Kimberley Williams

Kimberley Williams

Name: Kimberley Williams

Job title: nucleargraduate chemical engineer

Company: nucleargraduate scheme, sponsored by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA)

Country: UK
A-levels: Maths, Physics and Chemistry
University: University of Nottingham, UK

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a police officer, but as I progressed through school I discovered that Maths was my favourite subject by far and I also liked sciences – because I like problem solving. I found out that studying maths, physics and chemistry at A-level would keep my options open for university and I was interested in studying engineering because this applied maths in a useful way!

Discovering chemical engineering

I first heard about chemical engineering at a careers fair at my high school and I spoke to the person on the 'whynotchemeng’ stand. I learnt that the job entailed a mix of practical and office work, that jobs were available in a wide range of industries and most importantly for me: you cannot live without chemical engineers!

Chemical engineering students are well valued for their range of transferable skills (from team work to numerical proficiency) - so I was still keeping my options open if I studied it. During Year 12 I attended a week-long course run by Headstart at the University of Birmingham. Here, I had the opportunity to visit a local chemical plant and I met a chemical engineer who was working towards being Chartered and gave us insight into her role. It sounded interesting so I chose to study a MEng course which will allow me to progress to becoming Chartered more easily down the line.

Choosing an industrial placement

I had planned to do a Year in Industry before going to university to get some experience, but I was advised that it would be more useful to study for a few years first to get some background knowledge. I chose to complete an industrial placement between my third and final year of my MEng instead, and eventually chose a placement at Heinz. I worked in the Research & Development team, mainly in the Soups category, where I really enjoyed the experience of working on real chemical engineering projects.

At university I discovered that chemical engineering only contains about 5% chemistry - it's mostly maths and team work - and I particularly enjoyed the laboratory work, the research project (third year) and the design project (final year), all of which involved working in a team.

I became a STEM Ambassador at university and signed up to support whynotchemeng because I wanted to tell other young people about the good opportunities of chemical engineering which you don’t get taught about at school. I also helped other students through the University of Nottingham’s Chem Eng Society to get more involved in local schools and events with young people.

nucleargraduates

Despite gaining experience in the food industry during my placement year, I wanted to contribute to reducing global emissions and reducing climate change, so I enrolled on a two-year graduate scheme called nucleargraduates. I'm sponsored during the scheme by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) where we get the opportunity to organise our own placements at various companies across the nuclear industry.

I have worked at places to give me insight across as much of the industry as possible:

(1) NDA, with Sellafield Limited, on their technical solutions for dealing with the Legacy Ponds & Silos. (Decommissioning side)
(2) DBD, a small consultancy firm, where I was able to get involved with the business management side as well as technical project work for international clients. (Supply chain side)
(3) Springfields, a nuclear fuel manufacturing site, where I worked on the project team for the uranium recovery chemical plant and I also got a taste of what it is like to work on 12 hour shifts as a plant operator (which was actually great fun!). (Manufacturing Side)
(4) Westinghouse Electric Company, on the team that is in the process of getting a new nuclear reactor (AP1000) approved by the regulator so that it can be built in the UK. (New Build side)

Another great thing about the scheme is that we get the chance to set up and run our own business. My team is passionate about the nuclear industry, so we have created some free resources for 11-14 year-old students about the different parts of the nuclear industry called Critical Paths. You can find out more about the industry and download the free resources at www.criticalpathsuk.com.

I enjoy learning about different areas of the industry and working in teams, to make a difference. I am still trying to decide which area to work in when I finish the scheme.