I was initially attracted to Loughborough by a combination of its high reputation, particularly from previous students and how much I was impressed when I visited the University. The range of facilities and opportunities offered as part of the course and socially outside of gave me a great impression of the university and motivated me to become a student here.
I chose Chemical Engineering because firstly, I enjoyed and felt my best subjects were physics, chemistry, and maths at A level, and as a result found that Chemical Engineering very nicely incorporates all three whilst providing me with a huge amount of new knowledge as well. In addition, the career opportunities attained through chemical engineering are very attractive to me as I like the prospect of being able to apply my technical knowledge learned to real life industrial applications that could make a difference in a company.
My favourite aspect of the course is the mix of learning approaches involved that all complement each other really well, particularly that there is a great mix of practical work which I particularly enjoy), group projects, design work and in-class learning. As a result, I feel the course is equipping me with a very valuable and diverse skillset for the future.
The teaching quality is very good as the course is in depth enough to cover a huge range of interesting topics whilst at the same time all the appropriate support required to succeed is very accessible in my opinion. For example, the career support department helped me succeed in finding a high-quality industrial placement last year that I really enjoyed. The recreational sport and social facilities are also very high quality and allow for a great social life to be maintained outside of the course.
I did my Professional Development Project (PDP) at Oulu University, Oulu, North Ostrobothnia, Finland as part of the faculty of technology. The university has great facilities and is well renowned, particularly for STEM subjects. The area was a great experience as it is not far from the artic circle so the unique experiences that came with this were amazing.
The research project was titled ‘Deactivation of Vanadia Exhaust Gas Catalysts: Characterisation, Activity and Performance in Selective Catalytic Reduction’. This was basically the study and comparison of performance of different Vanadia-based catalysts in the common industrial process that is the selective catalytic reduction of NO and NO2. This is important because these are harmful greenhouse gasses from combustion (both in cars and industry) and optimising their removal was the overall aim of the project. This involved remotely (because of COVID) studying large amounts of spectroscopy data for the first half of the project to compare the mechanisms taking place and performance changes in different conditions.
The second half of the project involved carrying out activity experiments in the university laboratories where the reaction was carried out over each catalyst in controlled conditions whilst changing temperature, gas composition etc, to observe the effects through measuring conversion. This all resulted in a successful project where a range of conclusions were made such as the optimum operating conditions. In addition, the results will be published as part of a real scientific paper by someone else in the future, of which I will be labelled as a co-author which is something I am very proud of.
I was working closely with a PhD student in Sweden, particularly for the remote aspects of the project. I really enjoyed this as it allowed for a wider understanding of the subject and gave me appropriate support where required. This was beneficial as it allowed me to indirectly contribute to his broader research on the subject. For the lab work I worked very closely with my supervisor who is a university professor and taught me a lot about the subject, university and was very supportive. He also gave me great advice about living in Finland and where I should visit!
From my PDP I have learned a huge amount about the subject but also more crucially how to carry out a research project successfully and professionally. This is very beneficial to me as it is something I may be inclined to do more of in the future and gave me a great skillset that will be useful in any career. For example, I learned how to concisely present my results to large audiences (through presentations etc.) and developed my communication skills, practical knowledge, and experience in conducting experiments successful but also safely without incident, particularly as a number of very hazardous compounds were used.
Before my PDP I was interested in trying research but had no real motivation to pursue this further after university. However now having completed it, I am much more on the fence about what career path to go down, for example a research-based role working in laboratories or working in a more industrial role as I originally planned. This is definitely a positive thing as it gives me much more options and versatility in the future.
My advice would be to step out of your comfort zone and make the most of it. It is very different to the rest of the course so you should take advantage of this as it results in lots of new opportunities, particularly the option to do it somewhere new such as abroad which I would highly recommend as it is a great learning and social experience that does not come around very often.
I received all the necessary support for the studies by the host university and Loughborough University. For example, the supervisor introduced me to the subject very well and taught me a great deal of practical and technical knowledge that allowed for the PDP to be such a success. In addition, I was in contact all the time with supervisors in Loughborough about what is required and advice etc. Prior to travel the exchange departments on both ends where also very helpful and supportive particularly as they knew travelling abroad is such as big change.
The greatest experience was the opportunities that I took part in outside of the project in Finland. For example, it was a very social experience and I made friends with people from across Europe. With these people I was able to go on various winter and summer trips to Lapland in the arctic circle and to cities such as Helsinki. Since travelling is one of my biggest hobbies it an unforgettable experience to experience a new culture and language for so long in this way.