is to do more presentations.

But most importantly:

Have fun!

Sure the 3MT can be both stressful and nerve-wracking, but it is also a lot of fun! It is a great way to meet other researchers across the Uni, see what they’re up to, and share your own research. Enjoy the experience as much as possible and take every opportunity it throws your way 🙂

 

‘Sorry, but what is an engineer doing in supply chain..?’

  

📥  Department of Chemical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

During the last 10 weeks at Patheon UK in Swindon, the above is probably the question I’ve been asked the most and equally struggled to answer, so hopefully as this blog progresses I’ll be able to answer, starting here.

I’m Matt, a chemical engineer, now 2½ months into my Placement in the Supply Chain Department at Patheon, and I can honestly say it’s flying by already! My role so far has involved a wide variety of things, predominantly based in Project Purchasing.

Who is Patheon?

Patheon isn’t a name that comes straight to mind when someone says Pharmaceuticals. It is, however, a global company that specialises in manufacturing and developing products for customers - a pharmaceutical contract manufacturer. This means Patheon isn’t the product owner, and without its name on products, its name isn’t ‘on the shelf’ as such. With 26 sites, 400 clients and 800 products developed & manufactured globally I’m looking forward to getting a deeper understanding of it as the year progresses.

What is supply chain?

While production is the area which directly generates revenue, engineering keep everything working, and quality control/assurance check everything is up to standard; they all rely on the supply chain department for many reasons. Supply chain is fundamentally made up of Planning, Procurement (Purchasing), Shipping and Warehouse management, which work with all the other departments to ensure everything runs smoothly, with two major KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) – OTD, On Time Delivery, and RFT, Right First Time to monitor performance.

Supply chain also has a number of other roles in tracking and reducing spending, building and managing supplier relationships and various other bits and pieces.

Settling in on placement

It turns out Swindon isn’t as bad as its reputation states. I’m living in the Old Town area with a few people also on placement here. Settling in at work has been no problem at all; everyone at Patheon has been approachable and friendly and happy to offer help at a moment’s notice. Looking forward to the next 42 weeks!!

 

A Key Ingredient in Ice Cream Production...

  

📥  Department of Chemical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

I am now 10 months in to my placement with Unilever, and life in the Ice Cream Global Design Centre has not been easy! Since my last blog post, I have started working on a number of new projects that have been keeping me busy, making the days and weeks fly by.

The Wall's Bike - Doesn't every office have one of these?

The Wall's Bike - Doesn't every office have one of these?

Over my time working with Unilever, I have learnt how incredibly complex ice cream is. Simply mixing some water, cream, sugar and flavours together, and then putting this in the freezer will not necessarily give you ice cream. There are a number of very important steps to follow that process the ingredients in a way that affect the texture, taste and quality of the final product.

One of the projects I have been working on since I started my placement involves studying and analysing the very first step of making ice cream – the mixing process. This process involves dosing and mixing the ingredients, and is the key factor in ensuring all ingredients are fully blended, dispersed and hydrated within the mix.

As with all mixing processes, certain levels of shear occur in the mixing vessel that arise from the stirring motion of the impeller. The shear in the mix tank is dependent on a number of factors, including the dimensions of the tank, the type of impeller and the nature of the fluid being mixed. Part of my project involved building and developing a tool that is able to model and calculate a number of mixing parameters – including the shear in the mix tank.

After being able to characterise shear in mixing vessels, I worked on improving the company’s knowledge on the effect this shear has on the ice cream produced. This involved running a number of trials in the pilot plant and analysing the ice cream premix and product in a number of ways.

As well as the work I carried out in the pilot plant, the project also involved building a network of contacts with mix plant managers across Unilever’s ice cream factories in Europe. From an R&D point of view, this was a great insight for me to see what supply chain is like and how the factories operate.

Unlike many of my other projects, I worked on this assignment alone – something I am quite accustomed to after 3 years of university coursework. However, working independently on a project in the workplace has felt quite different. Rather than your work just ending up as a grade, other members of your team may depend on the results and outcomes of your task, meaning every assignment must be carried out quickly, efficiently and to the highest standard.

With the end of my placement fast approaching, I plan to make the most out of the few months remaining by learning as much as I possibly can whilst improving my workplace skills.

 

The Scoop on Ice Cream R&D...

  

📥  Department of Chemical Engineering, Engineering placements, Undergraduate

Hi everyone! My name is Clodagh and I’m now almost six months into my year-long placement with Unilever, working as Process Development Technologist within the Ice Cream Category. My role involves working on a number of short-term projects both alone and in a team, with the overall aim to apply an engineering approach to develop, evaluate, and improve processes used to make ice cream across the company.

My day-to day attire!

My day-to day attire!

Settling In…

As for most, the thought of leaving the security of university and starting a full-time job was very daunting. However, thinking back now to what I anticipated a workplace to be like, I could not have been more wrong! I quickly learnt that the ‘real world’ wasn’t quite as intimidating as I expected it to be; not once did I get laughed at for asking a silly question or for getting lost in the offices. Instead, I was greeted with a smile from everyone I met or passed by, and quickly felt like part of the team.

My first week with Unilever was spent taking part in the Ice Cream Technology Course, a training week run annually, which is aimed at newcomers to the category. This meant I gained vital knowledge on every area within the Ice Cream category, as well as having the chance to network with many others based in Ice Cream across the globe.

One thing that surprised me most during my first week – and still surprises me up until today – is how much time and effort goes into the development and production of an ice cream!

Gelato Flavour Profiling

One of my main projects so far has been based on the flavour profiling of a premium gelato company. Seeing as gelato products are so focussed on flavour delivery, this work was important in establishing the flavour profile of current products, as well as seeing how this compares to competitor products.

This was a very technically challenging project, which involved running trials in the pilot plant here at Colworth, as well as analysing the flavour profiles of samples using Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry. This project taught me that even if the work you are given is not something you have directly learnt about at university, you have to apply the skills you have and use your initiative to research and learn about a whole new area of study.

My biggest achievement so far on placement was a result of this project – the huge improvement in my presentation skills. After only ever presenting once at University, I was always very nervous at the thought of having to stand in front of a big group and present alone, but practice makes perfect! After a number of smaller presentations, I was trusted to present my findings to Supply Chain, an important customer of the Ice Cream category, and to a Senior VP in the company.

Life in Bedford

During my placement year, I am living in Bedford - a relatively small town around 60 miles north of London. Getting used to living in a new town where you don’t know anyone is always difficult, but by joining clubs outside of work meant it didn’t take me long to feel at home.

One of the best things about working full-time is having weekends to yourself – with no guilty thoughts that you should be finishing that assignment for university – so I try to make the most of them! I like to spend my weekends exploring the local area and visiting friends all over the country.