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Jack Muirhead

Jack Muirhead, 23, was among the first cohort of Chemical Engineering undergraduates at Chester. The course was designed from scratch to provide embedded work experience with regional companies.

Chemical Engineering students at the University of Chester study in the new Faculty of Science and Engineering at Thornton Science Park, which hosts world-class facilities gifted by global energy and petrochemical company, Shell.

The 500-plus students share the site with more than 40 companies employing around 400 professionals. In this unique working environment, students and employees rub shoulders and share ideas in the communal cafeteria. Experienced engineers working on site get involved with teaching students and also employ them for placement projects.

Jack, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, began his four-year Master’s course in 2014, taking a year out after three years to work in industry.  He graduates formally in November.

“I chose to study in Chester because of the amazing facilities at the new Thornton Science Park campus and because of the lecturers’ enthusiasm for the new courses the University was introducing, including Chemical Engineering,” said Jack.

“To have been part of University of Chester history and to help shape the Chemical Engineering degree course for future students is a great feeling.”

Jack has made the most of many work experience opportunities organised by the University. He’s worked for local, regional and international companies, helping design industrial structures as diverse as a chloromethane plant, a coffee production plant and novel fuel cell reactors during his degree.

“My work on these interesting projects included investigating how the design of a fuel cell reactor could reduce carbon emissions.  Working on the construction and operation of a combined heat and power plant involved travelling to Austria to help optimise the running of the unit and testing that emissions were within regulations.

“Having all this experience gave me a definite advantage when applying for jobs for a year in industry – I secured a placement with GE (General Electric) in Peterborough, where I worked within its Water Technologies and Solutions division. I used my previous optimisation experience to highlight areas where the company could save money.” 

It’s not been all work and no play for Jack while studying in Chester. He said: “Another reason I chose Chester was the University’s vast range of sports groups and societies. I joined the Snowsports Society, became their Communications Officer and then Vice President, where I was able to help organise sponsorships, events, competitions and the annual winter trip to the Alps.

“Having a good balance between studying and socialising is imperative if you want to do well and there are plenty of extra-curricular activities on offer at the University of Chester.”

Jack kick-starts his engineering career proper in September, with a graduate training scheme at Turner and Townsend – a global company that’s worked on such high-profile UK projects as the Heathrow Airport expansion and the HS2 rail link.

He said: “I’ll be working in the infrastructure sector, on transport, utilities and power projects, while completing my professional exams at the same time.”

Jack says the University’s contacts in industry and the experience and knowledge of its science and engineering staff have been vital to his success. “All my experience gave me a definite advantage when applying for jobs and each of my work placements made me feel I was becoming a better engineer.”

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