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Alex Ashall Kelly

Research chemist for Novartis

"I am now working for Novartis in London. I‘m working in drug discovery at the GDC there, which is fantastic and exactly what I want to do"
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Will Simmons

Associate Technologist in New Product Technology for Tata Steel

What did you do after graduation?
After my first graduation I took a year out to focus on competitive mountain bike racing. During my time at university I was a successful cyclist, where I twice won the British Universities Championships so I took the opportunity to pursue this further. I then began a PhD project in October 2007 and started work immediately at Tata Steel Europe in November 2010 after writing my thesis.

What is your current position?
I have a dual-role within the company, working as an Associate Technologist in New Product Technology and I also undertake marketing work within another function.

What does your current role involve?
My role within product technology involves project managing new steel grade developments within Tata Steel Strip Products UK, one of the business units that comprises the Tata Steel Europe group.  I am currently leading a project developing a new grade of advanced high-strength steel for automotive applications. My other role involves work based upon the strategy of the group and business units as whole.

Do you use the knowledge you gained from your studies in your job?
The first steps in the steel-making process are all about chemistry, converting iron ore into molten iron and then alloying with selected elements to make steel. In the development stages a number of technical and chemical issues can arise when designing the production process of a finished steel product. In addition to specific scientific knowledge, studying chemistry also develops excellent analytical, numerical and problem-solving skills. These skills are invaluable in a job such as mine where I am presented with problems that need thought and solutions on a daily basis.

Why did you choose to study chemistry?
Chemistry captivated my interest at school, and I felt that studying chemistry at university would allow me to pursue this interest further and develop a wide range of skills.

Why did you choose Leeds?
I visited a number of universities during the application process, but Leeds stood out from the others. The university, city and surrounding countryside have a lot to offer, both in terms of studying and in your free time.

What are your favourite memories of studying at Leeds?
I have too many favourite memories of my time at Leeds to mention. But in particular I was heavily involved in university sport alongside my studies and I achieved a number of team and personal successes, and made great friends. I was also very proud to be formally recognised by the university with their highest honour for my achievements.

What would you say to other students thinking of coming to Leeds University?
I would happily recommend the university to anyone. Your time at the university is what you make of it; the university offers an almost endless list of opportunities, and a great education.

What would you say to other students thinking of studying a PhD?
I would think carefully before entering into studying a PhD, as research does not suit everyone. I read many horror stories before starting mine about lengthy and lonely hours, but I didn’t experience that. You need drive and self-motivation to conduct research on what can at time be difficult and frustrating problems, but at the end of it all you can derive a tremendous amount of satisfaction. I gained a lot from my study, but you need to be prepared to see through the difficult times to get there.

What benefits did you gain from the PhD?
My PhD project allowed me to further develop my problem solving and analytical skills and demonstrate to employers that I could take responsibility for a lengthy and complicated project. Being able to demonstrate these skills were vital in securing my current job.