Support of product development projects in the coated abrasives division, carrying out lab, pilot and factory experiments to provide solutions for challenges faced on new product scale-up. Test development, process experimentation, formulation development and long-term studies all contribute to a body of work within various sub-projects focused on particular challenges facing the product's performance in the hands of customers. Work from customer feedback and evaluation from senior product developers to create and execute new studies.
Various practical skills developed including new experience on lab equipment including UV curing stations, tensile testing rigs, SEM, laser profilometry and optical microscopy. Data handling and display skills enhanced by experience with Minitab, a software I had not previously used. Communication and presentation skills developed through regular opportunites to present findings and ideas in emails or during lab team meetings. Perseverance, resilience and tenacity were required to work through a pandemic, often alone in the lab.
Often entrusted to be working alone in the lab during the height of lockdown, and ultimately became the site 'expert' in the subjects which my sub-projects were based around. Planned and carried out a pilot study while my supervisor was busy on production runs - led a team of technicians to scale-up a lab observation to the pilot line and successfully produced product which performed better than current production material and supported my experimental hypothesis. Often asked to present my findings to senior colleagues and set up my own meetings to push projects forward.
Supervisor was always willing and able to answer questions, and I had regular meetings with him and his own supervisor to check in on progress and provide support if needed. All colleagues were very welcoming and willing to lend a hand throughout. Plenty of initial training set me in good stead from day one, and numerous corporate training programmes also enhanced skills required in the workplace and provided valuable skill development. 3M infrastructure (3M Go etc) is well set up to make it easy for new employees to access relevant files and information when needed.
Company culture of helpfulness, support and innovation - 3Mers worldwide recognise the importance of shared knowledge and the leaps forward made through collaboration. Particularly in the context of a major project, the desire of all team members to contribute to each other's work is inspiring and reassuring. Despite plenty of serious challenges over a particularly tough year, there was a real sense of optimism and progress on site and all colleagues seemed excited to make steps forward each day.
A fantastic year, made only sweeter in comparison to what I would've faced at university during a pandemic year. I feel I have made real progress as an individual, as a scientist and as a 3Mer. I feel well equipped to finish my degree with a renewed sense of scientific curiosity and plenty of valuable new skills to implement. I have made some strong connections with colleagues both locally and globally, and have begun to chart a course for a possible future career in R&D.
Go for it! 3M is an incredibly diverse company with many sectors and projects running concurrently - the breadth of science being pushed by the company is simply astounding. While many may not immediately recognise 3M as a company, their products are household staples and almost everyone I have spoken to has ultimately recognised a 3M product they use often (a great feeling!). Many opportunities for development, and a fantastic grad scheme which placement years act as a powerful precursor to.
Placement Year (10 Months+)
Science/Research, Product Design/Industrial Design