Chemistry graduate Joe Rawlinson talks about his experience of progressing on to PhD research

MChem Graduate and PhD Student

What made you decide to study at UCLan?

I chose to study at UCLan because I had heard from family members, who work in the chemical industry that it was a good university with great facilities friendly teaching staff and great ties to industries in the area. I was ideally looking for a university in the northwest and had heard that students who went to UCLan really enjoyed their time. Upon reflection I would say the postgraduate opportunities that UCLan has offered would not have been possible at any other universities and I wouldn’t be starting my PhD had I gone elsewhere.

What was it that attracted you to the course specifically?

I hadn’t originally intended to study chemistry, but instead forensic chemistry. However when I realised in first year that the chemistry course was what I wanted to do, it was extremely easy to change over and staff made the process very straight forward. The chemistry course had engaging content pitched at a good level so that I could progress without feeling out of my depth at any point.

What are the facilities like?

The facilities at UCLan are great, with fully equipped teaching labs for each year that carry all the essential equipment for the practical sessions of that level. The final year research lab is well equipped with all the glassware, equipment, and chemicals I needed to complete my final year dissertation project. Access to the analytical suite was invaluable throughout my time at UCLan and allowed me hands on experience using equipment such as XRD, SEM, NMR, and HPLC that was necessary to do all practical sessions and my dissertation project. This equipment was even available to use at undergraduate level, an opportunity not many other universities allow. The IT Facilities are extensive, with open access computer areas dotted around the campus, the library offers several floors of computer facilities and had access to countless relevant scientific journals and textbooks in both digital and paper formats.

Joe Rawlinson
Joe Rawlinson

What is the teaching like?

Lecturers in UCLan Chemistry are brilliant. Always friendly and approachable, they never turn down a student in need of any additional support. Class sizes are small enough to deliver tailored teaching without reaching a point where some students may feel alone. Lectures are pitched at a good level where you are challenged without feeling truly out of your depth. The lecture slides are concise and staff add information and clarify any confusing theories during lectures, so lectures are helpful and not simply slide reading.

Could you please give us an overview of any work you have done related to your degree?

Since my degree I have completed a consultancy position at UCLan, completing work for an industrial chemical company based in the North West. This work allowed me to truly hone my skills into the area of chemistry my passion lied in and has subsequently led to the company funding my PhD here at UCLan.

Prior to my graduation I completed a paid summer research internship for the member of staff who would subsequently become my dissertation and PhD supervisor. This allowed me to spend my summer getting involved and prepared me to start my dissertation with all the techniques and skills I would need. It also allowed me to sample life as an independent researcher with my own research topic and the responsibilities that come with this.

One memory that sticks out from your time at UCLan so far?

During my final year the opportunity arose, through UCLan’s Undergraduate Travel Bursary to arrange a trip for myself and several of my peers (7 in total) to visit the University of Zaragoza in Spain to meet electron microscopists who use High Resolution Transmission Electron Microscopes. This Microscope (TITAN) is one of only a few in the whole world and is unique in its design to allow atomic resolution of inorganic materials. This trip allowed us all to expand our views of the chemical field to an international scale and to learn about work being done across the world. This was a truly great experience to see such equipment and to get a taste of the Spanish culture as well.

Any tips to prospective students?

My advice to any prospective students would be to make good bonds with academics and industrial contacts you encounter, these relationships will pay dividends if you need any work experience or placement opportunities throughout your degree program and even afterwards. Treat University as an entry into your chosen field and start to really become who you want to be seen as in the future. Don’t expect university to magically make you smarter, the more you put in the more you get out, and nothing beats trying new things at this stage in life.