I was originally going to another University to study law, but after spending an open day at Loughborough and seeing the amazing facilities the university had to offer – particularly the sports facilities and new STEM labs - I changed my mind at the last minute and came to Loughborough to study Chemical Engineering, which was the other course I had been primarily considering.
I have always enjoyed STEM subjects, and after completing my A levels in Biology, Chemistry and Maths and looking at what courses were available, I discovered that Chemical Engineering covered a wide range of disciplines including all three of the subjects I had taken at A level. In addition to this, the engineering aspect offered a new challenge to me, which I found more appealing than courses in pure chemistry/biology.
What I love most about Chemical Engineering at Loughborough is the wide range of content covered within the course. The modules available include biology, chemistry, maths, economics and business. The highly varied subjects included within the course enable a broad development of skills beyond engineering, whilst still maintaining a strong focus on the fundamentals. This has meant it has been easy for me to stay fully engaged with the course over the three years, as there has always been something new and challenging each semester. This has also encouraged me to look for placements/internships beyond the field of Chemical Engineering when I have found something particularly interesting within one of my modules.
The teaching quality in the Department of Chemical Engineering is excellent; the number of resources available online combined with the in-person tutorials and lectures give a very rounded learning experience. I have been particularly impressed this year throughout the pandemic of how much in-person teaching has been available and how the University has dealt with the restrictions throughout the year.
The facilities at Loughborough are also great, particularly in the STEM lab, where I have had the majority of my biology-based module laboratory sessions in semester one and the Chemical Engineering laboratories which have an incredible range of equipment, used extensively throughout my PDP (Professional Development Project) and in my three years at the University.
For my PDP, I was studying at Loughborough within the Chemical Engineering department. The project was based in the research area of microfluidics (the control/manipulation of fluids at the microscale) and utilising novel ‘lab-on-a-chip’ technology to manufacture polymeric particles, which have wide application in biomedical science, such as drug delivery and tissue engineering. Throughout the project I worked within the Particle Microfluidics research group, under my supervisor Dr Guido Bolognesi. Initially, a project plan was produced with the selection of my specific project and an estimation of what I could realistically achieve within the semester.
During this time, I did a lot of research, to help me understand the larger context of my research and I was also trained in the lab by PhD students from the research group. An interim report followed approximately halfway through the project, detailing my progress to date and finally, a final report - a scientific paper on the findings of my project - was produced. The semester-long project consisted of the production of the microfluidic devices, testing the devices with various liquid-liquid systems and finally utilising the devices to produce polymeric droplets, which were subsequently polymerised to produce the particles required.
I received lots of support from the academics and PhD students working within the research group who helped me to improve and develop my laboratory experiments and further my project.
The PDP has definitely been the most important piece of work I have completed during my degree. As it is the longest independent project I have undertaken so far it forced a rapid development in my research, report writing and time management skills. As only three reports are completed alongside the PDP, I could focus intensely on each report I produced, making sure it was the highest quality and that it was work I was really proud of – these are standards I will now carry through to all other pieces of work in my final year.
The length of the project meant that I was constantly revising timelines and setting personal deadlines to manage the workload over the 15 weeks, a skill which will hopefully translate to placements/graduate roles after I finish my degree. As well as this, liaising with PhD students and academics in a research environment really developed my professional engagement skills, making me feel much more comfortable presenting and discussing my work which I think really showed through in the quality of discussion within my final report. I also learnt that I enjoyed working in a lab, particularly when working with other students in a team and this had really made me think about what kind of role I want to work in after university.
Before starting my PDP I had been applying mainly to placements/internships in the financial industry. Throughout the second semester, I found myself enjoying the laboratory-based research more and more, finding satisfaction in the pursuit of producing some potentially meaningful results. I am now determined to build on top of this experience by applying to research-based internships within the chemical engineering industry and I am also considering undertaking a PhD within engineering.
To anybody starting their PDP I would say that the most important piece of advice to take would be to fully engage with your project, ask your supervisor lots of questions, talk to the PhD students working within the research group that you’re based in – so many of my laboratory experiments were altered and vastly improved after discussing them with PhD students! This engagement with other academics/students at the University really made the project for me!
The support from the department was excellent, my project supervisor, Dr Guido Bolognesi, provided constant guidance throughout the project with weekly meetings and always had time for short online meetings to discuss and issues or queries. As well as this, I was invited to research group meetings and to deliver presentations which I felt helped develop my project significantly over the course of the second semester. The PhD students and the lab technicians were always really helpful and made me feel comfortable in the lab, particularly at the start when I wasn’t sure what I was doing!