- Course: Chemical Engineering (Industrial) MEng
- Nationality: British
- Company: Air Products and Chemicals
What is the name of the company you work for and what do they do?
Air Products and Chemicals is an international corporation that sells industrial gases, chemicals, equipment and related services to industries including but not limited to agriculture, energy, food/beverage, glass manufacture, medical and semiconductor manufacture. The company also has an Energy from Waste division which is responsible for a renewable energy facility in the North East of England and a Materials Technology division that produce fine chemicals.
What is your role within the company?
I work as a Process Engineer within the Integrated Gases organisation which is responsible for the design of cryogenic air separation units. I am responsible for process design and specification of process equipment used on these plants to produce liquid or gaseous nitrogen, oxygen and argon. Typical equipment I have worked on has included adsorption columns, distillation columns, control and relief valves, storage tanks, compressors, pumps and heat exchangers. I also work on P&ID and PFD development and changes.
Give us an insight into a typical day?
Days vary considerably depending on workload, which fluctuates depending on how many projects are coming through. Generally though, it's an 8:30 until 17:00 job. When the team has plenty of project work, I will typically be working on calculations and specifications for key process equipment throughout the day. As part of this, being a student, I have regular meetings with my manager to ask technical questions to ensure I'm up to speed.
When there is less project work available, I will be working on updating documents and generic process design tool development to ensure the team is best prepared for when more projects come through.
What are you enjoying the most and are you involved in any interesting projects?
The team was recently awarded a project to design a new plant that produces ultra high purity products for use in electronic component manufacture in Israel. Completing calculations and process specifications for equipment that I know will be in use in a few years in countries all over the world is rewarding - this is why I chose to study chemical engineering.
I'm also enjoying spending time in a large company and attending regular business-related meetings. Learning how an engineering company operates and targets particular projects in order to maximise profits is interesting and will undoubtedly be valuable experience for the future.
Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?
I wanted to better understand my strengths and weaknesses, in terms of technical skills and general skills. I also wanted to confirm whether a career in process engineering was for me before having to commit post-graduation. Most importantly to me though, was to get the opportunity to apply what I had learnt so far at university and give it context before beginning my final year of study. This way, classroom learning has been supplemented with practical experience which has proven to be extremely valuable.
What are you hoping to get out of this experience?
I hoped to develop a deeper understanding of the theoretical areas I had studied in university and give them context. I wanted to gain the knowledge and confidence to design something that would work in real life, rather than just as a set of sums on paper.
Do you have any tips and advice to current students thinking of undertaking a year in industry?
If you can find the right placement for you then it'll be beneficial in far more ways than you can realise.