14 March 2018
Though the summer holiday is a good time for rest and recuperation after students' first year at the College, it's also a crucial period to strengthen your CV and gain hands-on experience outside of the classroom to make you an even stronger candidate for university or employment after finishing A Levels and BTECs.
Crina Pricop was one of two students who won prestigious placements with Unilever last summer. Here, she writes about her invaluable experience, which also helped determine the direction of her future choices:
During the summer, I took part in a five-week placement at Unilever in Port Sunlight, working with my mentor, Helder Silva, in the department of R&D (Research and Development).
It was a great and unique experience, which confirmed what I want to do in the future, as I realised once more what my passion is. I’ve independently carried out a research investigation - the interaction between surfactant blends and polymer blends - and I’ve tried to put them into context. My work was a mixture between desk work and lab work, which helped me to develop new skills and to deepen my knowledge in a field not as much known to me until then.
Some new areas of science were introduced to me too, as my mentor showed me some of his projects that he was working on. He explained everything that he was doing, and he allowed me to help him, especially from the practical point of view, which I felt was a huge responsibility.
This placement thought me a lot: I learned what research means, how to gather relevant information and how to solve problems. I’ve worked with equipment that I’ve never used before, and become confident in doing it on my own, along with understanding the technicalities behind it. Due to that, after collecting the required results, I had to produce graphs to present them, which enhanced my IT skills. Working in the lab independently was a big achievement for me, as I felt like a real scientist, being able to work out formulas and equations to carry out the investigation.
At the end of my placement, I had to present my work to my mentor and to other co-workers, and to write up a report. It wasn’t easy; I can say that it was quite challenging, but that was what fascinated me, as my motivation to figure out what I needed to do was growing minute by minute.
From day one until the last day of my placement, I never stopped asking questions, and every morning I was excited in going in and continue with the work. It became a routine: I would grab my coffee, go to my desk, work on my report, then go in the lab, after finishing of some graphs, not forgetting about changing samples on the dynamic surface tensiometer, and solving some mathematical equations. In between all those things I had lunch, but I also found the time to interact with different people, so time management was quite vital.
At the end of the placement there was a celebration evening, where the poster that I created about the investigation was presented to the public. People came to have a look at it and they asked questions, making sure that I gave them a detailed answer. It was also interesting looking at the investigations that other students produce and learn something new from them.
It is a really rewarding feeling when you see that people appreciate your work, and it has been a useful experience for my future.
Posted by The BSFC Blogger
Category: The Student Voice