The chemistry course at Sheffield is a really good foundation for many careers in science

Shona Fielding
Shona Fielding
Masters student, University of Sheffield
Chemistry BSc
Shona moved into teaching after her chemistry degree, and is now taking a masters course to prepare for a role in renewable energy.

What did you enjoy most about your degree?

I enjoyed the practical aspects of the degree and the independence associated with them. We had to research topics prior to lab classes to enable us to complete the practical safely and successfully. The lecture topics were also wide ranging and interesting, I particularly enjoyed learning the chemistry behind common things including chocolate and cosmetics.

What are you doing now and how did you get into that role?

After the chemistry course, I did a Postgraduate Diploma in Education to become a chemistry teacher at GCSE and A Level. I taught for five years, which was a fantastic experience. Working with inquisitive young minds, encouraging them to fall in love with science and to apply their knowledge to the real world was brilliant. After five years, I decided that I wanted to follow a different path and I am currently finishing my MSc in Energy and Environmental Engineering at Sheffield. I hope to work in the renewable energy sector to help mankind in the fight against climate change – arguably the biggest issue we are currently facing.

What did you do for your third year project?

For my final year project, I worked under Professor Steven Armes looking at the conductivity of polypyrrole. It was really interesting and I enjoyed getting to use more specialised equipment than we had previously used in labs. Having the chance to work on a project over a longer period of time also helped me to gain a greater understanding of the research process.

How has your degree helped you in your career?

Having a degree in chemistry was instrumental in becoming a teacher of the subject. It provided me with a deep understanding of the subject and allowed me to answer the more complicated questions that A level students would come up with, which were often far beyond the scope of their course. For my future career in environmental engineering, a degree in chemistry is also useful because many of the modules I have studied on the engineering course have built on concepts I had studied previously. 

What scientific skills did you develop during your course?

My degree taught me how to conduct an investigation in order to obtain valid results. I also developed an ability to use sophisticated laboratory equipment safely.

What transferable skills did you develop during your course?

The course allowed me to become more confident in my abilities as a chemist, as well as socially. In a new city you meet lots of new people from all over the world, which makes effective communication skills really important.  Additionally, my resilience improved throughout the course because experiments do not always work, which means you often have to keep trying. Finally, I also became more disciplined with my study time because university was the first time that I was asked to perform self-directed study.

What do you miss most about Sheffield?

I never left Sheffield after my course! I have lived here for almost 10 years and I still love it. I do miss the social aspect of my undergraduate degree though as a lot of my friends have now moved away. It was great having friends living so close to you and there were lots of societies to join at university. I was in the sign language society, which was brilliant – I still keep in touch with my old teacher to brush up on my skills.

What would you say to a prospective student considering studying BSc Chemistry at Sheffield?

The BSc Chemistry course at Sheffield is a really good foundation for many careers in science. It is hard work, but worth it. If you enjoy chemistry and want a course covering a really wide range of modules within chemistry, then this may be the course for you. You will get lecturers who are experts in their fields, are always willing to support you, and will push you to achieve your true potential. Time in the lab gradually increases throughout the course, which means your lab skills will also massively improve under the guidance of the lecturers and postgraduate students.

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