Rafaela Simao da Silva
- Course: Chemical Engineering MEng, BEng
Rafaela Simao da Silva is currently in the second year of her Chemical Engineering MEng, BEng degree, after completing an International Foundation Year.
As an international student, Rafaela wanted to study at a university with a diverse, welcoming community. She said: “The University of Leeds is well-known for its international community. As a POC, I wanted to study in a place where I would be comfortable and welcomed. Thankfully, Leeds fulfilled this. I have been in contact with different cultures and I have learnt so much from that.”
Additionally, Rafaela decided to study at Leeds because it has an excellent academic reputation. She said: “I chose Leeds for being one of the best for chemical engineering in the country. Leeds is part of the Russel Group and makes great investments in research.”
The University of Leeds is well-known for its international community. As a POC, I wanted to study in a place where I would be comfortable and welcomed. Thankfully, Leeds fulfilled this.
Learning the key principles of Chemical Engineering
After completing her International Foundation Year, Rafaela started her Chemical Engineering MEng, BEng degree. She said: “During my studies, I have learned that Chemical Engineers are responsible for designing, assessing, and transforming raw materials into useful products. However, the process is not that simple. It goes from planning a material, optimising the material, designing the material, AND evaluating the manufacturing process of the material. Also, this includes projecting types of equipment such as valves, reactors, tanks, and more.”
“My first year was a mix of online and in-person classes. I had several interesting coursework projects: material selection for a steam turbine, designing a PFD of a 3-phase separator plant, presentation for lowering CO2 emissions, evaluating manufacturing processes, and more. As for my second year, the pace got more intense. Now, we have more lab activities, real-life case studies, and challenges.”
During my studies, I have learned that Chemical Engineers are responsible for designing, assessing, and transforming raw materials into useful products.
A wide variety of modules
Rafaela’s favourite module was Engineering Science. She said: “I enjoy it as it involves reactions, thermodynamics, and mechanics. I have learned how to calculate the heat transfer of a reactor, and frictional pressure of a pipeline to balancing material’s flow rate in and out of the plant.”
“Currently, we have coursework where we need to design the manufacturing process of green ammonia at an industrial scale. It has been exciting as we have designed the plant’s heat exchanger, the pipeline system, calculated the plant’s economics, and more.”
Chemical Engineering field trips
Rafaela went on the annual CATCH field trip, to visit a live process plant and get practical training from industry experts. Reflecting on her experience, she said: “We did four activities: TSC Heat Exchanger simulator, Process Control room/Tank farm, Pump, and Flanges. It was interesting to hear from experts and learn from them.”
“My favourite activity was the simulator. We learned that the process control room should be isolated in the plant. This is how to protect yourself from any incidents and be able to fix them. Also, during the simulation, we were taught how pressure and flow are related. If there was an incident, it was better to shut down the inlet and isolate the problem.”
“Other activities involved learning about flanges integrity, pumps orientation, and the identification of the plant equipment in the tank farm. For the latter, the most surprising equipment was the size of the reactors and tanks. They were humongous! It was a fun day and gave me a perspective on how it is working in the industry.”
International student support
Leeds has a dedicated team offering advice and support to international students. Rafaela said: “I appreciate Leeds’s efforts for making everyone included and involved. The International Students team helped me adapt. During my foundation year, I was not confident in speaking English. But I had an amazing personal tutor that made us interact with each other and help us improve our speaking skills.”
“The university offered language circles where students could “exchange” languages. I speak Portuguese and I am interested in practicing my English. So, I would “buddy” with someone that wanted to learn Portuguese and help me with English.”
The International Students team helped me adapt. During my foundation year, I was not confident in speaking English. But I had an amazing personal tutor that made us interact with each other and help us improve our speaking skills.
Rafaela loves that the university offers so many opportunities to get involved in charity, volunteering and sustainability projects. She said: “I have worked as a venue assistant for the Leeds Young Film Festival. The experience was wonderful, I met new people, and I had the chance to watch classics such as Matilda.”
“I have also volunteered for Leeds Light Night. We were responsible for guiding people, and answering any questions the public might have. My favourite part was working directly with the artists. Specifically, when I found out that one of artists was singing in my mother language (Kimbundu). That was touching.”
“Currently, I am a volunteer at the Library of Things. As the name says, it’s a place where you can donate and lend things: DIY, tools, kitchen appliances, costumes, camping stuff, etc. The initiative is to avoid consumerism, reduce waste and save money. The library depends on donations, and it is available for LS6 people. It is interesting to see the number of things people keep in their houses and donate to us.”