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Tagged: Placements

HPC Supply Chain Innovation Placement Blog- Post 2


📥  School of Management

Welcome back! My second blog will give you an insight in to the three areas of work I focused on during in my time with EDF Energy in Bristol at the Delivery Command Centre (DCC) for the HPC project. Being present during visits from the EDF Energy CEO, the French ambassador and other VIPs, the newly built DCC is a hive of activity; but this blog won’t just be confined to the office: with my team keen for me to get out and about, I have a few interesting events/visits to tell you about.

International Supply Chain Management

I had the unique opportunity to work personally with the International Supply Chain Lead on the HPC Project. With the French energy giant EDF assuming a 66.5% share and China's CGN having a 33.5% stake, HPC is the definition of international collaboration. I was able to see how the complex global supply networks were formed, managed and developed on a daily basis. The complexity is quite overwhelming at first, but fascinating when you start to delve deeper. The aim of the game was to bring international suppliers in to the HPC procurement process to: increase competition amongst suppliers, decipher previous EPR learning and offer fresh perspectives. I was able to put into practice the soft skills I had developed at Bath that were relatable to the international components of my degree.

When a last minute opportunity arose to attend a Team Building event in Paris between EDF UK, EDF France and EDF China, I couldnt believe my luck. After quickly scrambling an overnight bag together, I found myself in Paris listening to how the HPC international supply chain can learn extensively from the two ongoing EPR projects close to completion in France (Flamanville 3) and in China (Taishan). I got the chance to visit FA3 recently (see picture below) and in my next blog will divulge the details.

Taishan, in China, taking shape

Me (left) with my mentor at Flamanville 3

Similarly, I accompanied the HPC International Supply Chain Lead to the Civil Nuclear Showcase 2017, organised by the UK Government Department for International Trade. The two day event took place at a London hotel hosting international delegates, industry experts, politicians and CEOs to promote the revival of the UK nuclear industry. It was particularly interesting to appreciate the perspectives of the Japanese and German delegates/companies, given their recent abrupt scale back in nuclear production. Seeing the other side of the debate is always worthwhile, whether in agreement or not.

Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr Liam Fox delivering a key note speech at the Civil Nuclear Showcase 2017

Contract Management

During my time in Bristol (and London) I worked in the field of Contract Management across three varied contract formats.  I helped roll out newly developed contract management software in the Project Management Office team, giving me an oversight of how the HPC project was managed from a resource perspective. I also worked on a high value Balance of Nuclear Plant contract, helping with the day to day management of the contract. Towards the end of my placement, my team leader sent me to London to spend time with the Institutional Contract team to observe how the institutional contracts between NNB and EDF Energy, EDF, CGN and UK Government are arranged, governed and managed on a daily basis. Developing a deeper understanding of how the international stakeholders relationships are structured, gave substance to the strategy, organisation and culture modules undertaken during my first two years at the University of Bath.

A few stats about HPC

Financial Management

Aware of my interest in the Financial Management of the HPC Project, my manager arranged for me to spend time working with the financial controls team in London. Working with the financial tools and models used to manage a project of this magnitude was an eye opening experience. I was immediately struck by the sheer financial complexity of the numbers behind HPC, testament to the years of dedicated hard work from all relevant stakeholders. This area of work was probably the most relatable to the modules I have completed at Bath (and during academic exchange in Mexico) such as: Project Finance, Corporate Finance and International Accounting for Managers.


Before heading  out to Paris for 4 months on an expat traineeship, EDF Energy provided me with private French tuition for 4-6 hours a week (within office hours) to help with work place integration and life outside work in Paris. French isn’t required to undertake the work in Paris, but is certainly useful. This is an example of the way EDF Energy is keen to invest in all employees. For me personally, being given the opportunity to learn a second language in my placement year was a real bonus.

Next time I`ll be talking about my 4 month expat assignment working for EDF in their Procurement Division for Nuclear Engineering in Paris, including work trips around France. À bientôt


HPC Supply-Chain Innovation Placement Blog


📥  School of Management

First things first

Currently writing from Paris, in the midst of a`canicule` (French for heatwave), this blog aims to give students a flavour of what working in the fields of supply chain management/complex project management entails. Similarly, I’ll be providing a unique insight into my EDF Energy Hinkley Point C (HPC) International Placement year to raise awareness and promote the different job opportunities available with EDF Energy, in light of the new partnership with the University of Bath.

The bulk of my blog posts will be focused around my role for EDF Energy on the HPC project,  high profile events I’ve attended, the international aspect of my placement and how the modules I’ve taken during my first two years at the University of Bath (and during my academic exchange in Mexico) have helped me along the way. With blog publications every couple of weeks, why not read for a glimpse into a placement year that has truly ticked all the boxes.

A little about me

I`m a 3rd year BSc (Hons) in International Management student at the University of Bath with a desire to pursue a career in the low carbon energy industry after graduating. Initially, I applied for placements in the renewable energy sector in Europe (solar and wind predominantly), without considering nuclear. However, when the chance to work on the world’s largest low carbon energy investment arose, it was an opportunity I simply couldn’t refuse (all will be revealed in good time).

I had already secured an academic exchange at ITESM in Mexico for semester one, therefore I deliberately tailored my modules to the work I would be doing for EDF Energy upon my return: supply chain management, project finance, logistics and Spanish (maybe not so useful considering I am now based in Paris).

What is HPC?

Now you`re probably thinking `Okay, but what is Hinkley Point C`? Well, you can find out here. Or, strain your eyes below on the artist’s impression of the multi-billion nuclear construction project of two European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) on the coast of Somerset. HPC will soon be the largest construction site in Europe. More photos can be found on the @hinkleypointc Instagram account.

Artist`s impression of Hinkley Point C when completed


Me enjoying my weekends in Mexico

Participating in an induction day at ITESM, Puebla (Mexico)

Introducing the ‘EDF Energy HPC International Placement’

An exciting new research partnership between EDF Energy and the University of Bath, School of Management has now been established – The HPC Supply Chain Innovation Lab. EDF Energy naturally want to offer placements to University of Bath, School of Management students. I am the inaugural BSc in International Management (BIM) student, so here’s a brief overview of how my International Placement was set up.

The competitive recruitment process consisted of a cover letter/CV, followed by a 1 hour interview with the Commercial Director of the HPC Project Ken Owen and a senior member of his staff. After successfully being chosen for the role, I subsequently went to meet Ken again in July 2016 to organise the details of my placement before heading to Mexico.

Ken made it very clear that the sheer size and complexity of the project meant a placement student would be able to choose from a variety of business/management disciplines to work in: supply chain management, procurement, contract management, finance, human resources, law and the list continues.

You won`t find many Commercial Directors willing to engage with a placement student on such a personal level, showing the high level of attention he has for all young people wanting to join the field of supply chain/contract/project management. We decided to split my 8 months by locations and areas of work to suit my specific interests:

Bristol/London (3 months)- Contract Management, International Supply Chain Management & Finance
Paris (4 months)- Procurement
Bristol/London (1 months)- International Supply Chain Management and Finance

Until next time

I hope my first blog provided a clear introduction into the HPC project, the link between University of Bath and EDF Energy and the EDF Energy HPC International Placement. My next blog will give you an insight in to my day to day work during my three months in Bristol/London. Specifically, working personally with the Head of International Supply Chain on the HPC Project, helping to roll out contract management software for multi-million pound contracts and analysing a multi-billion pound project using complex financial models. Stay tuned.


Review of Engineering Placement Year


📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph

I am now coming to the end of my year-long placement as an engineer at a Plymouth firm called Pipex px®. In this post, I will attempt to give you a brief summary of the highs and lows of my experience. If you have not yet decided whether to do a placement perhaps this post will help you make up your mind. If you are in the process of applying to the University of Bath (I really hope you are!) then this piece will fill you in on everything that the placement scheme at Bath offers.

If you look back to the blog post I wrote at the start of my placement year you will be able to get a more in depth feel for the first few weeks. However, for the sake of completeness, I will recap those weeks in this post, giving you the ‘full package’. Moreover, I can now put those weeks into perspective and make relative comparisons against what I now know about the real world of work – scary stuff!

Without further ado, here is my placement year, condensed into several short paragraphs. I shall start at the beginning…

"My colleagues, managers and directors could not have been more helpful"

As far as I am concerned, the first three months of placement felt like a real whirlwind. As expected, I had a lot of names to remember and a lot of protocol to learn before I could begin real projects in earnest. A formal training programme saw me through my first few weeks and for the following two months I wrestled with some introductory projects. During these months, time flew by very quickly as everything I was experiencing was completely new to me. I had to learn exactly what processes the engineering team followed to see projects through to completion and since I hadn’t been there very long this led to lots of questions. Fortunately, my colleagues, managers and directors could not have been more helpful and I quickly learned that there is no such thing as a stupid question. The wages earned during placement year are a real bonus- having money to spend outside of work was such a novel for thing for me and I made sure to make the best use of my free time; every evening and at weekends. I could suddenly afford cheap flights and trains here and there and I made sure to use these offers to my advantage – it was great! I kept fit by popping down to the local rowing club at least two evenings a week. I think that being a member of a local gym or sports club like this is really beneficial as exercise gave me the opportunity to clear my mind, keep healthy and remember that there was life outside of work.

Not a bad way to unwind at the weekend!

Not a bad way to unwind at the weekend!

Between the months of October and April I really had my work cut out. I was lucky enough to be part of a team working on a huge project in Switzerland and this kept me fully occupied for over 6 months. I gained real responsibilities and learned so many skills associated with managing large, time-constrained projects worth millions of pounds to the company. At the time, it felt like a real baptism of fire but now that office life is coming to an end I am really grateful and honoured that I was able to work on such an important project. Although overtime was necessary and I even worked over the Christmas holiday period to make sure things got done, I was still free at weekends to do whatever I wanted and this was just brilliant. It is always worth remembering that whilst studying at university, even at weekends students are burdened with upcoming coursework, hand-ins and revision. In the real world of work, at weekends, I was completely and utterly free to do whatever I wanted and whilst on placement I had a little extra cash in my back pocket to fund the next adventure too.

In the spring time, it was very satisfying to see the large project I had been working on come to a close. I was able to make sure everything I did was left in an orderly manner and tie up any loose ends. As far as my engineering know-how was concerned it was also extremely useful to see the steps taken by large firms to bottom out massive projects and make sure that all work carried out can be accounted for commercially. Although not directly applicable to my studies, I am very excited to bring back my new-found organisational skillset to everything I do in Bath while studying Integrated Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. One thing placement has reinforced is that organisation is key – I am very confident that I will be able to apply this to many aspects of my life after placement, and not just academia.

"I had been given various roles in a range of projects and had so many new opportunities to learn and grow as an engineer"

As my contract at Pipex began to run down and months left turned into weeks, I made sure to take time to consolidate everything I had learned. As suggested by the ever-helpful placement team at the University of Bath, I regularly wrote notes on everything I was learning whilst on placement and kept an up to date notebook of my year. This was very helpful when it came to writing my final placement report. As an engineer on placement it is necessary to write a lengthy report documenting everything that you have done whilst on placement (in the long run, this report acts as a mock-up of the report that must be submitted to our accrediting professional body e.g. the Institute of Mechanical Engineers). With this in mind, I made sure to include as much detail as possible in my report. As it happens, the process of writing this report was worthwhile; it brought home the fact that I had done so much in the space of just one year. I had been given various roles in a range of projects and had so many new opportunities to learn and grow as an engineer – the work I was involved with was so far removed from anything I had ever done before but in each situation I was able to adapt my skills and deal with any problems. I am proud of what I have achieved and I must thank the very supportive engineering team at Pipex for all their help, support and tolerance.

So there we have it, a whistle stop tour of all things placement – this time with some perspective. Although not always sunshine and rainbows, the whole experience has been unforgettable and put me in a fantastic place for the future, whether that be in engineering or elsewhere. As always, the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Bath have gone ‘above and beyond’ to make sure that I am not only happy, healthy and safe whilst away from campus but also that I lay solid foundations for professional accreditation when I graduate.

If you have any questions relating to placement as an engineer please do leave a comment below and I will do everything I can to make sure your questions get answered. - happy to help wherever I can – placement is such a valuable year…


Engineering placement - getting into the swing of things!


📥  Joseph

I am now four months into my placement (you can read all about the start of my placement here) and I am in the thick of it. I am slowly becoming more confident around my colleagues and my level of responsibility is also rising. Outside of my working day I am keeping incredibly busy and the weeks, months, and seasons are flying by faster than ever. In this blog post I will run you through my working week to try to give you an idea of what makes my placement year such a storming success.

Whilst at Bath I developed an affinity for the sport of rowing. Indeed, despite the fact that I am working 8 till 5 Monday to Friday, and am often away from home at weekends, I am still able to satisfy my desire to train on the go and even get into a crew boat from time to time. Hoorah!

Training in picturesque Devon

Training in picturesque Devon

My average working week starts at 0700 on Monday morning. After my weekly fill up at the petrol station and short commute into Plymouth I am at my desk and ready to go by 0745, as is the norm throughout the week. My working week, as a member of the engineering services team at Pipex px is always varied with a mixture of computer work- manipulating 3D models, line beam analyses, stress calculation and production of engineering drawings; as well as a variety of meetings, discussions and paperwork- much as you would expect from a busy engineering house I suppose. It goes without saying that I thoroughly enjoy my time at work and there is ample opportunity to challenge myself on a day to day basis.

What I have found to be most liberating whilst on placement is that once the office doors close and lights go off, I am free to make the most of my time outside of work, in the beautiful south-west. Moreover, my placement salary means that I am now able to afford many of the things that I could not justify on my student budget. This new-found freedom and liberation from looming university deadlines has inevitably resulted in my ‘working week’ becoming a rollercoaster of activity. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings I can be found at my local rowing club training with the senior men’s team. This is a great opportunity for me to socialise with other people of my own age, away from the office environment. On Thursday evenings, I go to a local French class. At this class I have met new people and have found that it acts as a respite from my maths-heavy engineering job – a perfect way to mix up the week.

On Fridays, having finished work slightly earlier at 1600, I am almost always seated on a train to another part of the county (or in some cases, world) before 1800. I am very proud to say that I have not yet had a weekend with nothing to do. Instead I have always managed to plan an exciting activity for the weekend ahead (all in my lunch break of course). On my enhanced placement student budget I have travelled to Brussels, Geneva, London, Cheltenham, the Isle of Wight and of course, even Bath – all during my precious two-day weekends! On top of this I have been able to afford an intensive powerboat course at a Plymouth Marina – something I would never have dreamed of being able to afford before my placement year – a real treat!

Even better still, the placement team in Bath are just as supportive now as they were when I was applying for placements. I have now submitted, and received feedback on, my interim placement report – a report describing the kind of things I have been up to whilst on placement. This report not only allows for my placement supervisor to keep an eye on my projects whilst away from Bath, but also acts as a fantastic record of what exactly I have done during my whirlwind time at work! In fact, my placement supervisor, the Dean of Mechanical Engineering no less, Professor Gary Hawley, has even been to visit me at work. This was great opportunity to show the University where I am working and what I have been up to. We discussed the future, my progress and where I can look to gain even more experience in the immediate future. This visit was much more insightful than I ever expected and I am really glad that the University Placement Office makes such things obligatory.

All the while I am taking log of all of the skills that I am developing whilst on placement in my personal development record (PDR). The Bath PDR is based on the specification as required by professional bodies such as the IMechE and hence, in filling out my log, I am actually taking my first steps towards professional affiliation after I graduate – a streak of ingenuity from the Bath Placement Office yet again!

Well there we go, a whistle stop tour of my ‘normal’ week on placement at Pipex px in Plymouth. When I applied for the IMEE course at Bath I was not planning to enrol on the placement year. In the first few months of my first year I was persuaded to sign up for the placement scheme. If I have not already made it absolutely clear – how glad I am that I did make that change! As always, I will keep you posted.


Starting my Industrial Placement


📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph, Second year

As some of you may already know, I am currently on my placement as part of the ‘year in industry’ scheme available to the vast majority of students at Bath - the Electronic Engineering Department is no exception. To be quite honest, when I joined Bath back in 2014, I didn’t really envisage going on placement and I was certainly very apprehensive about taking time out of my studies to work for a year. How naïve I must have been? Going to just one of the many talks provided by the engineering placement team persuaded me of all of the benefits of taking a year to experience industry in its fullest. One thing that really surprised me is quite how much information is available to students about the placement year, which, in general, doesn’t even take place in Bath. The placement team could not have been more helpful. I attended loads of lectures about the year away prior to even applying for a placement scheme and now that I am on placement, I can say with confidence, that this level of support carries on which is fantastic.

The myriad of connections Bath University has with the engineering industry worldwide means that the number of placement schemes listed on the University Moodle Server feels unending and really allows for a very personal and thoughtful choice of which schemes or jobs to apply for. Personally, I wanted to find a relevant, well known, engineering company in the South-West. A country boy, I didn’t think I could handle the bright lights of the city just yet. Fortunately, this was no problem at all with hundreds of placement opportunities dotted about the South-West region. This range of choice meant that I needn’t apply for jobs outside of my search radius as there were numerous opportunities within it.

Having followed the very thorough and helpful instructions provided by the university team, I was quick to send off several cover letters and applications for various jobs in the South-West including Babcock, Centrax and Pipex px NOV. At this stage, out of the control of the swift acting placement office, it was a waiting game to see what opportunities materialised; meanwhile the placement team were flooding me with further options into the summer months as other positions became available.

I was very lucky to be accepted by a Plymouth based company called Pipex px who have recently been acquired by the American engineering giants National Oilwell Varco (NOV). Pipex px NOV is proving to be a really worthwhile placement scheme and I am benefiting from the wealth of experience and opportunity across the now enlarged global company.

Following a swift induction to the organisation I was set to work right away. Moreover, I wasn’t just making cups of tea – from day one I was able to apply the skills learned at Bath to real world engineering problems. One of the things that has surprised me most thus far is how much the employer appreciates the Bath IMEE course and recognises the vast skill set I have developed at Bath. From minute one I understood that my presence within the Engineering Services Department was on a very professional basis as I was assigned an audacious desk space, an engineering grade PC and four screens to play with – yes, four computer screens!

My favourite lunch break destination on the Moors

My favourite lunch break destination on the Moors

Another of the many things that I have come to appreciate during my first few weeks is just how tailored my Integrated Mechanical and Electrical engineering course is to the requirements of engineers in industry. I have already been contracted to design, model and draw a water filtering system – skills that I have ‘mastered’ during the first two years of my degree course. To my surprise, the system which I have designed has already been sent to the factory for production - albeit a prototype -  to be sent to various sales teams in the States. How extraordinary?! I would not have been able to do any of this if it had not been for the rigorous design modules that I have studied in Bath.

Always kept on my toes, it was not long before I was requested to ponder over some beam calculations as part of a feasibility study. This was a real test of my memory, having studied statics as part of the Solid Mechanics course in year one. To my relief, I was able to re-enrol on the course using the University Moodle Server – something I never thought I would do. Yet another pleasant surprise.

It goes without saying that my CAD skills have been completely overhauled since entering the professional workplace and I very much look forward to becoming better and better in such fields. I already fully understand why the year in industry is so recommended by the Bath team and I cannot wait to re-enter year three with the array of new skills I will develop over the next year. As always, I will keep you posted…


Adventures in the Netherlands

  , , ,

📥  Faculty of Science, Postgraduate

I struggled for breath as my body was in free fall. Some people apparently hate this feeling when a plane descends. I loved it. It almost felt like the thrill of a roller coaster, and I was a kid again wishing it would take yet another dive. This plane was about to land in the Netherlands. For my CDT placement, I was going to do research there for six weeks with my project partner, Emma.

It was a quiet January night when we arrived in Nijmegen, a city near the Netherlands–Germany border. Our supervisor, Alix, welcomed us and showed the way to our apartment. She had a calm and thoughtful demeanour, just as I remembered over Skype when she briefed us on the project.

Emma and I were going to test a thermometer for use at temperatures below –200 °C. Weird things happen when stuff is this cold, one example being superfluidity [1]. Traditional thermometers measure expansion and contraction of mercury in a glass tube, whereas digital thermometers measure changes in electrical resistance across metals like platinum. Both types, classed as secondary thermometers, can be a problem for researchers: at low temperatures, they lose calibration. That’s why for our project, we were to test a primary thermometer which doesn’t need calibration. The catch? It takes over ten minutes for a single temperature measurement. This involves software plotting a conductance–voltage curve whose full width at half maximum is directly proportional to temperature via known constants. Despite long measurement times, primary thermometers are worthwhile for researchers needing reliable results in low-temperature physics.

When we reached our apartment, the lab where we’d be working was close enough to be seen out the window. How convenient. It took only a few minutes to walk there, but it felt like going through a freezer. The sharp difference in temperature between well-heated buildings and outside made even Alix grumble.


[View from the 7th floor of our guesthouse apartment in Nijmegen, Netherlands. We worked in the High-Field Magnet Laboratory (HFML) seen on the right with curved architecture.]

The lab itself was the High-Field Magnet Laboratory (HFML) where magnetic fields up to 37.5 Tesla can be reached; for comparison, a fridge magnet has a strength of 0.005 Tesla. Magnetic fields are often used in low-temperature experiments to reveal more information about samples like a magnifying glass. The downside is that magnetic fields affect thermometers so they need to be monitored and accounted for when calculating temperature. It turns out that unlike other primary thermometers, the specific type we were to test—a Coulomb blockade thermometer—was expected to be independent of magnetic fields. Confirming this would be useful for researchers in the HFML.

Everyone in the HFML was friendly and supportive. Ineke helped us settle in and was a joy to be around, and Olga went out of her busy way to help us when needed. We couldn’t be more grateful. Someone I admired, Inge, whistled and strolled around the lab as if she had springs in her steps. She’s a confident person, able to fully express herself with infectiously enthusiastic body language. Another researcher, Laurens, noticed Emma’s lip ring.

“Do you have piercings in other parts of your body?”
Emma let out a big smile and confirmed his curiosity.
“That’s all I needed to know."

Cycling is the norm in the Netherlands, so we borrowed bikes to explore Nijmegen. The trouble was that I hadn’t ridden a bike for over a decade. It had been many years for Emma, too. Unsurprisingly, we had a rough start when riding again. Emma fell and scraped her knee. If she felt embarrassed, that soon disappeared with what happened to me in the hours ahead.


[Bikes parked outside Nijmegen train station. There are more levels below ground, and this is a typical sight in the Netherlands.]

While crossing the road, I almost got run over by cars. It was my fault, though. I was so focused on trying to ride in a straight line that I forgot traffic goes in the opposite direction here. And yes, I should have looked both ways, but learning to ride a bike again in foreign land threw me off big time. Along not-so-straight lines, we continued onwards to the city centre. “We came all this way to another country and the first store we go into is Primark?” I saw the irony that Emma was referring to, but we needed towels and knew Primark would sell them. After exploring the city centre, we returned to our bikes parked beside an overflowing bike rack. I managed to topple over an entire row. The bikes fell like dominoes. Paralysed to react, I could only watch, but onlookers generously helped me pick them up afterwards. At least on our ride back to the apartment, I finally saw someone looking shaky with eyes down on her front wheel.

"Emma, look, someone else is learning to ride too!"
"Aye, but she's half our age.”

Back in the HFML, reaching low temperatures for our thermometer involved putting it in a cryostat. This was a freezer cooled by liquid nitrogen and liquid helium. We glued the thermometer onto a 2 m long metal rod—a probe—to be placed inside the cryostat, and then soldered wiring to connect the thermometer to a computer where measurements can be read. Emma and I did our best to get it all working, but we would later find that this wasn’t enough.


[Cylindrical cryostat supported by a triangular structure and attached to a liquid helium vessel. Cables connected the thermometer to a computer where temperature measurements can be read.]

On one weekend, we crossed the border to the German city of Düsseldorf. It was like little Japan, so we went to Okinii, an all-we-can-eat Japanese restaurant. Emma showed me how to use chopsticks, but I could have downed more food if I had practice beforehand. We also had drinks at a restaurant 170 m high in the Rhine Tower. Seeing Düsseldorf from up there was most memorable, even if Emma hadn’t shattered her glass by accidentally pushing it off the table. When evening settled, we stopped by a street drummer called Oded Kafri [2]. As an introvert, I find it difficult to connect with others, yet here was a person who used music and theatrics to connect with and entertain the crowd. I was inspired.


[Rhine Tower (Rheinturm) is the tallest building in Düsseldorf, Germany. It’s 240.5 m high with an observation deck and restaurant at 170 m.]

"All hopes and dreams have been shattered", Emma wrote in her lab book. Dramatic, but it's how we felt when seeing a dozen wires had snapped from disconnecting our stubborn probe. It wasn't the first nor last time that snapping wires stopped our progress. Experimental physics was showing us no mercy. Eventually, with practice and patience, snapping wires no longer troubled us. However, the software didn't plot conductance–voltage curves correctly but instead gave scattered data points. This lasted for weeks. Having ruled out experimental errors, we could only conclude that there was something broken inside the thermometer. Alix’s plan was to contact the manufacturer for assistance and possibly get a replacement, but we wouldn’t be around to see the conclusion. Our time in the Netherlands had come to an end. Hopefully, Alix doesn’t have as much trouble when working on the thermometer herself.

It seems that progress can make the difference between a frustrating project and a fulfilling one. Although our project was the former, Alix was sympathetic and reassured us that these things happen. Sometimes, things are beyond our control. We may not have achieved much research-wise, but that doesn't mean the CDT placement wasn’t worthwhile. Far from it.

[1] More about superfluidity and our CDT in my previous blog here.
[2] Feel free to search for Oded Kafri on YouTube!

The build up to applying for a placement


📥  Faculty of Engineering, Joseph, Second year

In addition to the hectic schedule of second year engineering, it is also expected that we start to look for placements for our year in industry. For the majority of engineers at Bath, both electrical, integrated and mechanical, a year in industry is something that is really appealing. Bath is renowned for its strong placement office, and I know that both I and my colleagues chose Bath due to its strong links with industry, both in the UK and abroad.

In this blog post I hope to give you a brief description of how I’ve gone about searching for the placement that is right for me and the support offered by the university. Given the number of industries Bath has links with, as well as all of the other placements advertised worldwide, it really is a mind boggling situation and guidance is important in terms of finding the placement that is correct for you – thank goodness I’m at Bath…

At first I was very worried about the rush to secure a placement. For some reason I imagined that the list of places available would be limited and that only a lucky few would find a position, let alone a role that they suited and they were enthusiastic about. Oh dear, I could not have been more wrong. Since I signed up to the placement scheme at the end of my summer holidays I have been inundated with emails from the placement office saying that numerous new roles have been announced. Day in, day out, the emails arrive and hundreds upon hundreds of places are on offer. This immediately calmed my nerves and I was able to relax and really dig through the list of placements available to find a select few I was really interested in. This was no easy feat, but I was very glad to have too many placement opportunities to consider than too few!

I quickly learned to be very, very selective with the placements I researched. Given the sheer number of opportunities available, I was even able to choose some jobs on the basis of their location and where I’d like to live, irrespective of the role being advertised – what a luxury! For some of the bigger companies, especially those that are expecting a lot of applicants, the deadline for applying was early on in the semester and many of my course mates worked hard to get their CVs and cover letters submitted in time. For the majority of placements however, the application deadline is very relaxed and most placements do not expect applications until semester two (after the Christmas break – hoorah!).

As I opted to apply for these companies (as opposed to the bigger names in industry), I had plenty of time to put hours into researching the role and planned to write my cover letters during the Christmas break. Moreover, this time frame enabled me to really focus on the coursework throughout the semester and allowed me time to fulfill my duties as one of the captains on the rowing team.

For those who were organised during the summer break, myself included, the placement office wasted no time in amending CVs that were sent to them. This is one of the things I have appreciated most about the placement office. The team were very thorough in optimizing and correcting my CV appropriately whilst considering the types of jobs that I would be applying for. This resulted in a complete overhaul of the CV I had thrown together over the summer and made my CV look very polished indeed.

Having chosen a few placements that intrigued me, I set about checking all of the details associated with the roles; job description, size of the company, location, accommodation and so on. I was in no rush and could ring home to discuss things I was unsure of. After all of this, if I had any questions concerning the application or what to do next (I always did), I sent an email to the placement office. They were always very, very speedy to reply and the advice they gave was reassuring. Often they pointed me in the direction of the Moodle page where a massive amount of information is listed, including the experiences of past placement students as well as databases of where everyone else has applied – this is particularly useful when it comes to finding somewhere to live during a year in industry!

My biggest concern during this time was missing out on placements that were not yet announced and subscribing for placements I was not completely bowled over by prematurely. This problem was quickly resolved after questioning the placement team. The team was very understanding (I imagine they are asked some questions over and over) and told me to write a letter to respective employers in advance if I was aware that their placement scheme was yet to be announced. This reassured me further and has resulted in a very stress free experience altogether.

In addition to all of this, throughout the semester there were also seminars hosted by the team which guided us in writing and submitting applications, interview technique and what to expect when we finally got to the job. All in all, I have been tremendously impressed by the efforts the university makes to make this big decision as easy and stress free as possible. Prior to coming to Bath I was very naïve and somewhat unaware of this massive opportunity. All I can say now is that I am extra-glad I came to Bath and it is a real advantage to be part of a department that is so involved with our jump into industry.

Click here to read more blogs about placements at Bath



Surviving Second Year Architecture


📥  Charlotte, Faculty of Engineering, Second year

Second year. The year the work load increases dramatically. The year that people expect you to actually know things and, for Architecture Students, the hardest year of the undergraduate course.

Or so we were told in our introductory lecture at the beginning of the year.

I mean, thank you head of year for gently easing us back into university life after a summer spent free of work load and responsibility. The pre-crit stress that we all felt last year (reduced to a distant memory whilst sipping Piña Coladas on the beach in Zanzibar) came back into focus as we were given the course outline in the same room that we had pinned up and presented our work in only months previously.

In just one semester we had 2 projects, 6 assignments and 1 exam. Now, this may not seem like a lot to anyone who has yet to study architecture but trust me, the two projects alone are enough to raise your blood pressure.

Yet, the thought of February and of relative freedom whilst on placement kept us sane as we struggled through each of our assignments. Yes, unlike any other architectural course, Bath offers a ‘Thin Sandwich Placement Course’ which essentially means that instead of undertaking a year of practical experience in the third year, you do two half year placements; one in semester two of second year and the other in semester two of third year. This is designed so that each experience prepares you for the following university year as well as giving you the opportunity to work in two different practices in order to expand your knowledge of the breadth of architectural practices.

Now, this does cause housing problems especially if you decide you want to go home for placement, venture to London or go even further afield rather than staying in the Bath or Bristol area. You will need to find another student to swap your tenancy with for the second semester but the university will help you with this. There is a business course which has placement at opposite times to architecture students thus typically a group of architects will be replaced by a group of BBA’s after January exams.

Unfortunately, this swap means that you do need to vacate your residency prior to the start of semester two and you may not necessarily have secured a placement by that time. Thus, you are either forced to return home or like some of my friends, to camp out on their sofas as their BBA friends took over their bedrooms.

I, however, decided to remain in Bath for placement meaning I still (thank god) have free rein over my bedroom. It’s depressing though, as the semester starts and I have still yet to find a placement, I find myself wishing that like my flatmates I too have lectures to go to and work to do. Instead my days are blank. I have sent out applications to 29 practices in Bath and I constantly refresh my inbox expecting a gushing email off someone begging me to work for them any minute.

7 have replied to me so far. 5 to say they are sorry but cannot offer me a placement at this time but that they are impressed with my portfolio blah blah blah. 1 is reviewing my application and 1 has asked me for interview. So now I am counting down the days to said date.

Portfolio ready for Interview

Portfolio ready for Interview

During the first semester I dreamed of being free. Now, I dream of a project of sorts to keep me occupied. Don’t get me wrong, the first few nights of going to bed without setting an alarm were bliss. I could wake mid-morning and not have to move until my rumbling stomach made it impossible to hear what McDreamy was saying on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. But, quickly the novelty of doing nothing all day has worn off. It’s funny, starting a series when you actually have time to watch multiple episodes a day is not as fun as beginning ‘Gossip Girl’ a few weeks before June deadlines last year.

Helping out at Bath Cats and Dogs Home

Helping out at Bath Cats and Dogs Home

In order to pass the days, I have re-organised my whole bedroom, carried out a much needed clean of the bathroom, volunteered more frequently at ‘Bath Cats and Dogs Home’ and even cycled to and from Bristol one day when I was feeling extra motivated to leave the house.

My newly organised bedroom

My newly organised bedroom

I spent over two hours in Bristol’s Starbucks finishing my book and recovering before forcing myself to remount for the 13 miles back to Bath. It is a lovely sign posted off road route which is relatively flat except a few assents on the outskirts of Bristol. Definitely a must do for anyone who has a bike in Bath – though it does get a little busy during peak commute/school times. A bell is a useful investment; I could only politely yell at the school kids to get out of my way.

The Bath to Bristol Cycle Way

The Bath to Bristol Cycle Way

I am really excited to start a placement and to be working full time – partly so that I can truthfully sing Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ but also so that I can experience life as a grown up and decide whether or not it’s what I want to be. I’m not sure how useful I will be to the lucky practice who hires me, but I guess I’m a fast learner. At least that’s what I will tell them in my interview tomorrow.

Wish me luck.


Applying for a year abroad


📥  Matt, School of Management, Second year

There are certain expectations that you should set for yourself if you're planning to go to university.

  1. Someone will always steal your milk and not own up to it
  2. You will often be faced with the choice of going to your 9:15am lecture or sleeping in
  3. You are going to spend most of your Christmas holidays studying for January exams.

Personally, the third one is holding true at the moment but this year I am also in the midst of applying for placements for my year abroad. As part of my International Management & Modern Languages (French) degree, or FIMML for short, I spend my third year in France. I have 12 months abroad and this can be spent in any of the following combinations:

  1. 12 months placement
  2. 12 months in a French business school
  3. 6 months placement / 6 months business school.

For anyone who is considering applying to France, it is worth noting that the French government has just brought in a law which restricts placements to 6 months maximum within any organisation. In order to spend 12 months in a French placement, it is now necessary to apply for two separate 6 month placements in different departments of the same company or different companies altogether. My cohort is the first to experience this new law and therefore it will be interesting to see how it all plays out!


From the offset, our year abroad officer, Ninon, has been brilliant in preparing us for our applications. I will not get bogged down in the details of the preparation but if you attend all her presentations which will be scheduled into your timetable, you will be ready to start applying. In terms of learning to write French CVs and cover letters, this will be dealt with in your french seminars but it is coordinated between Ninon and the seminar tutors. For this reason, I would say it is crucial that you do not skip any of your French seminars in 2nd year.

Ninon's presentations have included:

  • A presentation on all the different business schools
  • Advice on applying for placements
  • Organised meetings with 4th year students who have just returned from their year abroad, and much more.

All of this information has helped me to make an informed decision on how I want to spend my year abroad and I'm going to attempt to apply for two 6 months placements. I've actually just submitted my first application and am now moving onto my second so let's discuss that and see how straightforward it was.

If you want to go to a business school, it acts like an exchange. Uni of Bath takes some of their students and in return they take some of ours. There are a number of prestigious French business schools which you can apply to including multiple ones in Paris, Strasbourg and Nancy. You'll be inserted into one of the business courses and complete your modules in French. These marks are then converted and added to your degree at Bath. I had the pleasure of visiting Nancy last June and it is a beautiful city in the east of France. I was also in Strasbourg train station however, I'm not sure if that counts.

Nancy Ville, France

Nancy Ville, France


Around November, companies will start making placements available to apply for. These will be sent to your year abroad officer and they will then post them on Moodle. Moodle is an online service which every university student has access to with their online login details. It also contains all your course and module resources. Once on Moodle, you can download the job advertisement, see the application deadline, see who you need to send your applications to etc.

My first application was to a company called Thales. They're a huge global company, specialising in defense, aerospace and security and all those sorts of things. Thales, like many other companies will have a good relationship with University of Bath because of our fantastic reputation. As a result, some of the placements advertised will be exclusively for University of Bath students which reduces the competition to your cohort.

Some applications will ask you for a CV and cover letter in French or English. I chose to send both in french because the next step will be a Skype interview in french. My logic is that if I have already submitted two documents in good French, my interviewers will already have faith that I can write well in french on the chance that I stumble with my french in the interview. It is worth bearing in mind that most companies will appreciate that you are not yet fluent and the point of the year abroad will be to become fluent in french so there is some leeway (apparently). Still, you want to impress them right?

Another useful tip is to try and get into contact with any Bath students who have either had a placement with the company or are currently on placement with the company. I am really lucky because I actually have a friend who is on her year abroad with Thales at the moment. Well, I use the word friend. To her I'm probably just the annoying Irish kid who is constantly begging for help with his CV at 2am (3am in Paris). If you're reading this, I'm sorry but also thank you. Yeah. Moving swiftly on.

So I typed up my cover letter which was one page long; I tweaked my CV to make it specific to the role I was applying to and I emailed it to Thales. It was right before the Christmas holidays so I don't expect a reply for a little while. However, I'm going to send another one tomorrow and hope that I get an interview for at least one of them. In the meantime, I'm going to go back to spending time with my dog. It is Christmas day after all. Happy Holidays!

My Dog 


Second year counts


📥  International student, Mirella, School of Management

In first year everything is fun and giggles. You find everything exciting, as it is your first year at university. Of course, not everything is so fun (see my other post “Rollercoaster” for more information on this). However, second year is a completely different experience.

You have already made friends, you know your way around town and university and you already know you like to do with your free time. This should of course not discourage you to try out new things in second year or make no new friendships. In fact I have made some new and strengthened some loose friendships. The main difference is though that “Second year counts”.

Second year counts

What does this actually mean? First year is there to make it easier for us students to get into the vibe of university. You get to know your course, you learn how to write essays and you learn about plagiarism and more importantly how to avoid it. This is why your grades in first year do not count towards your final grade. It is one of the wonderful things university has to offer. It allows students to live a little bit. However, students should not forget that grades are still important if you want to secure a placement. Most employers are looking for a minimum of a 2:1, which means you have to get over 60%. If you attend regularly lectures and revise before the exams, chances are high of attaining a 2:1, even with experiencing Freshers' life to the full.

Second year counts 32% towards your final grade. What an odd number to be honest. As this grade might decide about your future, if you think about your employability after university, it is important what grades you achieve in second year. This puts a little bit of pressure on.

However, not only do you have to worry about your grades but you also have to secure a placement for your third year. Personally, this stresses me a little. While I am writing this, I am on my Christmas break at home. Unfortunately, it is not a real break like the summer holidays. I regard it more as three weeks at home, which I have to devote to studying. Obviously, I don’t revise all the time.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Merry Christmas everyone!

After all, I still have holidays and I want to celebrate Christmas and New Years Eve.  As a student you also have to relax after the deadline horror of courseworks before the end of the semester. However, I do spend at least an hour or two every day revising. Obviously, I will increase this devoted time in revision week because as you already know “Second year counts” and five exams are quite a lot to write within two weeks.

How to spend the holidays in second year

How to spend the holidays in second year

The rest of the time of my Christmas holiday I spent worrying about my placement. I am not too anxious about not securing a placement. The placement team is trying to be really helpful and there are a lot of opportunities to apply for placements but I would rather have one sooner than later. Furthermore, you still have to apply for these placements and it takes quite a lot of time to write a good cover letter. It does not help though if your grandmother is constantly asking you if you have finally found work or if your family just talks about you finding a placement during the Christmas dinner. So if anybody is reading this and wants to offer me a placement, just leave a comment. I would be really grateful, it just has to be 12-months long, be in the field of marketing and hopefully the paycheck at the end of the month can cover my rent!

Optimistic outlook

I hope I haven’t frightened anybody about university. I still think it was the best decision of my life to study at the University of Bath. However, second year and especially semester one of second year is not easy at all. Hopefully, second semester will be better. To be honest, I already know second semester will be better. I will have secured a placement and I will know where I will live. Most importantly though: I will only write two exams in May. This takes a lot of pressure from me as I prefer coursework over exams. Wish me luck!