From blast furnaces to wind tunnels

Entrance to the Sir Frederick Mappin Building
Jack Wells
Chemical and Biological Engineering
Year in Industry placement at Tata Steel
Jack joined the University of Sheffield in 2015 to commence a MEng in Chemical Engineering with Chemistry and is now based at Swinden Technology Centre, Rotherham.

Jack joined the University of Sheffield in 2015 to commence a MEng in Chemical Engineering with Chemistry. In his second year he applied for year in industry schemes and was accepted at Tata Steel, but the timing wasn’t quite right for Jack at that point to accept. He reapplied in his third year, secured again and is now based at the Swinden Technology Centre, Rotherham.

Jack works in the Group Health, Safety and Environment branch of Tata Steel Europe, in a smaller team looking at Environmental Process Optimisation (EPO) who specialise in air quality control.

So far his work has included projects in dust and emission particles from blast furnaces, designing a wind tunnel to test the application and effectiveness of dust suppression chemicals, developing solutions in the labs and a methodology and a COSHH form for the commissioning and running of the equipment.


60 seconds with Jack Wells

Why did you decide to do a year in industry?

I wanted to be able to get some useful industrial experience to put on my CV, as well as being able to get my foot in the door for a potential graduate job down the line. It helps to prepare you for the real world post uni, and the money that comes with it is always nice! The thing about doing the year in industry is that it allows you to speak to a lot of people from varying academic backgrounds, you don't have to go straight into working when you graduate, there's lots of options open and ways of doing things, stuff that I probably wouldn't have known if I was just at Uni my entire degree. I'm now seriously considering pursuing a PhD, and that isn't because the job is bad (very much the opposite!), but it's because I've gotten a lot of clarity about my future options from work colleagues and how to go about them.

How did you find your year in industry opportunity?

I had an interview for the position the previous year, but I turned it down as it didn't quite fit my life plans at the time. I kept an eye out on their job openings for the following year, applied, and eventually got the job.

Tell us about project(s) which you have been most involved with whilst on year in industry?

The biggest project I've been involved with is the testing of chemical dust suppressants to determine the performances on different dust samples, which will eventually be scaled up for use the stock yards at the Port Talbot site. I had to design a testing rig that's similar to a wind tunnel, and approach companies to help build it. I had to commission it, write testing procedures, complete risk assessments and COSHH forms, and eventually run all the tests to obtain the results. The project is still currently ongoing, where we're in stage 2 of the project, which is optimising the chemical concentration of the chosen chemicals from stage one, in an attempt to make the process more economical for a similar performance. Stage 3 is testing different wind speeds to get an idea of how the dust might move around site/when lift-off occurs. I've had to lead meetings and give presentations all about the process, used lots of equipment to monitor temperatures and pressures to get velocities, had fun using GoPros to capture footage of the testing, and I've got a big report on it all that I keep adding to! It's definitely a fun research project, and it's satisfying doing work that you know that nobody else has done, you feel special knowing stuff that others don't.

What do you like about the company you have done your year in industry with?

I like how the company has accepted and embraced me with open arms, I've never been afraid to speak and air my opinions, and I've gotten on very well with my work colleagues. They really made me feel like part of the team and made me feel valuable, with plenty of expectations and responsibilities handed my way!

What has been the most challenging aspect to undertake a year in industry?

The most challenging aspect is appreciating that you aren't' at Uni anymore. It takes a month or two to settle into a working life routine, getting caught up with admin stuff and generally getting up to speed with projects and your place in the team. No more long weekday lay-ins!

What has been your favourite part of completing a year in industry?

I feel like the routine is much better. Throughout Uni your working life can vary from nothing to do, to everything on your plate at once, with no stopping until the work is complete for the deadlines. On the year in industry, there are no more long stressful nights in the Diamond, there are no exams as such breathing down your neck (just reports and forms). You clock in for work and clock out at the end of the day, and the job ends there. You can go home stress free to unwind and do your hobbies. So yes, although the overall free time is probably less, it doesn't feel like it (especially when you're busy), and it makes you appreciate the weekends so much more!

Which part of your degree has helped you with undertaking a year in industry the most?

The third year design project was very useful in terms of how to conduct a project and what to think about. Design based modules are useful, and the heat and mass transfer modules have been very handy. Even management to an extent, as I understand what colleagues are talking about during meetings. It's helpful to be a rounded individual outside of your immediate degree though, make sure you're taking up hobbies or sports, that way you can get on with people so much better when you have things to talk about!

What do you hope to do after you graduate?

I'm torn between looking for a graduate job or a PhD opportunity. Or even both, if I find the right company to do one through. It will be a matter of circumstance and seeing what is available, but I feel I will be comfortable whatever path I choose and I'm no longer worrying for my future with the experience I now have under my belt!


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