UCAS: Case Notes - 'A year in industry is ideal'

Top-secret research work was a highlight of Jenny Thumwood's course at Exeter
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The Independent Culture
Twenty-one-year-old Jenny Thumwood is very clear why she chose the University of Exeter to take her chemistry degree - it has a grade- four lecture department, and she "fell in love with the beautiful city".

"I WAS pretty careful in choosing which university I wanted to go to," says Jenny, who comes from Berkshire. "I read all the prospectuses to get the academic side, and then I visited the places I'd shortlisted as well."

She also had a very sharp eye on her future career - another reason why she was so attracted to Exeter was because it offered a year in industry as an integral part of the course. Jenny spent her year working in research at the Gillette headquarters in Reading.

"It was fascinating to work as part of a research team - although I can't say exactly what I did as it's top secret! A year in industry is the perfect way to put everything you're learning in lectures and in the lab in to practice," she says.

Jenny's MChem CIE (chemistry in industry) course involves far more than doing experiments in the laboratory. As part of her degree at the end of the second year she did a communication skills course, which included making a group presentation.

The first year was split up in to three main areas of chemistry, inorganic, organic and physical chemistry. She also took a computing course in the first year and on average spent around six to nine hours every week doing practicals in the lab.

In the second year she also took a chemical maths course - not a problem for Jenny, as she has maths A-level. Like so many students who choose either chemistry, maths or physics degrees, she has exceedingly good A- levels - three As and one AS level in chemistry, biology and maths.

Jenny says: "In the second year we were also allowed to choose certain topics we were interested in - I chose medicinal chemistry as one of mine. The course is divided up into three 10-week terms, with one set of exams at week 13 and another set in week 26 at the end of the year."

Students are also assessed on their lab work and on problem sheets set by tutors. Jenny says that she particularly enjoyed her communication skills course.

"We had to write an article, and my group chose 'selling chemistry.' People still think it's a really dry and dusty subject, which of course it isn't - it's vital to today's industries.

"We had to design an attention-getting lecture, and we also did a local survey in the city of what people think chemists do."

The year in industry came in her third year, and Jenny says the university was extremely helpful in setting this up. "We were given pamphlets on all the different areas of chemistry in industry, and our academic co- ordinator worked with us in approaching firms."

Working at Gillette, Jenny was able to follow her interest of physical chemistry. She was paid pounds 10,000 for the year - the average most students would expect is between pounds 8,000 and pounds 12,000 - extremely useful in supplementing a grant in the fourth year.

The normal grant was suspended for the year in industry.

The final year Jenny spent catching up on certain parts of the course.

Not all of the students take the year out in industry - some do extended projects within the university.

Jenny is now aiming to take a PhD in physical chemistry, and ultimately hopes to work in research in industry.

She says she would recommend Exeter to anyone.

There are still places available on the course Jenny took at Exeter. Applicants must have at least 14 points