Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Scientific Publishing & Writing

Fancy using your degree in a creative way? Maybe you were even torn between studying science/engineering and something more "arty" at one point? I know I have spoken to many students recently who felt exactly that way.

Want to dip a toe into the Creative World? For example.....Writing, TV and radio broadcasting? Museums? Book Publishing? Social Media, Buildings Conservation? Film? You can book any of the events in the Creative and Cultural Careers Fair - CCCF on MCH - it runs during 11th - 15th March and there is something on every day, including a mini book fair.
If you want to find out more about publishing from a more technical angle - come along to Spotlight on Publishing on Fri 15th March (at King's Buildings Murchison House). Thomas Easton graduated last year from U of Edinburgh with an MChem. He will tell you how he got into the field and is also giving you the chance to try some *short exercises showing the kind of everyday work that goes on in Publishing at the RSC (Royal Society of Chemistry) and other publishing organisations. The RSC recruit engineers, physicists and biologists as well as chemists for their publishing roles. Mar 15th 1-2pm Sign up on MCH
*these are also the types of exercise that you might be expected to complete as part of their recruitment procedure, so VERY USEFUL experience!

Some ideas for getting experience in scientific publishing and/or writing (one can be good experience for the other):
  • It can be hard to get relevant experience in publishing (and it's sometimes asked for). Wiley-Blackwell do offer 10 week editorial internships for undergraduates, and the RSC offers summer science writing internships.
  •  Sometimes people start by gaining experience as a freelance proofreader or editor. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders offer advice and training and you can test yourself on their website to see if you have an "editor's eye".
  • Whether writing articles or editing/publishing, student magazines offer great experience in both. Edinburgh has a fantastic high-quality science magazine run by students, EuSci - and are often looking for contributions or office help with editing or layout.
  • PSI-COM is a website for vacancies in the Public Engagement of Science in particular, also science editing and/or science policy vacancies appear regularly and some are freelance, so you could combine with studying. I warn you that it's not the most attractive website, but there's loads of vacancies on it.
  • The Association of British Science Writers advertises jobs in science writing and publishing, as well as loads of information about getting into the sector. They also have a directory of members - they have little descriptions of themselves and which journals/websites they have worked on. This gives clues as to where you might find opportunities. They have a free online course, as well as information about UK MScs in Science Communication. 
  • PhDs and Postdocs can apply for six-week Media Fellowships in Scientific Communication with the likes of the BBC and the Guardian, through the British Science Association.
For future reference, there are many science and engineering publishing organisations and journals including:
The organisations above (and many others) occasionally have vacancies in publishing, policy, marketing, digital content (and many other areas).

Monday, 18 February 2019

KTPs - Graduate jobs straddling academia and industry

If you'd like to work for a local company and manage your own projects while earning a competitive graduate salary, a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) may be for you.

What are Knowledge Transfer Partnerships?
The KTP scheme is one of the UKs largest graduate employment programmes and one of the longest running. It helps business to innovate and grow by providing three-way collaboration between universities, organisations and graduates.

Businesses link up with an academic or research institution, which then help to recruit a suitably qualified graduate, known as a KTP Associate. Employed by the university, the associate then works for the company on strategic projects, helping to improve business performance and increase productivity. As a KTP associate, the type of work you carry out depends on your qualifications and the company that you work for, but as an example, KTP projects could include:
  • reorganising production facilities
  • introducing new technologies to an organisation
  • designing new or improved products, processes or services
  • developing new business strategies and breaking into new markets.
With over 300 job opportunities available every year, the scheme can take from 12 months to three years to complete. Upon completion, around 70% of employers offer associates a full-time job, usually in a management role.

What sectors can I work in?
KTPs are primarily aimed at small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) but companies of all sizes, including not-for-profit organisations in a variety of industries can take part in the programme.
You could work a wide range of industries, those particularly of interest to engineers and chemists are:

  • engineering and manufacturing
  • science and pharmaceuticals
  • environment and agriculture
  • energy and utilities
  • business, consulting and management

What are the benefits of a KTP?

  • experience of managing a challenging, real-life project of vital importance to a business
  • opportunities to gain professional qualifications - often business related
  • a competitive graduate salary, usually in region of £25,000 to £35,000.
  • the possibility of full-time employment at the end of the project
  • access to a budget of £2,000 per year for training, £2,250 for travel and a further £1,500 for necessary equipment.

Am I eligible?
To be eligible for the KTP scheme graduates need a 2:1 Bachelors degree in a relevant subject or a Masters or PhD. You'll also need the right to work in the UK.

To find vacancies online head to Innovate UK. Here you'll be able to register you interest in the programme, create a profile so recruiters can find you and search current vacancies.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Leadership Skills - and how to get some (quickly!)

You know how every job description mentions leadership skills? And do you feel a bit unsure about how to go about demonstrating you have them, or even how to recognise them?

The Edinburgh Business School run a day long event each year with The Army around developing leadership skills.

Now this is normally aimed at Business School students (and feedback has apparently been very positive) – but more places are available this year so it is open to other students so it is now on MCH – (which then links to Business School booking system).

Brief description: off site working with Army professionals to gain an insight into what it’s like to lead teams, in a pressurised but safe environment, applying theory to practical and complex situations. This develops self-awareness of your influencing skills in group and individual situations, and has a humanitarian aid theme running through it where participants work in a neutral environment to better identify learning points.

It's a day long event - Tuesday 19th Feb.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Skills needed for pharma in the 21st century

In Jan 2019, The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI - released a report describing the skills that the pharmaceutical industry need for the future.

In the chemical sciences, skills in medicinal and synthetic organic chemistry and analytical chemistry are particularly sought after. Not surprising as it IS the pharma industry!

What maybe is more surprising is that employers are extremely anxious about the lack of data science skills in scientists. They are very keen for employees to be able to work at the crossover of chemistry and data science, in particular:

Chemoinformatics:  Chemoinformatics involves the application of computational techniques to existing datasets to address a range of chemical problems.

Chemometrics: Chemometrics is the science of extracting information from chemical systems by data-driven means using methods such as multivariate statistics, applied mathematics and
computer science, in order to address problems in chemistry, biochemistry, medicine, biology and chemical engineering.

Computational chemistry and computational science: Computational Scientists use mathematical modelling techniques along with information from published literature to build hypotheses for drug targets.

In general, there is a lack of qualified personnel at all levels of qualification in those areas - undergraduate, MSc, PhD and Postdoc.

It's a 79 page document but the chemistry sections might be worth a read.
Bridging the Skills Gap in the Biopharmaceutical Industry

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Case Study - R&D Chemist - Afton Chemical Ltd

Name - Neil Harris
Education - PhD Chemistry (York, awarded 2018), MChem Chemistry (York 2012)
Employment - Senior R&D Chemist, Afton Chemical Ltd

Brief career history, including current job title & employer

I spent the final year of my Chemistry degree working in an Industrial placement at Afton Chemical Ltd. Following this placement I returned to the University of York to complete a PhD, which was funded by Afton. Upon completion of my PhD in 2015, I returned to Afton where I currently work as a senior R&D Chemist in the engine oils department.

Where was your current job advertised? (or did you find it yourself by another method?).  
Why did it appeal to you, what attributes were the organisation looking for?

Having previously worked at Afton Chemical and maintained contact throughout my PhD, the job offer was made, being of mutual interest to both parties. From my perspective, I was particularly interested in conducting research with a direct real-life application.  I was very happy to return to Afton Chemical; throughout my industrial placement, it was clear that there was a real commitment to its motto, “Passion for Solutions”, which combined with Afton’s matrix structure, greatly appealed to me. I was also attracted by the friendly nature of the organisation with the “family feel” due to its size and influence of the Gottwald Family.

Which other organisations offer similar roles?

The engine oil additives business is large, but key players are few.  Afton’s global competitors are Infineum, Lubrizol, and Oronite.  Some oil companies such as BP and Shell also develop engine oil additives, but this is usually in conjunction with specialised companies like Afton and only for their own use. Other companies such as Evonik and Croda occasionally compete with Afton in developing engine oil additives but more often supply Afton with some of the many components that we use in our Research & Development. It is important to highlight that most R&D roles across a variety of industry will require the necessary transferable skills such as problem solving, team work, communication and data analysis.

Can you describe what your job entails or a typical week in your job? With your crystal ball, what does the future for your sector/job look like?

In one sentence my job is to formulate systems of additives to develop engine oils which meet defined industry and customer performance levels. A typical week as a senior R&D chemist involves planning and executing investigations to analyse engine oil additive performance in specific areas. Some of these areas include oxidation and wear protection, prevention of sludge build-up, and inhibiting corrosion. In addition to determining the makeup of the additives to test, a key part of these investigations relates to project management, most importantly setting budgets and timelines. Testing in engine oil additive development is very expensive: a single routine bench test can be upwards of $1,000 and one fired engine test can be over $250,000. In the course of a single investigation, hundreds of bench tests and often 20 fired engines are run. Therefore, it is important to ensure that all of this testing is carefully planned to maximise the value and meet the needs of all stakeholders involved. Prior to running any tests, the project lead (often the R&D chemist) and all stakeholders align on a project goal, specific objectives the project hopes to achieve, and a plan to meet those objectives. Once agreed, it is up to the R&D chemist to prepare the test oils and organise the required testing to ensuring successful execution of the plan. When testing is complete there is a large amount of data analysis to be done to extract maximum value and to avoid unnecessary repeat testing in the future. Finally this analysis is followed up by a detailed summary of test results and conclusions which is communicated to all stakeholders and the wider team.

There are a number of challenges presented from changes in engine design such as after treatment and hybridisation. When these changes are made the lubricant must maintain the previous level of performance and undergo additional performance testing to protect against any new issues that may arise. All of this requires significant and continuous research to develop understanding and create solutions. In the longer term, changes to all of the automotive sector are varied and somewhat nebulous. Electrification is an example of one of these major changes, but it is still to be seen by how much and when its effects will truly shape the engine oil additives business. From a more general lubricants perspective there are typically always increasing demands in other sectors such as in generators and turbines.

Best/Worst parts of the job

Afton Chemical is set up as a matrix organisation, this is a cross functional set up where all stakeholders and job role have an input into projects. The matrix approach provides a great set up for any given individual to experience and consider all aspects of new product development – from making a business case for the project to setting up the research plan through to logistical, EHS, and marketing aspects of product deployment in the market. However, working in a matrix organisation can also be quite difficult. Being involved in areas which are not part of your own role can be distracting from the core research and development activities. At times, involving many additional team members outside of R&D causes decision-making to be slow which delays research activities, something that is often frustrating.

How have you used the skills and knowledge from your degree in your job?

An engine can be considered like a giant chemical reactor with a wide range of chemical reactions taking place. This can be from radical oxidation reactions in the bulk fluid to tribological effects on wear and friction. In order to hypothesise and understand the effects that additives have on performance and with each other, an R&D chemist relies on a core chemical understanding. Beyond this, to be successful many key transferable skills were developed during my degree. With Afton Chemical being a matrix organisation, communication, in particular to difference audiences, is absolutely critical. During my degree I had several opportunities to explain novel, in-depth areas of chemistry to “GSCE Students” which prepared me for this. These experiences are not dissimilar to updating non-technical stakeholders at Afton on detailed project progress. Problem solving, project management and team work skills that I developed over the course of my time at the University of York are also key in any R&D role. As my PhD was funded by Afton Chemical this has also provided a useful understand to certain problems for both Afton Chemical and the wider industry.

What extracurricular experience (eg work experience, volunteering, societies, sports, interests etc) do you believe helped you get where you are today?

During my time at the University of York I was involved with numerous sports clubs and took positions on committees of both the mountaineering and the cycling club. I was also a scout leader while at university and I continue to lead groups today. These activities have allowed me to develop many transferable skills such as communication, team work and problem solving. Even more valuable were the opportunities within these activities to learn and practice activity planning, budgeting and organising, and communication around plans and managing people. These skills are absolutely key to the successful running of projects in any R&D role.

Is there anything you wish you HAD done in your past to make it easier to get where you are today?

If I was to revisit my career, I would spend more time at the beginning to fully understand the expectations for someone in my role and identify areas for self-development. The largest difference in moving from academic work, particularly PhDs, to industrial work is the amount of coordination required for success. PhD activities are very self-led whilst working in R&D within a large company requires approval and oversight from several stakeholders. Oftentimes I also work on projects directed and managed by others. Throughout the course of a project, working in industry requires a project leader to manage communication and differences of opinions when there are multiple paths ahead.

What advice would you give to students wishing to enter your field of work?

One piece of advice I have when moving into a new role is to ask plenty of questions. It is the best way to understand your own strengths and weaknesses so that you can improve and progress through your career. Be sure to accurately estimate your abilities, as others will assign tasks based on projected capabilities. This will ensure goals are challenging whilst still being achievable.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Chemistry and Chemical Engineering graduates from 2017 - where are they now?

Below are links to the destinations (the jobs, courses, or other activities) of chemistry and chemical engineering graduates 6 months after graduation. To give a richer picture, some are listed as two years' worth of data and some (eg Chemistry PhDs from 2015, 2016 and 2017) as three years' worth of data.

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Case Study - Performance Manager (Technical Direction) - Veolia

Jennifer Lawson

Environmental Chemistry BSc (Hons) First Class, 
University of Edinburgh 2006

Veolia Website:
Twitter #WeAreResourcers

My career journey
I enjoyed my university studies, but knew I didn’t want to pursue a career in Pure Chemistry, hence I decided to graduate after four years rather than staying for the fifth to complete a masters as I had initially planned.  I felt it was time to apply the skills I’d learned in some capacity.  The other thing I knew was that I wanted to work in an environmentally conscious organisation, with some positive impact of the work I would undertake.  But that was where it ended, I really was a classic ‘I don’t know’ case and the career search felt quite daunting. I decided to undertake some temping work to give myself time to consider what career could be right for me.  What I didn’t know was that a morning on a reception desk for Atkins would set up the course of my career.

I met the head of the Water team who was recruiting process engineers/ scientists.  I had never heard of process engineering but after a bit of research thought it could be a good fit.  I worked within the team for 3 years as Graduate Process Engineer, during which time I developed a good knowledge of wastewater process and also gained exposure to other areas like project management and a financial/ commercial awareness.

My first job change came as a result of a conversation with a colleague who knew of an opportunity for a Design Engineer role in another consultancy which involved a six month secondment to Sweden to work within an energy and process team, focused on bringing the extensive experience there in anaerobic digestion and biogas upgrade technologies to the UK market.  This was a fantastic experience both personally and professionally.

Everything I had done up to this point was design and theory driven so the opportunity to work within an operational environment with Veolia seemed a natural progression.  I did initially question my move as I quickly found myself spending days taking samples in a wastewater sludge processing plant as I was tasked with troubleshooting and optimising the process; quite a change from the cosy office environment!  However, I have had three roles within Veolia since joining in 2011 (Process Technologist; Energy Manager; and my current role, Performance Manager, Technical Direction) and having the practical on site experience has been so invaluable; theory is great, but I have learnt so much from working alongside operational teams.

My current role
I found my current role through our internal vacancies site. I was interested in a holistic approach to monitoring and improving performance within municipal water and the role of Performance Manager widened the remit for me to do this.
My role sits within the technical support function of Veolia, focused on supporting the municipal water operational teams improve their plants performance.  In the UK, Veolia mostly operates and maintains wastewater treatment plants, hence this is our focus area.

An increasing part of my role is focused around data management and business intelligence; making plant performance visible to aid performance improvement.  I see this trend continuing and accelerating; capturing more sensor data, automation and real-time/ predictive analytics.  As a performance team, we still spend a significant amount of time manipulating data pre any analysis taking place, but this is changing through development of BI solutions which will massively facilitate plant optimisation going forward.

The best aspect of my role is...
Being part of a global company and having a well established technical and performance platform to draw upon and share experiences including the opportunity to benchmark a site’s performance against similar ones from around the world and forums to seek advice.

The worst aspect is...
Being a support function, it can sometimes be challenging to get things implemented in the busy world of operations.

Utilising skills and knowledge from my degree
During my early career as a process/ design engineer, the foundations in chemistry were very helpful when performing calculations such as dosing rates etc. Though I use very little chemistry in my day to day work now; the skills I developed during my degree in analytics, having a methodical approach and reporting writing are those I use most today.

Extra-curricular experience
When I started working for Veolia, I joined the Institute of Water Scottish Area committee as their Publicity Coordinator and followed on from this as the committee Secretary for 4 years. I remain on the committee now and it's been a great platform for keeping up to date with general water industry news, networking and attending interesting events.  It's a very inclusive Institute and I'd encourage anyone working within the water industry to join and find out for themselves. They have lots of different registration options to consider.

What I would do differently at university
I think undertaking an industrial placement as part of your degree is a really great idea and something looking back that I would perhaps have taken up.  I think it makes the transition from academia easier and also provides an earlier chance to start thinking what may be the right career path for you.  I know many students who have done placements with us and have secured a job following completing their degree, a nice position to be in, in the competitive market place!

My advice for entering this field of work
For my specific field of work, theory combined with practical experience has been a great grounding.  When opportunities are presented, grab them.  If you have a career plan, great, but if you don’t, try not to worry too much.  Most of my career has been built around oportune conversations or through the networks I have built.  If you focus on the things you enjoy and work hard and with enthusiasm, you’ll succeed.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Interested in environmental chemistry/engineering? - summer project 2019 in USA

In particular, do you care about our oceans?

At Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Summer Student Fellowships are awarded to undergraduate students. Preference is given to students studying in any of the fields of science or engineering including but not limited to the fields of biology, chemistry, engineering, geology, geophysics, mathematics, meteorology, physics, oceanography, and marine policy. Students must have at least a tentative interest in the ocean sciences, oceanographic engineering, mathematics, or marine policy.  Through the Summer Student Fellowship program, WHOI's aim is to provide promising students with a meaningful first-hand introduction to research in oceanography, oceanographic engineering, or marine policy.

Students in a three year Bachelor's Degree Program, such as those in the UK, must be in their second year (check with them if you are on a 4 year BSc or BEng but previous students have gone between 3rd and 4th year)
Students in a five year combined Bachelor/Master's Degree must be in the third year.

Note: a GeoScience student from Edinburgh was successful in gaining a place on this last year. Contact me if you want to know more.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Case Study - starting a PhD AFTER working in industry

Name: Jamie Harrower
Degree: Master Chemistry with Year In Industry (MChem)
Graduated: 2014 from The University of Edinburgh

Jamie was keen to enter industry straight after his degree, but had always harboured the notion that he would do a PhD at some point. Here is his story.......

First Graduate Job: Process Chemist

After graduating from The University of Edinburgh, having completed a Master’s degree in chemistry with a year in industry (a development chemist with Syngenta), my first graduate job was as a process chemist for INEOS Olefins and Polymers Europe, based at Grangemouth. This involved analysing a wide variety of petroleum products (including diesel, petrol, Aviation Turbo Kerosene and fuel oil) in their state of the art laboratory. I frequently used High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), Gas Chromatography (GC), UV Spectroscopy and Inductively Coupled Plasma Emission Spectroscopy.
My role involved carrying out routine analysis on petroleum products, ensuring that I was adhering to strict laboratory quality standards, including ISO accredited testing.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at INEOS, and had the opportunity to improve on my analytical chemistry skills as well as experiencing how a large international company operates on a daily basis. I worked on a shift pattern, which meant that I had to do nightshifts, but it also meant I had a lot of time off. The starting salary was excellent for a student graduating, and there were a lot of opportunities to progress and diversify within the laboratory and also into completely different roles, such as working on the chemical plants, engineering and HR roles. The training that INOES provided was excellent and you were able to learn from experts within their field who had a wealth of knowledge and experience.

During my time working at INEOS I was eligible to register as a Registered Scientist (RSci) at the Royal Society of Chemistry. This was really useful as it also gave the opportunity to work towards my RSC chartership qualification. 

After working at INEOS for 3.5 years, I decided to leave because I was determined to pursue a PhD. I had always wanted to undertake a PhD, however, I also thought that gaining industrial experience was very important for my career development. The skills I have learnt within industry have been vital for securing my PhD position and also helping me progress quickly within my role.

My main interests have always been in analytical chemistry, and both my job role at INEOS and my 12 month internship at Syngenta were very analytically based. During my PhD, I will be investigating the occurrence of antibiotics within the environment. Over the last decade, antibiotic resistance has become a global concern, especially within the environment. One factor that is believed to be heavily contributing to antibiotic resistance is the release of antibiotics into the environment, primarily through treated waste water. A large fraction of antibiotics consumed by humans are excreted and diverted to the water treatment plant unchanged and aren’t completely removed, and therefore discharged back into the environment. Determining the chemical fate of antibiotics is the main aim of my PhD, which will be achieved by measuring the concentrations of antibiotics in river water, and river sediment and also conducting mathematical fugacity modelling. The analysis will be conducted using Liquid Chromatography- Mass Spectrometry, which was something that I was really interested in during my undergraduate degree.

There are some very clear advantages of working in industry and then going back to do a PhD. I found that I had developed key skills within the industry such as; time management, learning to work within a team and being involved in projects/ meetings, presenting project work and solving ‘real’ life problems. Industry is also very fast paced, and sometimes involves working under a lot of pressure to meet targets and industry standards. You are also required to learn very quickly and take in a large amount of information on a daily basis to ensure that you are fulfilling your job role. All of these points were extremely advantageous for returning to do a PhD.

One of the main disadvantages of returning to do a PhD is it can be difficult financially. Working in industry gives you a very stable income and takes away the stress of worrying about money. During my time in the chemical industry I was able to put a deposit down on my own house! Although my PhD is fully funded I am still not nearly paid as much as I was in industry, however, this is the sacrifice you make to do research in an area you are passionate about. I also feel that another disadvantage of returning to do a PhD is that you have to be extremely patient and plan your work meticulously. A lot of the time things don’t go to plan, and it can take time to solve the problem you are working on. The main thing is to keep focused and not become too disheartened.

I am now 1 year into my PhD and things are going really well. I am at the stage of planning my field work so things are becoming particularly busy. I also have a 2-year-old son, who I love spending time with! I think that some people are put off by doing a PhD when they have a family and believe that it isn’t possible because they would find it financially too difficult and also too time consuming. But I have found that the two are not mutually exclusive. The first requirement is being organised -you must plan your days really well to ensure they are productive. Secondly, take up any opportunities of teaching/demonstrating to earn a little extra cash to help pay the bills etc. Thirdly, my supervisors are really understanding and give me quite a bit of flexibility on my working hours, which helps me plan projects a lot easier.  Most importantly, only undertake a PhD in an area you are truly passionate about, or it could be a very long 3-4 years.

During my time at university I wished that I had taken part more in sports clubs/ societies, and in general socialised more. During the later years of your degree, it can become very demanding which is why it becomes difficult to take part in such activities. I would also take advantage more of the Careers Service which the university offers, especially the guidance they can give you on writing CV’s, interview preparation etc. These skills are very useful when entering the real world of employment.

Friday, 9 November 2018

Chemists and Engineers wanted for International Law

Have you ever thought about a career as a lawyer, but dismissed it as "something engineers and scientists don't really do"? Well, international (3000 lawyers, 150 countries, 70 languages) law firm Freshfields has other ideas...................