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Whychemeng: Practical Chemical Engineering and Early Career Development

last modified May 04, 2016 12:13 PM

Department graduates Philip Mak and Claire Willmoth, Process Engineers at BP Hull, returned to CEB on Friday 29 April 2016 to share their work experience with current undergraduates and PhD students and talk about the challenges faced by process engineers and by Chemical Engineers as graduates.

He shared case studies related to relevant work he's regularly involved with, which shows how he has to put chemical engineering skills learned during his undergrad years into practice. Phil focused on tackling problems with  distribution rigs, heat exchanger design and distillation columns. The process safety of units in a distillation column and the need to undertake a cost- benefit assessment was discussed.

He highlighted; “Understanding the fundamentals and proposing engineering changes is key and in order to do this a chemical engineer needs to understand the risks involved. One will need to ask oneself questions regarding safety, and whether replacing a unit would be cost and/or time-effective.

He added, ‘One needs to define the problem using different sources to identify where it is coming from. In addition, one will have to be able to influence people at different levels to get a design modification in place and implement a great engineering solution’.

Claire talked about graduate career development at BP, the typical graduate career roles and job opportunities available at BP. She talked about the development stages a chemical engineer  could go through from starting off in R&D and moving through Engineering Design and Operations to become more specialised.

She commented that BP offers chemical engineers mentors and technical support in the workplace. She added that she quickly had to put into practice the skills she learned during her Tripos degree here. She said; One will mainly learn from others, own mistakes and by actually doing the job. Being able to communicate with others effectively is also  crucial, especially when you want to get a new design implemented and there will be challenges along the way to be faced i.e. dealing with disruptive staff members or learning to have difficult conversations with others regarding safety and cost factors  during meetings’.

Despite the challenges both Phil and Claire have loved every minute of their work as process engineers in BP.

For more information on BP careers.