David Zhou

BEng (Hons) Chemical Engineering

Placement with Hycrome Aerospace, Burnley (June 2018 – Aug 2019)

Why did you apply to the University of Bradford?

When I finished my GCSEs, it came to mind to what to pursue in college as well as well as university. I wanted to find a subject/course that had a combination of maths, chemistry, and physics. Chemical Engineering was the perfect degree course!

Furthermore, when picking the right university, it was quite difficult with such a range of universities which differ slightly in modules, course structure, as well as some having more weight to course work or exam based (vice versa). I narrowed it down to a few universities I was interested in and I was attracted to the University of Bradford for its growing reputation as well as its course structure. So, on results day, I confirmed my UCAS choice and was accepted.

On my first day of university I had no clue what to expect as it was a completely new environment and a new chapter. I found out shortly the teaching size was a lot smaller compared to other universities and realised it was extremely friendly. Friends (from different backgrounds) were easily made at the university as everyone was so friendly. The university campus is compact, and a lot of the buildings are very close by as well places to go out for lunch. As for the city, it’s a relatively small city with the required essentials available.

What I loved most about Bradford is the friends (and the memories) I made. That’s the motto of our friendship group and because I came to Bradford, I was lucky enough to meet these people who I will consider my friends for life. Furthermore, the lecturers are friendly and they are able to offer so many opportunities.

Why did you choose that particular course?  What did you like and enjoy most about the course?

As mentioned earlier, there were a lot of factors that I took into careful consideration, but I wanted to pick a subject with a mix of Chemistry, Maths and Physics. A big factor I took into consideration when picking university was the course structure as well as the reputation it has built over the last few years; University of Bradford seemed like a great choice!

The course provides a lot of laboratory work as well as a lot of report writing (very handy for future industry work). The mixture of both individual and group projects/reports really has been essential in my success of getting a placement as it has allowed me to further detail my studies as well as enlighten interviews with situations and real-life examples through experiments. Overall, I do enjoy doing the experiments themselves and deepening my knowledge on the content of the report. I enjoyed working in teams and being able to expose and expand on different student’s strengths.

What tips would you give to prospective students (about the course at the University of Bradford and the university itself)?

Prospective students need to be ready to put in the extra hours as the degree course is very heavy and needs a lot of time and attention to be put in. Furthermore, the jump from A-level to university is big, so be prepared! You will spend many hours in the library or in Chesham in the computer rooms; especially nearing exam season.

BUT, this does not mean not to enjoy yourselves and have fun!!! I would try and join as many societies as possible; it lets you have a feel of what university is all about. Work hard and enjoy yourself, as it will also help you balance out your studying and social life – showing that university is more than just a degree! Take every opportunity that is given to you.

Keep applying! I easily applied to 100+ companies but you just got to keep going. I would also advise students to apply speculatively to companies – I applied and was successful in securing my industrial placement through speculative applications!
What support have you received from Career and Employability Services / Placement Staff?

Career and Employability Services / Placement Staff have been such a big help, very friendly and welcoming people. When first applying to companies, I had a lot of help sorting out my CV and CL. Thanks to them they helped me write it to an outstanding level; that really made my CV/CL stand out.

I also received a lot of help with psychometric tests and interview preparation. The support I got was phenomenal; as we got around the clock help with weekly sessions (e.g. interview and assessment centre preparation, as well as one-to-one sessions).  They also respond very quickly via emails.

What action are you taking to improve your employability whilst at University?

Personally, I have taken part in a range of extra0curricur activities and member of many societies. I am an executive for the STEM Society (Public Relations Officer) which has allowed me to grow confident in being able to voice my opinion and improve my time management and further develop my team working and presentation skills.  The role requires me to be able to work effectively as a team when planning social events and experiments in laboratories for potential students.   

I would highly recommend students to join the STEM Society as it gives you a lot of benefits from being able to reach younger children to pick a STEM subject (spending more time in the lab to design experiments) and to going to schools to perform experiments.

As well as the STEM Society, I am also a member of the Chemical Engineering and the Basketball Society. Basketball keeps me fit and sharp and to keep my schedule well balanced.

What advice would you give to your fellow students about finding placement and work experience opportunities?

Sounds cliché and I am sure everyone else is going to say the same, but keep applying! I easily applied to 100+ companies but you just got to keep going.  As tough as it sounds, get use to companies saying no (unless you get it first time) but just keep applying and don’t give in! No matter how far in the year. Even if you cannot secure a year long one, there is always opportunities in the summer that are just as beneficial but do not take no as an answer!

I would also advise students to apply speculatively to companies – I applied and was successful in securing my industrial placement through speculative applications!

Tell us about your current placement include brief responsibilities.

As a  Process Technician, I am responsible for assisting with process control in the Chemical Laboratory and Material Laboratory; carrying out assessment of test pieces in line with customer requirements. Other responsibilities include working on company projects that support new business opportunities and reviewing customer processing specifications and performing Gap Analysis against the company’s procedures. In addition, I also liaise with external Labs to progress sub-contracted operations and generating and writing Lab Reports to satisfy customer quality requirements.

How will the placement year benefit you when you return to study at the University of Bradford?

With the extra experience with the year-long placement, it will give an upper hand compared to the students who haven’t, as I have had a proper taste to what a day-to-day is like being a Chemical Engineer. The software that I will be using (Solidworks and others) will give me a better edge over other students as I will have had more practical experience in industry.

Furthermore, the general life style of being able to balance my work life with social life will be beneficial when returning to university to complete the tough final year of my degree course; applying what I have learnt in industry to my studies at university, consolidating my knowledge and being able to use it to the best of my ability.