Over the last year at our Cassel site in the UK, two talented Chemical Engineering students have been experiencing what life is like on one of the largest MMA (methyl methacrylate) production sites in Europe.

Lydia Joynes, Chemical Engineering student at Newcastle University and Michael Sugden, Chemical Engineering with Chemistry student at the University of Sheffield, spoke to us about what they’ve learned along the way.

First of all, why Lucite International (LI)? What made you choose to join us?

LJ: Before applying to LI I knew I was interested in working on a large-scale manufacturing plant, somewhere I could see first-hand the processes and equipment I had learnt about at university. In addition to its wide variety of processes, LI in particular stood out for its welcoming and inclusive work atmosphere.

MS: I knew I was interested in chemical manufacturing and that a placement at LI would allow me to have a varied and challenging experience working on a large-scale chemical production plant. It also allowed me to apply the knowledge from my degree to real world problems.

Tell us what a typical day is like for you…

LJ: As my main area of responsibility is the AMS (ammonium sulphate) plant, I generally start my day by looking at how the plant’s operating and checking for anything that might need to be raised in the morning meeting. Following this, I’ll often have a quick walk around site, sometimes taking part in a safety conversation or SHE (safety, health, environmental) audit.

The rest of my time is then split between my longer-term projects and the support of other engineers within the cyanides area.

MS: I’m on the Methacs area, so I help with the day-to-day running and technical support of the plants, including troubleshooting and process optimisation. Aside from this, I’ve been designing various processes to improve safety and efficiency with nBMA (n-Butyl Methacrylate) and looking at other areas where we can further improve our high standard of safety performance.

What stands out as a highlight of your placement year?

LJ: I think the highlight of my placement so far has been the site overhauls. Getting to spend lots of time on site and look inside different pieces of equipment is not only interesting, but really helps put everything you learn at university into perspective.

MS: There are many to choose from but working with a team of amazing people day in, day out, who are more than willing to help each other, made every day enjoyable.

What are the top three things you’ve learned from your time here?

LJ: Hard to narrow it down to three! But probably that what works in theory doesn’t always work in practise, to not be afraid to ask questions and to push myself outside my comfort zone more often.

MS: Firstly, designing things is a two-way street: if you make things based on theory it will work, but a great design also needs to be practical and usable.

Secondly, it’s OK to not know things. Asking people for help (or, more importantly, asking the right questions!) will only improve you as an engineer.

Thirdly, get involved in a wide variety of jobs and areas, as each experience offers a new perspective that will be invaluable.

What are your goals for the future and how has this year helped you towards achieving them?

LJ: After completing my master’s degree, I’d like to further my experience in operations by joining a similar role in the manufacturing industry. What I’ve learnt this year on placement, both in soft-skills and technical knowledge, will be invaluable in doing this.

MS: In the immediate future, the goal is to finish off my master’s degree. Beyond that, it’s to make a career in the chemical manufacturing industry. My placement at LI has given me a strong start and the tools I need to make this a reality!

Finally, describe working at LI in three words…

LJ: Stimulating, challenging, friendly.

MS: Rewarding, fulfilling, interesting.