Synthesis of engine oil additives for use in the automotive industry
Working at Lubrizol has been a fantastic experience. I worked in the department of component science In Hazelwood, where the aim is to develop new molecules to be formulated into engine oils. Therefore if chemical synthesis is something you are interested in, I would highly recommend applying for this role.
Throughout the year I have had the opportunity to improve skills, including: my ability to present in front of large audiences, manage my time effectively in the lab and work as a team to achieve industry set goals. Although the chemistry involved may not be as specialised as a pharma company, you will learn how to do reactions on a large scale (from 250 mL to 20 L) so that your processes are suitable for large scale production - this technique is not usually taught in undergraduate labs.
At Lubrizol, you are treated like a full time member of staff. This means you are given a lot of responsibility towards a project, which is great as you feel like you are part of the team and making a real difference. What you do at Lubrizol can have a huge impact on the future of the company, and I felt that I was valued strongly right from day 1. I made many friends at Lubrizol as well as developed many professional relationships which made the experience great - in fact it was very sad to leave at the end of my placement!
At the start of your placement you are assigned a supervisor who is an expert in the field of the project you are working in. The support I had from my supervisor was fantastic - not only was he informative and understanding when I was stuck, he also encouraged me to try my own ideas, as well as give presentations and attend workshops to help increase my skills as a scientist. At the start of the placement you are given lectures from your superior on the area you are working in to get you up to speed. There is also a 2 week hand over period from the previous students to help you get used to the lab and large scale reactions. Overall the support is great, which meant i settled in very quickly!
There was overall a good balance on the day to day work. I did find that some times things got incredibly busy and you might have a stay a few hours over time, but that is what working life is like and over all it balanced out. I was keen to improve my presentation skills, which meant I would sometimes stay late to practise for upcoming presentations. On the flip side, there is a good social-work life balance. Lubrizol has a society called the "Sports and Social Club" which hosts activities throughout the year (and if you are interested in planning/running them, you can join the committee like I did) including trips to Alton Towers and Ice Skating. There are also (roughly) 25 other placement students who start at the same time as you, which made it great for socialising! It does take a while to get used to the 9-5 lifestyle (your weekends become much more precious) but overall it was a great experience!
I would say you are given a good amount of responsibility - lots of the supervisors have been working at Lubrizol for a long time and have had many students in the past, so they know the right amount of work to give to their students. They understand that you are completely new to the lubricants game - they will not overwhelm you with work to do but will encourage you, as you improve and become more comfortable, to accept more responsibiliy and drive the project forward.
The skills I have learned whilst working at Lubrizol have been invaluable. Presentation skills, scientific posters, time management, event organisation, sticking to deadlines, conferences, networking, problem solving, planning experiments, confidence in the lab - these are just a handful of the skills you will develop as a component science placement student, and are super valuable for anyone who is interested in a Job in industry or wants to pursue a PhD. I saw this year as a massive learning opportunity: you get out of the year what you put in. If you work hard and take opportunities that present themselves to you, I have no doubt that you will learn so much.
The general atmosphere in the office was quite quiet and professional throughout the working day. I shared an office with 4 others including my supervisor. Throughout the day there were frequent coffee breaks (at 8, 10 and 2) which usually involved discussion about projects or just general office banter. In fact, lots of our project ideas came about from discussions in these tea breaks. Overall it made working in the office enjoyable.
All the training, health and safety and general admin was well organised. A big company like Lubrizol has lots of procedures in place to make the process of new students joining efficient. I felt that I was taught everything I needed to know quickly and effectively, which allowed to me settle in faster than I expected.
There was quite a lot of investment put into training up students to the correct standard. For example being trained on equipment if it was relevant to your project from members of staff. There were also workshops that you could attend to improve your skills including: scientific posters, presentations and managing your emails.
Lots of placement students have returned to work at the company. Unfortunately as component science is quite a small department, it may be difficult to get a job there unless someone leaves. However there are plenty of opportunities in other the departments for future employment, and if you have been on a year in industry with lubrizol you stand in good chance for securing a job.
As mentioned before, the social scene at Lubrizol was great due to the "Sports and Social Club". They hosted a huge number of socials over the year at a massively discounted price. There are also 25 or so other placement students that join at the same time as you, which makes for a good social student scene.
I lived in Derby which was quite cheap to live in and about a 20 minute drive to work. We paid about £300 pcm for the house, not including bills. The only thing I would mention is that some areas of Derby (including ours) are not great, and I would recommend living in the north side of Derby so that you are closer to work. Lubrizol does help new students with finding accommodation, so if you are stuck it might be worth sending HR and email.
The derby night life was ok...Some places were decent, we spent quite of time in weatherspoons and there were some nicer (but more expensive) bars. The club scene is not great, but you are quite close to Nottingham which is slightly better. Would recommend Mosh though, its a great night out!
I am quite into running, so I attended a running club outside of work. There are also plenty of events and things to do near derby including outdoor cinemas, walks in the peak district, climbing, bowling, festivals, half marathons, horse riding etc. I would recommend getting involved in an activity outside of work as it can give you a break from the day to day working life.