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Year in Industry or Abroad 2011/12

Our MChem degree programmes offer the opportunity to work in industry or an overseas university during the third year. The work consists of a substantial original research project and is supplemented by modules taken by distance learning to maintain contact with Cardiff University.

Read what our students have to say about this experience.


Sapphire Mahony

Sapphire Mahony. Campden BRI - Gloucestershire

Campden BRI

Campden BRI is a large food research and training organisation that tests food and drink from all stages of its production, from ‘farm to the fork’. As a placement student, I worked with different teams within the chemistry department. This included analysing food taints and ‘off’ flavours formed in food and drinks and determining the vitamin content in fruit juices. I spent much of my time with the food contact material migration team. We tested the levels of chemical migration from packaging constituents into food. This was done by taking into account surface area of the food contact material, the weight or volume of the food, the time and temperature of test, and the food simulant. The migrating molecules could be the toxic monomers of the plastic polymer, toxic heavy metals, ink compounds, adhesive molecules, etc. Levels of packaging migration were measured using various forms of spectroscopy and chromatography. As the year went on  I was given greater responsibility within the migration team, such as carrying out many ‘methods’ at the same time, calculating the results, and communicating with clients of Campden BRI. Whilst on the placement, I learnt about relevant food legislation and British and global food quality standards. The chemistry department were welcoming and my supervisor was always willing to help me with any academic queries I had regarding the University research project. The research project was quite hard as I had never done anything like that before but it has made me more confident and prepared me for doing my final dissertation at University.


Lewis Berry

Lewis Berry. Tata Steel Packaging – Trostre


My placement was anything other than a typical chemistry based year out. My placement was in Tata Steel packaging in Trostre, source of the majority of material for can making and speciality packaging in Britain. Throughout the placement I was not treated as a placement student but the lead on the subject of the investigation, with it being necessary to be able to interact with senior figures in Tata Steel Europe. The chemistry involved was inherent in the process of tinplate manufacture and the use of analytical techniques was commonplace. My placement was spent as a project manager in the eradication of a defect inherent in the batch annealing process in tinplate manufacture. The skills I developed during this placement were focused a lot more from a managerial perspective with less emphasis on improving chemistry based knowledge. The project allowed for the use of different analytical techniques throughout, with the use of GDOES, XPS and SEM being undertaken in external sites. The analytical facilities at Cardiff University were also used to further the investigation. The opportunity also arose to visit the sister site in Ijmuiden, Holland, to lead a knowledge exchange visit with the Dutch. The project led to presentations being made to Tata Steel directors, European Manufacturing directors, and plant managers in both Wales and Holland and provided a terrific opportunity to get used to presenting under such pressure in front of senior company directors.


Alexander Smyth

Alexander Smyth. RWE nPower - Aberthaw


For my year in industry, I worked at a powerstation in the Regulation Department. The station is a 1600 MW/h coal fired station that features flue gas desulphurisation technology, three gas turbines for frequency response and biomass burning capability. During the year out I was mostly involved in a research project on a Carbon Capture Pilot Plant that will investigate the feasibility and efficiency of CO2 capture from exhaust gas from the station. Other work included water treatment chemistry, sampling and routine chemical analysis of samples from the station. The placement year showed me another way to use my chemistry degree in an industry that I had not considered before and how theory taught in university can be put into practise at work. I thoroughly enjoyed the year out and I feel that it has greatly improved my employability after graduation.


Owain Meredith

Owain Meredith. Montpellier University

Montpellier Logo

My year abroad was spent at a laboratory linked to the Ecole Nationale Superieure Chimie Montpellier, focusing on forming new polymers for practical applications. I worked with high-pressure reactors, and used a wide variety of analytical techniques such as NMR, IR, TGA (Thermogravimetric analysis) and DSC (Differential scanning calorimetry). I found the year quite challenging due to the differences in culture and particularly language, and I would definitely recommend taking French lessons beforehand. The project work was also challenging, as I had no prior knowledge in this area of chemistry, but the other researchers in the lab were very friendly and always on hand to help out, not just with my project but also with great advice about Montpellier. Looking back I’m extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity, and it’s a great thing to have on my CV.


Jessica Waite

Jessica Waite. Atomic Weapons Establishment - Reading


I worked at the within the Sensors and Spectroscopy team and my project was based on developing a spectroscopic system to analyse transient gas samples. During the year a learnt a range of new techniques, I found the year very interesting and learnt how to apply differing types of chemistry to tasks at hand. I also moved around the company and found out more about other research being undertaken, and how it all relates back to the product. I found the year very interesting and all my colleagues were very welcoming and helpful. I would recommend the year in industry to anyone.


Nathan East

Nathan East. Purolite - Llantrisant


Purolite are a leading supplier of specialty resins for ion exchange and catalysis. My time was spent in optimising synthetic routes for existing products and developing new products for different applications. My project involved designing a procedure to produce a polymer that could be used as a stationary phase for HPLC. To do this I had to apply the problem solving skills learned in years one and two of my chemistry degree. I was also able to see how different products are translated from small scale production in a research lab, to large scale commercial production. It was great to see how the chemistry learned applied to the industry, and to learn how the chemistry learned applies to different problems. Working with a research group and regularly having to present your findings, helps develop skills which are very important for a career in chemistry. A year in industry is a chance to gain invaluable experience in the chemical industry, one which employers will appreciate when it comes to finishing university and finding a job in chemistry.


Antonio Cirillo

Antonio Cirillo. AstraZeneca - Macclesfield

AstraZeneca Logo

I spent my industrial placement working for at their Alderley Park site. AstraZeneca is a multinational pharmaceutical company and it was great to be exposed to the business side of the company as well as using my university developed skills. The company took on about 60 students in a range of disciplines so I got to meet a range of other people who were in the same position as me. I was based in the oncology department working with a lot of early phase anti-cancer compounds. The majority of my work was analytical and I gained vast experience in numerous techniques such as HPLC, SFC, NMR and Mass spec. Throughout my time there I was continuously given opportunities to experience other departments and get a feel for how the whole company worked. Everyone at AstraZeneca was incredibly helpful and from day one they made me feel like a proper part of the team and not just a student. At first I was hesitant about doing a year in industry but after completing it I don’t understand why I ever had any doubts. The technical experience and various contacts I have gained will prove invaluable throughout my career.


Jonathan Barry

Jon Barry. Reckitt Benckiser – Hull

Reckitt Benckiser

I spent my placement year working in the Health and Personal Care, R&D Department. At Reckitt Benckiser I was never treated like a student (although there were around 30 other students so you could still live like one), I was working on real projects with the same freedom and responsibilities as permanent employees. Working as an analyst during the placement I gained experience in many different analytical techniques used that are used throughout the industry. I have no regrets about choosing to go on a year’s placement. Not only did it improve my skills as a chemist but it also gave me an insight into the world of industry. A year in industry sets you up well for your future career; from your 4th year MChem project to getting a job.


James Corcoran

James Corcoran. Vectura - Chippenham

Vectura Logo

I spent my Placement Year working for Vectura whom specialise in inhaled therapeutics, targeting respiratory diseases such as asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). My project involved determining the efficacy of an inhaler developed by Vectura, by comparing the product’s performance in-vivo and in-vitro. During my year, I was taught how to operate and run a High Performance Liquid Chromatograpy (HPLC) system, applying theory learnt from my previous two years of study. I was also introduced to new items of equipment that wouldn’t have been available at University, as the testing methods were niche to the aerosol market. This placement was a great way to interact with different kinds of people, enhancing both my CV and presentation skills. I would recommend it to anyone who is considering going on a placement.


Matthew Foley

Matthew Foley Vectura - Chippenham

My year in industry was spent at Vectura in Chippenham, an inhaled pharmaceuticals company focusing on asthma/COPD therapies. Before starting my placement year, I was unsure whether at the end of my degree I would choose a chemistry related career path. Now I am certain this is my interests lie and it has given me a lot more confidence when applying for jobs and going to interviews, knowing I have experience of how things work in industry. I thoroughly enjoyed my time on placement and feel I can add lots of new skills and experiences to my CV and think it is definitely a valuable asset to have when looking for future employment.