Jiara Rama,  MEng, BEng Chemical Engineering undergraduate in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Leeds.

Jiara Rama

Why did you decide to study at the University of Leeds?

My choice to study Chemical Engineering came as a result of being faced with a choice between my two passions, business and chemistry. After extensive research into both fields, I concluded that engineers ascend the corporate ladder into management positions (owing to the logical thinking and problem-solving that is harnessed through study) and Chemical Engineering incorporates chemistry and science. Thus, by doing this degree I ensure that both my passions can be satisfied in my future career, and I have not shut the door on either of them.  

My motivation for setting the goal of studying outside of South Africa was to enhance my personal experiences, gain greater independence and expand my global knowledge. I specifically chose the University of Leeds, as it is highly ranked for Chemical Engineering, which, coupled with the strong links the University has with industry and the practical way in which they teach their course, made it a very appealing choice. Furthermore, gaining a Chemical Engineering degree from an internationally recognised university will also give me the ability to be employed in any country, including my own, which is another reason why I have chosen to study here.

What has been the best aspect of studying on your course and at the University and why?

I think the best aspect of studying this course has been learning and training to think in ways that I did not know I was capable of doing so. As problem-solving is fundamental to every module on the course, learning that there are multiple methods to get to the same solution, and consequently being taught how to find the best possible method, has been challenging but incredibly stimulating and rewarding. Furthermore, the inclusion of practical work in our modules has allowed me to understand how real-life processes, utilising the theory we learn, would operate.

The best aspect of studying at this university is the people. I have been lucky enough to find friends that have become my family in this new city, and that allow me to call Leeds one of my homes.

Tell us about some of the exciting projects you have completed so far?

In our first year, one of our major projects was designing an industrial ethylene glycol manufacturing plant. The project involved integrating raw materials, unit operations and process chemistry into a process flow diagram (utilising Microsoft VISIO software) whilst also performing various analyses on health and safety, uses of the product, process economics and relevant ethical issues. This project was particularly exciting as designing a manufacturing plant is exactly what our careers can entail in the future, thus, I was able to simulate an example of my future, which was very enjoyable. 

What does Leeds as a city have to offer students?

Leeds is an incredibly student-friendly city, as almost one third of its population is made up of students that hail from various cities and countries. Consequently, there is always something to do, to see or to go to in Leeds. The nightlife ensures that there is always an event to attend, no matter what day it is. The endless pubs and restaurants situated in all areas ensures that there is always somewhere to meet up with friends after a long day on campus. The campus itself is stunning and student-orientated, yet a couple kilometres down the road is the bustling city which caters to all your shopping and personal needs (most of which offer amazing student discounts). And of course, the student residential area, Hyde Park, provides a safe and comfortable living area as you know you are surrounded by your fellow peers and are only minutes away from the university.

What are your ambitions for the future?

Upon graduating, I hope to secure a job in a company that is committed to changing people’s lives for the better whilst ensuring the environment is well taken care of. We live in a world where there are endless social and environmental issues, and although I cannot single-handedly solve any of these problems, I hope to use my degree to contribute to the solutions, even on a local scale through the company I work for. Furthermore, I hope to become a chartered engineer, as this will enable me to work internationally and broaden my experiences.

What Experiences at Leeds do you think will help you in your future career?

Being a student at this university and on this course pushes you to become an independent student who is fully in control of their future. We are responsible for being dedicated, having good time-management, being hard-working and taking care of our wellbeing; and if you fail to do so, you jeopardise your own future. Thus, I believe that just the experience of everyday independence and having to be so accountable for your own actions will help me in my future career. This year I have also experienced being a committee member on the Leeds Chemical Engineering Society which has been challenging (as it requires commitment and time), but incredibly rewarding as I have had to interact and communicate with various stakeholders when planning events or performing administration functions, all of which have improved my personal skills and will hopefully help me in my future career.

What would you say to students coming to do the same course?

My advice to future Chemical Engineering students is to simply be organised. Being organised will allow you to adapt to everything and anything that can come your way, as this degree is fundamentally challenging and does require consistent studying and commitment even when you feel as if there is no time to do so. Similarly, I strongly believe in living a holistic and balanced lifestyle. With a demanding degree it is so easy to fall into the trap of putting all your energy into academics and burning out before you even reach second year. Therefore, it is so important to get involved in societies or sports or volunteering; anything that gives you a mental and physical break from engineering. Do not feel guilty to have a life outside of engineering. As long as you are organised and prepared, you can live the life you want to live and still achieve everything you strive to achieve.