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Beth Lowe

MEng (Hons) Medical Engineering
Placement with DePuy Synthes, part of Johnson & Johnson, Leeds (July 2016 – July 2017)

Beth Lowe

Why did you apply to the University of Bradford? What was your first impression of the university and the city, and what did you enjoy most about your time in Bradford?

I have lived in Bradford my whole life, so was sceptical about going to the University of Bradford since it was so close to home.  However, I applied to it as an insurance option but was pleasantly surprised on my Applicant Day visit to see the facilities and opportunities offered at the University.  The lecturers we met on the day were enthusiastic about their subject areas and the university and faculty had made a lot of effort in making the Applicant Day personal.  I also liked the thought that everything was on one campus, making it easier to get from place to place and getting to know people easier.  Bradford also offered the opportunity for an industrial placement year which was important to me when choosing which university to go to.  The Applicant Day persuaded me to change the University of Bradford from my insurance option to my first choice.

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

I think what drew me to Medical Engineering the most was that it is a mix of Biology, Mathematics, Physics and IT meaning that I didn’t have to leave any of the subjects that I enjoy behind. I also liked the career prospects available through this fairly specialised degree such as orthotics, prosthetics, computational biology/neuroscience, tissue engineering and device manufacturing.  In these industries, there is the chance to go into different areas such as quality, manufacturing, design, product development etc. My favourite part of this course is the variability between modules making each day different.

After completing three years of my course, I would say what I have most enjoyed is that opportunities this course has given me. I have had summer placements in both my first and second year, the first with Norgren (now known as IMI Precision Engineering) in Leeds, working as a Quality Engineer and the second, with the Amgen Foundation where I went to Munich for 2 months to work as a Research Assistant at LMU. These were both amazing opportunities and I believe the experience from my course helped me get them.

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

I would suggest getting involved in societies, doing some volunteering, and taking advantage of placement opportunities. Societies are great for meeting people and there are loads to choose from. Social events organised by societies can be really fun, from paintballing to go karting to the activities’ End of Year Ball.  I was part of the Debating Society and worked up to becoming Vice President in my third year.  This looks great on my CV and also gave me some unique transferrable skills.

Volunteering, such as being a Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) Leader, also looks great on your CV and another way of meeting new people and gaining new skills. You can meet the volunteering team down in the Students Union (SU) and sign up to their emails about opportunities. Volunteering can be really rewarding, especially when people tell you that you really helped them do well in an exam or a piece of coursework.

Placements can be amazing experiences and don’t be afraid to try and get one even in your first summer at university. I used the Summer Experience Team at Bradford to find mine in my first year and won the Best Placement Student in a large company award at the Awards Evening at the end of the summer. It was a great introduction to industry since it was just for 3 months. My second placement in Munich was the best experience of my life! I found this opportunity by searching for summer research placements and was lucky enough to be picked to join the programme. Doing placements is the only way to gain real work experience and to learn about yourself and what you really want to do when you graduate.

What support have you received from Career Development Services / Placement Staff?

Career Development Services (CDS) have supported me as an individual, developing my CV and cover letter, interview technique and job application skills.  I have had individual meetings and have also been to the regular workshops they put on. These workshops are sometimes run by Career Development Advisers from CDS or by guests from industry and recruitment services.  I particularly enjoy the ones delivered by people from industry and recruitment services because they help you to understand exactly what companies are looking for in their recruitment process and often give you tips for when you are applying.

What action are you taking to improve your employability whilst at University?

I have been taking advantage of the workshops the Career Development Services have put on to improve my CV and interview technique.  These are the first things employers see of you so are essential for getting the job. I have also taken on volunteering experiences offered such as being a PAL Leader which has developed my leadership and organisation skills which are important skills to be able to tell employers you have.  

I have always done volunteering all the way through school and will be taking part in some volunteering opportunities on my work placement. I find them very rewarding and they are really good experiences to take skills form to discuss in an interview. I have also worked my way up in a society to show I have the drive and commitment. This experience gives me further talking points in an interview and can definitely make you stand out.

I also believe hard work and commitment to your university studies shows really well on your CV and interview. Grades usually appear at the top of the CV so are the first thing an employer sees. It is important that these look good so that they can get you shortlisted. As advice, however, I would caution that top grades are not enough to get you the job alone, and you will need other skills and experiences once you come to the interview stages.  

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

Don’t underestimate how long an application can take, start applying in October while your university work is smaller and take your time to fill in the questions in detail.  Don’t rush an application just so that you can get more done in a day. Use the university resources and definitely try using the Summer Experience Team. They have local, paid work experience for 6 weeks in the summer in various different industries.  If you get on well with the employers and have work to do, there is always the possibility of extending this 6 weeks, I extended mine to 3 months!  I have also known people get their year-long industrial/sandwich placement through the job they did through their summer work experience.  Make sure you have fairly good relationships with your Personal Tutor and senior lecturers; these may be the people giving you a reference to a company in the future.  Finally, don’t get disheartened by rejections, ask for feedback from the assessors and keep trying.

Tell us about your current placement (include brief responsibilities).

As Student Tribology Engineer, I will be working with machines in the test lab, predominantly the metrology equipment and hip simulator equipment. Tribology is the study of wear, friction, lubrication and surface roughness. I will assess explanted hip components, design test protocols, validate equipment and produce reports on the outcome of tests. I will also be helping to make the lab testing a more efficient procedure. I started my placement with around 20 other placement students which will give me a great chance to get to know people from other universities and make great contacts for the future. There are lots of opportunities at Depuy Synthes, and I hope to get involved in as much as I can.

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

I hope my placement year will help me decide whether to remain in academia or start work in industry once I graduate.  Therefore, I will either apply for PhDs or graduate placements in industry come October 2017.  I also hope it will be the extra push of motivation to finish my Master’s degree since a work placement can give you a whole new perspective on your goals and ambitions.  I have also heard that work helps you appreciate how much you can get done in a morning and will hopefully help me be more productive and efficient when I continue my studies.