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Faizaan Patel

MEng (Hons) Chemical Engineering
Placement with Nissan Manufacturing UK, Sunderland (Aug 2017 – Aug 2018)

A picture of placement student Faizaan Patel
Why did you apply to the University of Bradford?

Before applying to the University of Bradford, I had my mind set on doing a course which integrates the 2 sciences that intrigued me the most (Physics and Chemistry), along with Mathematics, as I always felt like that was my strong point. Hence, I set out to find a course that matches what I wanted to do at university. Through my research, I found that Chemical Engineering courses are a blend of the 3 subjects that most interested me.

Once I had decided that I wanted to do Chemical Engineering at university, I decided to look at, and compare universities, and see which one I preferred. When looking through the UNISTATS website, what struck me about Bradford was the emphasis on lab work. This appealed to me as it would give me practical experience which would build upon the pure knowledge learnt in lectures and tutorials. Furthermore, the course was gaining a strong reputation as a leader in teaching Chemical Engineering from talking to lecturers at the University of Bradford and University of Manchester. As a result of this, I put Bradford down as one of my UCAS choices and was accepted on A-Level results day.

When I first came to the university, I wasn’t sure what to expect. However, from the very first instant, I felt at home and felt like I had made the right choice. It was a diverse city with opportunities to meet people from every walk of life. It was a university in which friends could easily be made and the integration of new students into the university was seamless. The city was bustling with life and had everything in one place including shopping centres. One of the hidden treasures of Bradford was the wide variety and sheer volume of places to eat from!

The one thing I really enjoy at the University of Bradford is the way the students on my course all know and get along with each other, meaning attending university is social as well as academic, and helps keep my interest in the course strong, not to mention it’s easy to get help if needed.  This is also echoed by lecturers who often have an open-door policy (if they’re in, their office door will be open and you can enter freely with any questions). This has benefited me many times when I’ve had questions or indeed any other issues.

Why did you choose that particular course?  What do you like and enjoy most about the course?

As I have touched upon above, I chose the course due to a multitude of factors; mainly the combination of Maths, Physics and Chemistry. However, other key factors such as an accredited course, a forever growing reputation, esteemed lecturers and practical experience in the course, all played a part in deciding to study Chemical Engineering at the University of Bradford.

After 2 years of the course, and looking back on the decision I made, I can confidently say I could not have made a better decision. The lecturers are always helpful and the university is now ranked 4th in the current university subject ranking tables (Guardian), cementing its reputation and enhancing the career prospects for students.

In addition, throughout both years at university, I have heavily been involved in lab work which has helped progress my pure knowledge in leaps and bounds. I believe this experience is imperative and will be the key aspect which will help me when out in industry.

The thing I enjoy most about the course is the overall feel and set up of the course. It is a perfect mix of pure knowledge, laboratory work and group work. This means that throughout my time, I am constantly developing and improving myself as a person. This variety of work also has the effect of keeping me intrigued in the course. During A-Levels, I sometimes found myself feeling a little bored, due to the nature and delivery of the content. However, at university, this has never been the case and I realise I am constantly learning new things.

What tips would you give to prospective students about the course at the University of Bradford and the university itself?

One of the tips I would give to new students is to be actively involved in the Union and extra-curricular activities. It’s all too easy to come to university and just do the course and leave. However, that would be missing a really big opportunity. There’s a society for almost anything and it helps you wind down and relax in addition to making friends at university.

Using your time wisely is also a key point that many students overlook. When living away from home, it’s all easy to lose track of time and delay thing until tomorrow, then the week after… then the week after that. The one thing you should always do is manage your time wisely so you can socialise, yet stay on top of your work. Always try and ensure that your course and any deadlines are your first priority!

Lastly, make use of all the opportunities available to you. There are opportunities for everything in the university, make the most of the opportunities as university is about learning about yourself as a person and maturing, as well as the primary reason you were there. Make the most of it.

What support have you received from Career and Employability Services / Placement staff?

The Career and Employability Services have been instrumental to me throughout my time at university. I met the Link Career Consultant for my faculty, initially to get constructive feedback on my CV & CL.  Once this was done, I had set my sights on applying for a placement. The Career Consultant discussed with me how to complete and progress my applications. Furthermore, I was also provided with help regarding psychometric tests which I found were a large part, and often, the first step of placement applications.

After a couple of months, I was invited by a potential employer to an assessment centre, and shortly after, an interview. As this was my first experience of either, I again approached the Link Career Consultant for further help. The support was really great – from a nervous and timid interviewee, I developed into a confident and calm interviewee ready for any questions that could be asked.  This help was unparalleled and has the result of securing a placement, which I am sure would not have been possible without the help of the Career and Employability Services.

One of the tips I would give to new students is to be actively involved in the Union and extra-curricular activities. It’s all too easy to come to university and just do the course and leave. However, that would be missing a really big opportunity. There’s a society for almost anything and it helps you wind down and relax in addition to making friends at university.
What action are you taking to improve your employability whilst at University?

Whilst at university, I am taking part in a range of extra-curricular activities and am also a part of the Chemical Engineering Society Executive Team, where I held a role as President, and then General Executive. This allows me to interact with students from all the years and further helps me gain experience and deal with issues such as managing finances and organising events.  These skills are useful and cannot be developed from the course due to the nature of the course.

Another key factor to improve employability is aiming to obtain a placement. From the first instance at university, I was determined to do a 12-month placement which is highly regarded in the Chemical Engineering industry for the experience it provides. Thus, as soon as my first year at university ended, I focused on obtaining a placement. I firmly believe that a placement will improve my employability aspects in life and show me Chemical Engineering from a different perspective to an educational perspective.

What advice would you give to your fellow students about finding placement and work experience opportunities?

The key aspect, I believe, is to apply early!! My aim was to apply to all the companies I wanted to apply to before my 2nd year started. This had dual benefits; the first benefit being that you get your foot in the door early and your CV and covering letter is looked at early on in the process; the second benefit was that throughout the year, I could concentrate on my course, rather than applications. So apply early! 

Another piece of advice is knowing who to talk to regarding help and support. The Career and Employability Services are essential in helping to obtain placements. In addition, talk to students in the year above who obtained placements and try to get as much information as possible. This very approach allowed me to obtain a placement at one of the leading automotive companies in the world.

Finally, don’t give up. Even if rejected numerous times, keep going, and keep applying!

Tell us about your current placement...

The placement I am going to undertake is at Nissan, Sunderland, the second largest automotive manufacturer in the UK.  My overall role title is ‘Engineering Placement’ but I will be specialising in the Paint Department.

There are two key aspects of my placement; the first aspect relates to the coating of the cars before leaving the factory. Currently, a car is coated in a chemical (e.g. anti-corrosion coating) and then placed in an ‘oven’ to bake. Then, the same process is repeated for different chemicals. One of the aims of the company is to combine some of the chemicals, so the number (and length) of times the car must enter the ‘oven’ is reduced. This is directly related to my course – chemical composition of the chemicals.

Secondly, reducing the cost of normal processes and data analysis is the remaining key aspect of my placement. This will help me gain an understanding of standard processes which are always useful and will develop and broaden my overall knowledge of manufacturing engineering.

How will the placement year benefit you when you return to study at the University of Bradford?

The placement year will benefit me as I will be working with heavily experienced engineers who have been practically applying their knowledge for many years. It will teach me how to deal with and adapt to real life problems.  Furthermore, I will experience stages of a project, from the inception of a project to its completion. I will learn how to manage not only a project, but how to manage people. Hopefully, this will help me greatly in my final year design project.

In addition to all this, I will consolidate my knowledge by applying all that I have learnt so far at my time at university.