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Clint Okeyo

MEng (Hons) Chemical Engineering
Placement with Novartis Pharma AG, Basel, Switzerland (Sept 2015 – July 2016)

Clint Okeyo

Why did you apply to the University of Bradford? What do you like about the city?

I applied to study at the University of Bradford because of its rich history in Chemical Engineering, a field I was interested in going into to acquire the skills needed to contribute to sustaining society. It was my insurance choice on UCAS, but I was impressed by their clear, straightforward and organised application process. It was a glimpse to the high quality structure and content of the course. I am also pleased to say that in Bradford the course is very practical, so it increases your employability. 

On arrival in Bradford, I was taken aback by how culturally diverse the city is. Coming from a deeply culturally diverse city like Geneva, Switzerland, I wasn’t expecting a city in the UK to be of a similar standard. I found the University to be very warm and welcoming to new students such as myself. It was nerve wracking to be away from home; surrounded by strangers, so it was a relief to be around friendly, warm and welcoming people. 

Once I got the hang of things, I found out about social and sports societies supported by the Students Union. What is really impressive is that there is something for everyone: re-enacting medieval events, anime, video games, religious societies, minority societies, fencing, etc. The list goes on. I find that the people you meet at these societies end up becoming your friends throughout your time at University. This is not surprising considering we all have a common interest. As an international student, I was also very excited by the fact that we have an International Students Office which organises events and other activities such as free language classes. One can really take this time at University to grow and develop oneself. 

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

There have been numerous instances in my life where I have thought that our ever evolving technology could be improved to benefit our environment and, in turn, humanity. A degree in chemical engineering will give me the skills to help in making existing technology more environmentally friendly. It made sense to me to try this course as I have an innate desire for a deep understanding in all three sciences, Chemistry, Physics and Biology, subjects that are fundamental in the comprehension of processes and products in chemical engineering.

I look forward to doing my final year as we have the option to specialise. After my placement year, which was immensely useful for work experience, I have decided to specialise in Pharmaceutical Chemical Engineering. I also like the practical nature of the course as we learn a fair amount of problem solving while being expected to be independent. One example of this is how I am shadowing an MSc student who is doing work similar to what I plan on doing. I can get some real laboratory experience this way. There are also a number of critical group projects, especially the final year Plant Design Group Project, to simulate working on company projects.

I am looking forward to specialising in Pharmaceutical Chemical Engineering as I would like to work in the R&D division of Pharma companies to help in the manufacture of medicines. There are numerous challenges I look forward to facing such as the development of continuous manufacturing of Drug Substances & Drug Products. I find that aiding in the manufacture of medicine that helps people live healthy and longer lives would be an almost perfect way of positively contributing to society.

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

It is very easy to miss out on all the opportunities available to you. First of all, every student needs to finance themselves to continue studying.  One way of doing this, that most do not consider, is by applying for grants, bursaries and scholarships offered by various universities, the UK government and other governments.  Other ways include getting part-time jobs whilst at University with the help of the Career and Employability Services.

Once your finances are sorted there many things you can do to make the best out of your time at University. First would be taking up extra-curricular activities that help you de-stress or trying something new to see if you might like it. The societies offered by the Students Union would be able to cover these aspects. Lastly, one should do things that will help develop oneself such as acquiring new skills – driving, languages, music, etc. The free language courses are a great way of opening your mind to different ways of thinking. In my penultimate year of study, I am giving all this advice because it took me sometime to realise all of these opportunities and as a result I have missed some.

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

The Career and Employability Services has been vital in helping me prepare CVs and Cover Letters suitable for placement and job applications. In addition, they have given me exposure to potential employers by organising up to 3 Careers Fairs every academic year. Small and large companies were present and each would result in very different experiences. I check the Careers website regularly and it has lots of information on how to apply for placements, jobs, graduate schemes, Erasmus schemes, etc.

The commitment of the Career and Employability Services to your professional development is unquestionable.  During my placement in a different country, the Placement Team assisted me in planning my Placement Tutor’s visit.  Event after studies, I will still have access to the services such as the JobsOnline Database for 5 years.

Due to all the opportunities made available to me by Career and Employability Services, I have already secured my Summer Placement for the summer before my Final Year.

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

During my placement, I received good advice from my supervisors to consider to continue working the Particle Technology field if I am enjoying the work.  As I have thoroughly enjoyed my year at Novartis, I plan on continuing on to specialise in Particle Engineering by doing my Master (MEng) project in the same field. Therefore, one could say this internship has given more direction and conviction than what I had when I started.

Since I plan on specialising in Particle Engineering, my path does not stop in university. To make a career in this field, I will most likely do a PhD in a topic I am very passionate about with the hope of collaborating with industry during my PhD. This is because, being able to contribute something useful to society as a result of my work is a very important factor for me. I will then go on to make positive changes in society using all the skills at my disposal in the best way I can.

To Increase my chances of getting a graduate job or PhD position, I am using my spare time to work with an MSc Chemical Engineering student who is also working on Solids Processing. By the end of my course I plan to publish some of my work.

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

This is most likely the first time you are applying for placement and work experience opportunities. I believe the action that makes the difference in obtaining a position is asking for all the help you can get from the right people. Know who can aid you with your CV, Cover Letter, interviews etc. Who can support you so you don’t give up? Who can point you in the right direction so you don’t waste time applying for positions you can’t get?  Who can give you advice about fields you are looking into?

By applying the same advice on myself, I have already secured my Summer Placement for the summer before my Final Year.

Tell us about your current placement (include brief responsibilities)

I started my placement in Sept 2015 in the Particle Engineering Team.  The work I was involved in was the development of a Lab Scale Agitated drying protocol, which was done by scaling down to a new and smaller dryer.  The surprising key aspects to remember are as follows:

  • R&D engineers use a significant amount of Mathematics as a tool for problem solving
  • Use of simulation or other engineering software is prevalent
  • Lab experiments are the fastest and most reliable when problem solving, however, there was a good balance of office and lab work (a ratio of 1:1)
  • Report writing is common place
  •  Chemical engineers can work from the lab all the way to the Plant scale in one job position

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

As mentioned earlier, the placement has helped me secure another placement for summer before my final year. It has also given me the direction and motivation I need to know what I need to do during my studies to increase my chances for getting the job I want.

Some of these tasks include using my MEng Advanced Research Project as a way to show my interest in Pharma Chemical Engineering, working with an MSc student in Pharma Engineering, publishing my work and doing extra-curricular activities that will make the most of my time at University.