Chemistry

Undergraduate study

Grace Curtis-Holsgrove graduated in 2015 with First Class Honours Master’s Degree in Chemistry. Find out what happened next.

Where are you now?

The company I am currently working for is Shell Global Solutions.  I’m based in Amsterdam but travel all over the world. As a Flow Assurance Engineer, I’m responsible for ensuring that the fluids in the pipeline - gas or oil - flow effectively from the reservoir to the surface processing plant, without any barriers, like waxes.

Recently I was offered a role extra to that as a business advisor, so now I am working a lot with our VP Upstream Engineering for Projects and Technology. That includes less technical and more people/high level management skills – a good career opportunity for learning people management skills as well as networking at a higher level.

In addition to that, next year I will take on a new role as a Process Engineer in a multidisciplinary team, in supporting non-operated ventures (assets) in my region. That would involve assets in Brunei, the Middle East, Kazakhstan and other locations. This offers opportunities to travel to the sites which should be really fun, and I get to broaden my range of engineering skills.

How did you get there?

I did a placement year in this same team, here in Amsterdam, as part of my degree.  During my placement, they invited me to become one of their assessed interns – I was younger than the European graduates that usually undertake these roles, but they made an exception for me! 

The internship led to a permanent position when I graduated.   I also did a few unpaid summer placements before University:  I did a week at Shell in Ellesmere Port in 2008, 2 weeks at Sheffield Forgemasters in 2009 and 1 week at Brocklesby Ltd in 2010.  I think it’s important to get as much practical work experience as you can to improve your employment prospects.

What do you love about your job?

Apart from being well paid, Shell provide lots of additional benefits like on-site gyms, hair dressers, dry cleaners and more. Shell staff have the opportunity to travel a lot, and the longer you are here the more experience you and the more travel you see. I also enjoy the multi-cultural working environment: my colleagues are from all over the world. and it’s great to work with people who are motivated and enthusiastic about what they do. I find the work I do very satisfying, I am in a position to help people when they are stuck and under pressure, and seeing your solutions realised is a great feeling!

What made you choose to study at Loughborough?

When it came to choosing a university, aside from considerations about the course content, I knew I didn’t want a city-based campus as I didn’t want to get too distracted from my studies! My preference was for somewhere close to the countryside, but still within easy access of a city if I wanted it. Loughborough’s green campus appealed to me, yet it was only 30 minutes away from the cities of Nottingham or Leicester. Initially, Loughborough wasn’t my first choice, but after my visit, the location, combined with the course on offer and the staff that I’d met on the visit day, convinced me.

How has Loughborough shaped who you are?

When I first arrived at Loughborough as a student, I was very shy and doubted my own abilities - I didn’t feel ‘smart enough’ or that I deserved to be here, which seems an odd thing to say, but it was how I felt.  My personal tutor really helped build up my confidence and self-belief and I’m a very different person now to who I was then.  I’m confident and self-assured and actively seek out new opportunities and challenges. 

What skills have you taken from your study into your career?

Although I am now learning even more skills, my qualification from Loughborough gave my career a head startdue to the modules I studied such as radiochemistry, advanced physical chemistry, environmental chemistry, and maths for chemists. I’m the only member in my team with a non-engineering based background, giving me a unique perspective on the work we do.

If you were to give one piece of advice to a new student joining Loughborough University, what would it be?

It would be to get more involved with the learning experience from the outset.  At first, I was reluctant to ask questions if I wasn’t sure about something on my course. But once I asked for support and advice, and put in the effort, I found the staff were incredibly supportive and I made huge strides in my degree.  I just wished I’d done this earlier!

I would also encourage you to look at opportunities for a few weeks work experience or placement over the summer periods. After my 12 month placement, I realised how different a work environment was to university, and I strove to fill my time more efficiently. Between my 3rd and 4th year I was awarded a bursary from the ERPSC to look at a novel method of attaining fingerprints from fired and unfired bullet casings. In my final year I took the opportunity to work with the external company CE Geochem on my thesis project, which again gave me further perspective.

Where do you see yourself in the future?

I’m really happy at Shell and could see myself staying here for a while. They’re a great company to work for and really look after their employeesPotentially, I could explore other roles such as geo-chemistry or reservoir engineering - working within such a large organisation means there are many diverse opportunities, so I should never be short of a new challenge!

Photo: Gracie (right) with her manager Menno van Dijk at a gas well in Hardberg, the Netherlands