Studying chemical engineering can be quite challenging sometimes. You have to know your ability to grasp new material and you will have to put the work into it.
How did you decide on your degree choice? What appealed about Manchester?
I undertook an apprenticeship as a microelectronics technician and I loved the chemistry, the complex processes and the science but not how everything is too small to see or grasp. Therefore, chemical engineering seemed the logical choice for me and I feel it was the right one.
As I wanted to study in English (I am from Germany), I weighed up the factors and decided to study in the UK rather than in the US or Australia. As the birthplace of chemical engineering, Manchester also had an advantage through its high rankings, fruitful contacts with industry and that it is much bigger than other universities in the UK.
What were your first impressions of the university and the city?
Initially I was astonished by the sheer amount of students around all the time; I was also unfamiliar with the idea of a large city campus. The university buildings really stand out within the city landscape and the modern architecture of some buildings makes you feel like you are in a place that fosters intellect.
What are you most enjoying about your course?
A large proportion of the course entails group work so you quickly get to know other people and find out what their strengths are. The lectures are usually not too spread out during the day and 9 o’clock starts are common, which provides one with enough free time to schedule working, going out and hobbies.
Most of the lectures are a bit intuitive in the sense that the lectures create a dialog with students and encourage them to ask questions. Lecturers are very approachable so you don’t feel like a number and they have time to answer questions or give advice.
There is an atmosphere of healthy competition, with the subject of grades not being a taboo one. Also, students will sometimes apply at the same company and there is a strong focus on employability. Prizes and scholarships are also a great incentive to do well academically as well. What I like the most though is the solidarity between students, especially during exam periods.
What skills and attributes do you think you have gained from your course and co-curricular activities so far?
What I’ve noticed the most is a slow but gradual change in my mode of thinking about the world; increased angles of view and an 'engineering approach' to my surroundings. This approach also provides a good sense of what a chemical engineer will be involved in and what the tasks to tackled in this world are. This is a much more useful gain than just plain scientific knowledge. Nevertheless, the new acquired scientific understanding of many events chemical engineering related or not, is a great asset.
The sheer amount of new friends and getting to know interesting characters from around the world is also an important benefit. I came part of the Chemical Engineering Society as a first year representative and then as the secretary. The student society is really active for this course and it nice to have socials and activities with people from other years.
I joined many clubs and had the chance to go regularly canoeing and surfing and getting to know many people through social activities. In this sense I acquired a good deal of social skills as well as physical skills.
How do you think you are benefitting from studying at Manchester?
Manchester is a vibrant town and the area surrounding the university caters for all your needs. What I will always remember is how living in Manchester has shaped me: new friends, a good place for personal enrichment and an exciting study environment to fully unfold, if so desired. In comparison to more expensive cities Manchester just simply offers 'more bang for the buck'.
What advice would you give to students considering applying for the same course that you took?
Studying chemical engineering can be quite challenging sometimes. You have to know your ability to grasp new material and you will have to put the work into it. The benefits outweigh the potential hardship though. There is a good amount of coursework but it is relatively adequate for the course and there will be plenty of time for other stuff.
Due to the focus in group work (derived from the need when working in industry), one should realise that being talkative and friendly is quite an asset to bring. The beautiful part is that all kinds of people and characters are in the course and nobody seems left out.
For some modules you might initially think it is too theoretical and not in your career interest. The pleasant effect is that they all fit nicely together, interlinking to create the engineer mindset. Chemical engineering students come from different educational backgrounds so you may feel like you are behind people in certain subjects but you will be ahead in others. Therefore, if one lacks for example higher physics education, catching up is quite useful.