Student chemist in the Applied and Strategic Research department
I thoroughly enjoyed my year at Lubrizol within the Applied & Strategic Research department. I felt that many on site cared about our development over the course of our placement which created a very friendly working environment. I particularly enjoyed being able to direct my own research and my experiences played a key role in my decision to carry out a PhD - something which prior to starting my placement I was unsure of.
Everyone on site is generally friendly and welcoming in particular those within Applied & Strategic Research who were very supportive throughout the year. I felt that the opinions I had on any work I was involved in were valued and that I had a say in the direction of these projects. As such I felt that I was viewed much more like an employee as opposed to a placement student.
I cannot fault the support that I was given by my supervisor during my time at Lubrizol, which was particularly important as this was my final year of my degree. Regular feedback, either informally or as a 1:1 meeting, was provided ranging from the progress of my projects to how to improve softer skills such as presenting. I often felt that my supervisor went beyond what would be expected of them, in particular supporting me in my PhD applications which was often within their free time. One of the things which I particularly liked during my placement was their encouragement of seeking and providing feedback. This often meant that people who I otherwise may not have been directly involved with would be more than happy to provide feedback, particularly on presentations.
Whilst there was a relatively large amount of administrative work to do at the start of the placement, I greatly appreciated that we could start working in the lab on the first day under the supervision of the previous student. The workload throughout the year gradually increases and I wouldn't say there was a period where there was not enough work to do. There were points within the year however that the workload got a bit too much but this was sorted relatively quickly when discussed with my supervisor.
As I progressed throughout my placement the amount of responsibility I was given gradually increased and I often felt like I had a large say in how we should approach certain problems. I was also given the opportunity early in my placement to directly interact with instrument manufacturers to try to resolve equipment issues whilst also being able to go to external facilities to use techniques not available on site.
Whilst the instrumentation that I predominantly used during my placement is unlikely to be something I will use again in the future, the softer skills developed within the lab such as time management and problem solving will be of great help as I start my PhD. I'd say that a lot of emphasis was placed on developing our presentations skills, and I would frequently report my results out to project stakeholders both on site and in the US via Skype. One of the areas that I perhaps didn't get as much opportunities to develop over the year was in report writing, likely due to the frequency of presentations.
I worked in a four-person office which included my supervisor - making it extremely easy to ask any questions if I had any problems. Overall, I really enjoyed working in the office and I felt it struck a good balance between being fun and a good laugh whilst allowing you to get on with your work when needed.
I was given a two week handover period with the previous student in my role which was particularly useful in getting to grasps with the instrumentation and allows you to quickly begin work on your project. The projects I was involved in were well organised and frequent meetings ensured that work remained on track. There were however a few miscommunications during the application process, including wrong dates given for telephone interviews, that did cause some confusion.
As previously mentioned, I felt that many people on site were interested in the development of students and would take time out of their day to provide feedback on your work. Throughout the year online training is provided on areas that may be important to the work you are doing particularly focusing on H&S. Other training sessions, such as making effective posters, was also provided.
There appears to be large amount of placement students that come back to work for Lubrizol although there isn't necessarily a graduate scheme through which this can be done. Lubrizol does however sponsor PhDs which would offer one route to keep in contact.
In total there are about 30 placement students on site which was great for socialising after work. There were also opportunities throughout the year to socialise with my department outside of work such as the Christmas meal and at the end of placement. The site has its own Sports & Social club which frequently organises a whole host of subsidised events ranging from go-karting to horse riding. One of the standout events is the Munro bagging trips which is held twice a year and a great opportunity to socialise with former students and other people on site that you may otherwise not meet.
Most students live in Derby which, in comparison to cost of living at university, was a lot more affordable. The only difficulty with living in Derby however is that it is at least a 20 minute drive to get to get to the Hazelwood site depending on what side of the city you live. There is no public transport links that stop near to the site but most students car share so this isn't too much of an issue.
There are a lot of pubs and bars within Derby however the nightlife in comparison to many cities is pretty poor. Nottingham does however offer a much better nearby alternative with frequent buses and trains running between the two cities.
There are a number of different activities and groups that students can get involved in during their placement including charity and environmental committees. As already mentioned, the Sports & Social club organises a variety of event all year round at reduced prices, with student members able to suggest what events should be held. Lubrizol also encourages placement students to get involved in the STEM ambassador scheme and related outreach programmes.