Chemistry MChem student Rhiannon Hinton

Rhiannon Hinton

What is the name of the company you work for and what do they do?

I work for AkzoNobel; a global paints and coatings company. I work within their Decorative Paints business area making exterior and interior paint formulations for a number of different brands (the most well-known brand being Dulux). They also have a Performance Coatings business area that makes products such as yacht varnishes.

What is your role within the company?

My role is as a Project Chemist in the Research & Development Product Development Centre. I work with interior wall paint formulations; either formulating new products or enhancing existing ones to meet a set of criteria. I do this by producing the paint in the lab and then running a set of in-house tests upon it to see if it meets the required criteria.

Can you give me an insight into a typical day?

In a typical day I make up a paint to a new formulation that has been decided upon by my manger and myself. Once the paint has been made it needs to be tested against standards to see how the new formulation performs and to ascertain whether it meets the new requirements for the product; this is done using a range of in-house tests that gauge key properties of the paint. All results are fed back to my manager and discussed to decide on next steps.

What do you enjoy the most and do you get involved in any interesting projects?

I enjoy the atmosphere in the labs, the radio is always playing, and everyone has a laugh together. I also enjoy being able to plan my own work; being given total freedom to get done what I need to. Particularly towards the end of my placement I enjoyed really feeling like I understood what was going on; being able to put forward ideas when a problem was being discussed, especially when my idea was then used, gave me a great deal of confidence.

Why did you want to undertake a year in industry?

I wanted to get experience in the work place as I knew it would look good on my CV when it came to look for jobs after uni. In addition, it gives me a feel of what it's like to work in the industry and helps me think about what I want to do permanently when I leave university. Throughout the year I will learn lots of valuable skills; both in and out of the lab that will be very useful when I return to university for my fourth year.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned during the year?

It helped me be more confident in myself in a lot of aspects: presenting, practical skills, technical knowledge, data analysis. It took me a while to be confident enough to put myself forward in technical discussions, but I began to realise that I really did know my stuff, and everyone was very supportive, even if I did ever get anything wrong. Learning to be more assertive and confident this year will definitely be a great help to me in the future.

Has your experience given you a better idea of what you want to do for a career?

Yes, it has! I realised how much I loved being in the workplace; you make great friends with the people you work with, you learn so many skills... and my bank account looked happy for once! And as sad as it seems, it made me realise that to continue in Chemistry research you really have to live and breathe it, so I decided to look in other areas. However, the skills I gained from my year in industry, and my time studying Chemistry have already helped me secure a place on a Graduate Scheme for 2019! Doing a year in industry is such a worthwhile thing to do, best year of my degree without a doubt.