I have really enjoyed my year working at Lubrizol in the performance coating group Blackley. It was a great experience and really opened my eyes to what working in the chemical industrial research is all about, and I now feel it is the path I want to follow after I finish my degree. Everyone at the Blackley site is helpful and approachable, which made me feel happy from my very first day and I think that allowed me to enjoy the placement as much as I have.
At Lubrizol from day one everyone here was really friendly and supportive and not just to me as a student but to each other as well. I was made to really feel part of the team as if I was a full time member of staff and not just a student placement, this was proven as in group meetings I would be asked to contribute my ideas and feelings which would then be discussed and sometimes could lead to an experiment.
I was really lucky to get the supervisor that I got, she was really supportive and we have become good friends through the year and will defiantly be keeping in touch. I was able to approach her with any questions I had no matter how small or trivial and she would also help me understand or teach me on the best practice in the lab. Also she would support me by allowing me a little bit of time if my university work was getting on top of me. But also if I had any non work issues I know I could've gone to her and she would have listened and helped if she could.
It varied day to day as difference factors effected what was in the pipeline to be done. Some weeks would be really busy and I would be in the lab nearly all day for 4 days of the week and then other weeks I could be in the lab for just a couple of hours a day and then be on my laptop doing write ups of my experiments. When having to complete the university report it was very busy any non lab time was focused on that but once the report was finished I have found there is a lot more time where there can be little to do.
After you have gotten into the routine of what you have to do in the lab and have been taught about the chemistry that you are doing. You are given the freedom to plan and complete your work, but if you did need help or had questions you could always ask. But it was up to me to work out how I was going to complete the reactions that I needed to do in the most efficient way. If something did not work I would also be asked what I think could be the solution. The only thing that could be better is if I was involved in the meetings with senior staff about projects I was working on just so I could see the path ahead.
The skills and training I have received from Lubrizol I will use for the rest of my life. Firstly, how to work in a lab that is not just a university teaching lab having to meet deadlines in order to get products ready for customers and planning your schedule to meet those deadlines. Also learning resilience as at university the experiments you do should always work as they have been done 100's of times before, but in research no one has done them before and somethings just do not work and it took me a little bit to learn that and not be sad when things did not work. But it feels great when one does actually work and you have done something never been done before.
The first 3/4 of my placement the office had a great atmosphere everyone is friendly and willing to talk when having a little break of a drink, during lunch we sometimes did Mario Kart Fridays, but also when we were busy the office was quiet enough to focus on your work and get it done. It is the perfect balance I felt. It has been a strange year with my office being my home for a few months due to COVID and then the office having to be rearranged in order to meet social distancing measures so the fun in the office became less and a lot more serious as it was needed as health and safety came first.
It was really well organized from the first interview until my very last day. When I arrived for my first day everything ran smoothly and was prepared for me to start, we had a overlap week with the previous students which really helped learn what it was like to work here, and also see what a day to day work would be like. COVID really showed how well organized Lubrizol were by easily being able to change to being able to work from home while it was at its peak.
There was online training modules that had to be completed like on ethics etc, however, been as Lubrizol is an american company not all the training really was applicable to working in the UK but still had to be completed. There was also safety training face to face, on using eye wash stations and how to use dust masks correctly. The training from my supervisor was 10/10 in terms of how to do the chemistry I was doing and the best techniques to get it done.
I would like to have a job at Lubrizol when I finish my university degree, however, it is rare for a job to become available at the Blackley site and I have not seen many jobs in research available at other sites. However, this is probably a good thing as it means people are not leaving their jobs which means they enjoy the work that they do, which is a good sign for working at Lubrizol.
There is 6 students at the Blackley site we have all got on really well and got up to some fun things over the year. Obviously COVID impacted what we could do in the last bit of our placement. But as students we went to Heaton Park to celebrate us finishing in our last week and had some food. In the year we also went out a few times in Manchester for birthdays and just for fun. Also along with full time staff went to crazy golf and bongos bingo. There was a Mario Kart league set up which happened Friday lunch times for a while which was great, and I won overall making it even better!!
I decided to get a flat that was literally 400m from work so I would save money by not having to dive but it did mean I ended up paying more rent but I was paying for the location #550 a month excluding bills. There is an ASDA 20 min walk, 5min drive from the office and a Co-op 3min walk from work. Manchester is a big city so if you go out it is more expensive than other areas of the UK but Liverpool is only a train ride away and is a cheap night out.
Blackley is a little town and there is not much to do there other than a few walks. It is not far from heaton park where they have a great firework displace on bonfire night and also hold park life. There are trams into town if we went out to bars and an Uber back was about #10-15 which was not bad between a few people. There are lots of bars and clubs in Manchester that are great fun only issue is they are quite far away from one another so you end up walking a lot.
There is a Thursday football session that is organized by some staff at Lubrizol which was great fun, get to see some of your boss' get a little competitive especially when the game is on the line. But it is a good run out and get to talk to people from different departments that you would not of spoke to normally. Other than that there is no other fixed activity but no reason why you cannot arrange something yourself, us students were planning on doing tough mudder for charity but was cancelled due to COVID as an example.