year in industry program
Joshua Salisbury-Carter - (NICNAS)
I started university straight out of high school and completed two years of speech pathology before changing my course to science. After four years at university I was sure I didn't want to go straight into research but I was worried about how hard it might be to get a job when I finished. My marks weren't great and I needed an edge. The year in industry program presented me with an opportunity to increase my employability, earn some cash and see what working in the chemical industry would be like.
I gained a placement at the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), the government agency responsible for the regulation of industrial chemicals. Being the year in industry student gave me a unique position because I was given the opportunity to experience a wide variety of roles within the Agency. I completed work in every section from chemical assessment to compliance. My work at NICNAS was mainly project based resulting in reports such as, "the common hazards of chemicals used as fuel additives". The investigation for the reports were based around chemical issues but often involved interpreting legislation, determining the economic and social implications of an issue and understanding the import/export market.
In addition to the projects, I was able to travel to Melbourne and Canberra several times to conduct audits or meet with industry and government officials. On one of the trips we visited two factories to determine the chemical exposure people experience working in the plastics industry. We started with a company that tailor-made polymer base stocks so that they had the required colour, flexibility, strength etc. We then went to a factory where they extrude the base stock into plastic sheets for boxes and signs. The exposure information that we gather was used to assess the risk of any new chemicals being used.
When my year in industry finished I was lucky enough to be asked back part time. I currently work one day a week during semester and full time in the holidays. I highly recommend taking part in the year in industry program. Working at NICNAS gave me the skills and experience I needed to feel confident about getting a job when I finish my degree.
Joseph Ioppolo - ANSTO
The idea of a year in industry was appealing to me because it was an opportunity to do something completely different from uni. I was about to finish my second year and I was looking for a break, partly to earn some money but also to get an idea of where I was going with chemistry. I went to a few interviews but finally decided on ANSTO’s Waste Operations division (now part of Safety and Radiation Science) in Lucas Heights.
Surprisingly, a lot of the people who worked there had been in exactly the same position I was. It was good to see that most of them knew a lot of general chemistry and used it everyday, even in an office environment.
The chemistry itself was more industrial than research-based and was not overly complicated. However, a lot of the equipment I used there was rare I would never see it outside of a place like that. The routine work was satisfying in that I was given responsibility - mainly to make sure our daily incoming samples were tested and reported to other divisions and, in part, to outside organisations like Sydney Water. I helped commission a plant which was scheduled to process low-level radioactive waste on its way to the then-proposed national repository in the Northern Territory. As an aside to that, I worked on a project to study the integrity of concrete for sealing low-level waste. But by far the best part of my time there was the opportunity to see, on one end, how a research reactor is run, and to meet the people who ran it and used it to make the radiopharmaceuticals that are shipped across the country. On the other end, I saw how the facility’s waste was dealt with and was part of the seemingly endless environmental testing and safe-guards in place in and around ANSTO, which ensure it is all done as safe as possible.
After that year I came back to uni with a better outlook (and maybe a better attitude) toward things in general. Labwork seemed a little easier, and the things we learnt in lectures seemed less alien and out of reach. In no way was that year wasted, and I’d do it again.
Debbie Marinelli - National Analytical Reference Laboratories
In 2003 I began a journey which would change and shape the next three years of my life. After completing the second year of my Bachelor of Science degree, I needed a break. I was uninspired by continual study, unsure if science was the career for me and quite frankly I’d had enough of always running out of money. Although I was not prepared to simply quit my degree, I knew I needed a year off so I looked into Sydney University’s “Year in Industry Programme” run by the School of Chemistry. This programme represented just what I needed; a year away from study, working as a scientist in industry and being paid for it.
After sitting all the required interviews I was invited to join the scientists at National Analytical Reference Laboratories (NARL) which, at that time, were part of the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories (AGAL) where I spent the year working as part of their scientific team.
Throughout the year I was treated as an employee not as a student, and with that I was trained to use scientific equipment and instruments that at university had only ever been mentioned in lectures. I was lucky enough to be trained in instruments such as the GCMS (Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry) and ICPMS (Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry) as well as in an endless number of analytical techniques that would prove invaluable to me throughout my third and honours years. Consequently my confidence and lab expertise increased, and with that, so did the complexity of the projects I was given to work on.
I spent the year doing some routine laboratory work and tasks, as well as being put in charge of my own projects. I learnt the correct procedures for writing method documents and my name now appears in the published journal articles for those projects in which I was involved. By the end of the year I had acquired a range of essential laboratory skills and presented a 20 minute PowerPoint presentation outlining my achievements for the year in front of some of the most influential people in science.
Armed with an increased confidence in the laboratory, well developed oral presentation skills and references from world renowned scientists and lab directors I was refreshed, reinvigorated and equipped to dive head first into frenetic third year study.
My year in Industry was such a success that I was invited back to AGAL (now called National Measurement Institute) to do my Honours year as part of the Australian Sports Drug Testing Laboratory where I spent the year investigating the improved detection of Recombinant Erythropoietin in athletes for drug doping. Thanks to the research experience I had gained during my year in industry, I already had strong research skills, the confidence and ability to work independently and due to the presentations I was encouraged to give throughout the year, I was well versed in using PowerPoint and in publicly addressing a scientific audience.
Overall, Year in Industry enabled me to understand what it really meant to be a scientist as I was given the opportunity to sink my teeth into some real life research and be part of something that allowed me to see the “light at the end of the tunnel”. It gave me a taste of what life would be like after my degree which inspired me to not only continue on with my studies but allowed me to spend the following years focusing on the scientific disciplines that I was most passionate about. As a result, I knew exactly what I wanted to gain from my degree and what I wanted to do when I graduated.
I am now a graduate of Sydney University with honours, I have two years of industry experience under my belt and I have worked with lab directors whose references and verbal recommendations have given me an increased probability of work for the future. I have made a string of friendships that have been personally and professionally invaluable, and who have provided a solid foundation with which to enter the international scientific community. I am very proud to have been involved in the Year in Industry programme so I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone serious about their scientific careers and ready for a fun rewarding challenge.
Ronald Huynh - Australian Sports Drug Testing Laboratory
I've been working in the Australian Sports Drug testing laboratories at the National Measurement Institute (NMI), with a very welcoming team of scientists including two honours students, a PhD student and an old USYD student, who is now employed at NMI. The environment here is very encouraging, with a lot of passionate young and senior chemists who are always willing to teach me new things, but also listen to my ideas and input. Most of these students have also completed the year in industry program and they have given me a lot of direction with my studies and possibly my career in Science.
The people here are all very enthusiastic about their work and have a very positive attitude towards the work of others as well.
Throughout the past five months I've been given the opportunity to be involved with the routine analysis of samples from competitors in a wide range of sports. I have also been completing a major project on a population study which entails collating data from many experiments and interpreting them. On top of that I have also assisted other scientists in the laboratory with their own projects.
I am learning a lot of new chemistry and pharmacology, particularly in the area of steroids, and really enjoy the independence here at NMI. It is a great opportunity to be able to put into practice some of the theory that I have learnt at University .
I am getting a ridiculous amount of hands on experience with many complex instruments and overall I am loving the program thus far.
The Year in Industry Program is a very worthwhile experience and the knowledge and friends I have gained so far have heavily enhanced my enthusiasm about science.
Cassandra Rauert - National Measurement Institute
I participated in the Year In Industry program in 2005, where I worked with the National Measurement Institute (NMI) for a year. NMI is a government-owned analytical laboratory, and I worked in the Research and Development section. During the year, I had the opportunity to work on numerous projects with different staff members in the lab. The main project I worked on was to develop a method for quantifying traces of an antifungal dye called Malachite Green in fish. Malachite Green is used as a treatment in aquatic farms but is carcinogenic to humans if ingested in high amounts. There was no method in Australia to test imported fish (intended for the dinner table) for levels of Malachite Green before the fish went to the shops. The entire year was a great experience as I got to work on the whole method development process from a literature review through to validating the method that I developed and even testing some commercial samples with my method!
The Year in Industry Program was definitely an advantage for me as my confidence working in a lab increased enormously, helping me when I came back to 3rd year studies. I made a lot of great friends with the other Year in Industry students and we all had a fun year. I also made a lot of contacts in the field and through this I was able to go back and do an Honours project in conjunction with the NMI. After completing my Honours project I was then offered a full-time position working in another laboratory of the NMI, where I currently am.
To anyone who wants a career in chemistry or to anyone who isn’t sure if chemistry is for them, I would strongly recommend doing a Year in Industry as it is a great start to getting your foot in the door and definitely helps you to decide if chemistry is for you.