Nick Campbell-Kelly

Nick Campbell-Kelly

Name: Nick Campbell-Kelly

Job title: Graduate Process Engineer

Company: Sellafield Ltd

Country: UK
A Levels: Chemistry, Physics and Maths
University: University of Manchester

I remember finding a whynotchemeng postcard in the sixth form common room when I was studying my A-levels. I took a look at the website and found out more about chemical engineering and where I could study it in the UK.

This was my first insight into chemical engineering and it helped me get a general understanding of what chemical engineers do. It was perfect for me really because although I enjoyed maths and the sciences and was already studying them at A-level, I also knew that I didn’t want to study them at university. I wanted to do something more practical and choose a subject that would improve my career prospects – in that sense, chemical engineering was ideal.

I knew a girl who knew a man who knew a man...

I had a friend at school whose father had a friend that was a chemical engineer. It was that connection that helped me get a work placement at the end of my AS year. It was a two-week placement during the Easter holidays. Although it was short, it gave me an insight into the profession and also enhanced my personal statement when I applied for my university place.

When I was weighing up my university options, I attended a number of open days throughout the UK – I remember visiting Bath, Birmingham and Manchester. I considered both the academic and social sides of things when it came to choosing where to study, and in the end I successfully applied to study chemical engineering at the University of Manchester , UK.

University surprises

The thing that surprised me most about my course was the lack of chemistry. There was instead much more focus on physics and maths. I sometimes think the ‘chemical’ in ‘chemical engineering’ can be misleading.

My course lasted 4-years and included the opportunity to take a year out in industry. I spent my year at Sellafield. I already knew that I wanted to work in the oil and gas or nuclear sector, and that going down the pharmaceuticals route wasn’t for me. This year out really reinforced that mindset and I’d strongly recommend you choose a course where taking a year out in industry is supported.

The start of my career

Upon completing my studies, I went back to Sellafield and joined the company as a graduate process engineer. Having spent a year with the company already, I felt that I had a big advantage. I knew a little about the company and how it worked already and the management knew me and what I had to offer.

Having rapport with the people who would be responsible for assessing and hiring me was very important. It’s another example of how taking the year out and getting a year in industry will really help you stand out when applying for jobs.

The company has a two-year graduate training programme, roughly split into four six-month sections where you get to work in different areas of the business – operations, engineering design, new nuclear build and decommissioning.

In the longer term, I’d possibly like to get into a management role but I’m really happy with my degree choice and career path so far. My aim now is to become a Chartered Chemical Engineer.

A chemical engineering degree opens more doors than it closes. You learn how to develop your analytical skills, how to solve problems and how to work effectively as a team – all invaluable traits that will stand you in good stead, whether you pursue a career in chemical engineering or any other field.