A Graduate Perspective: Working in a Green Career

Posted in: Alumni Case Study, Career Choice, Internships, Sector Insight, Subject Related Careers

Following on from the University's Green Week, here's a guest blog from Olly Stewart, a Bath graduate and Senior Development Engineer, on how he's using his engineering skills to make manufacturing processes more sustainable.

My name's Olly, I studied Mechanical Engineering at Bath from 2016 to 2020, managing to secure a graduate job just before the COVID pandemic struck; below is my experience of combating the climate crisis through my engineering career.

I initially applied for Edwards Vacuum because, although I'd never heard of them, they had a strong focus on sustainability through science, with the role being within the research and development group.

The application process consisted of a single assessment day, with a group exercise, an individual interview, and a prepared presentation. I had relevant placement experience from two summer’s spent at a science laboratory in Oxford, which gave me an interesting presentation topic and hands-on experience, giving me an edge over other candidates. I would say that being able to chat more informally in between assessment exercises, was also a good chance for me to determine if the company, and potential future colleagues were right for me.

Following a few grad scheme placements, I chose a permanent role that allowed me to have a direct impact, reducing global warming through engineering. That role is within the R&D team based at our Clevedon factory (just outside Bristol) which manufactures gas abatement machines.

Gas abatement is the removal of hazardous gases from a source, to ensure a cleaner exhaust to atmosphere, primarily for the semi-conductor industry. The gases used in the manufacture of the semiconductor chips in the phones, laptops, cars, smart devices that we buy, can have a devastating impact on global warming if released to the atmosphere without treatment. For example, NF3 is used to clean process chambers, and is 18,000 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2. At Edwards, we provide environmental solutions to remove these gases.

Edwards’ key goal is to reduce energy and cost for customers and has made commitments to do this through science-based targets. My work is based on reducing the energy required to achieve the same performance. Conventionally, methane is burned to break down the targeted gases in our products, and although the benefits massively outweigh the carbon dioxide released from this process, we are now striving to cut down on its usage, through electricity, alternative fuels, and improvements in efficiency.

I work in a team of around 15 – fairly eccentric - engineers and chemists, where we each run research projects independently, but support one another when required. I’ve learned a great deal and I enjoy the independence this style of working environment provides. Currently I’m looking to achieve promotion to technologist, but the role has lots of exposure to the wider business where alternative opportunities are available.

I've now been based in Clevedon at Edwards Vacuum for 2 years and from my experience I would say if you would find fulfilment working in a sustainable career you should definitely pursue it, you need to find a role that gets you out of bed every morning, and for me knowing my job has a positive impact just about manages that.

Oliver Stewart, Senior Development Engineer.

Posted in: Alumni Case Study, Career Choice, Internships, Sector Insight, Subject Related Careers


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