I chose to study chemistry at the University of Sydney as I enjoyed studying chemistry in high school and wanted to see where further study in the field could take me. While the university campus was an attractive factor, I was also interested in the research and learning from the talented academic staff in the School of Chemistry. Through my university degree, I leaned towards focusing on chemical biology and medicinal chemistry, which stood out most in my coursework.
I wanted to diversify my knowledge further, gain some industrial experience and get some more time working in the lab (especially to make up for the time I lost during COVID lockdowns), so I reached out and applied for a Year in Industry student position at ANSTO Minerals; the consultancy specialises in process development and research in the minerals processing industry. I greatly appreciated the opportunity to see different career pathways in chemistry, and gain skills and connections from them. It was also exciting to see first-hand the cutting-edge mineral processes that ANSTO Minerals is involved with, which is especially important nowadays to keep up with the demand from emerging technologies.
I really enjoyed my time spent setting up, operating and collecting data from the experiments I ran, since it let me experience a lot of the chemistry that was prevalent in the minerals processing sector sector (contrasting the organic chemistry at university). Additionally, I experienced and appreciated the impact of my work on our clients, especially when the experiments were upsized to “pilot plant” scales – a prerequisite to building the full-scale commercial plant.
I learnt a lot about the chemistry involved in extracting resources like uranium and rare earth metals. I also learned how important high-quality metals are to our modern world. I also got to learn how scientific organisations operate on a day-to-day basis. Not to mention making a lot of friends along the way! It was a fresh and exciting experience, completely different from undergraduate chemistry labs and even honours!
For those who are interested in having a taste of working in a laboratory before they complete their studies, I would recommend applying for a Year in Industry Position, especially at ANSTO Minerals, if you’re interested in the minerals processing industry. It’s okay if you aren’t the cream of the crop in terms of academics – they also look for eagerness, amicability, and most of all, a willingness to learn! Just don’t forget to practise your interview skills!