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My job explained: Development chemist

My job explained: Development chemistIsobel Everest is a senior development chemist. Here she describes how her job is the perfect mix of creativity and hands-on work.

What is a development chemist?

The role of a development chemist is to deliver products that are specially made for a particular customer or application. This involves developing ideas from conception, through to full scale production and hopefully commercialisation.

What inspired you to become a development chemist?

Since being at university, I have known that I wanted to work in R&D (research and development). I am quite a creative person and working in R&D suits me well. At university, I found the polymers field very interesting and hoped to pursue a career in polymer chemistry. As a result, I ended up working in the surface coatings field. My current role is not traditional surface coatings field, but I have learned a lot over my career that I can apply to this different area.

What was your training like?

I graduated from the University of Bristol in 1994 with a BSc (Hons) in chemistry. Since graduating, I have worked for two different companies, both in the surface coatings industry.

Working in the surface coatings field tends to be very hands on and most of the technical training consists of on the job learning. But I have been trained on polymer and paint chemistry – from understanding how polymers are manufactured through to modules on a wide range of surface coating applications.

Can you describe a typical working day?

On a daily basis, my job involves a fair amount of bench chemistry. I formulate products for my customers and this involves making up samples then fully testing the materials on a particular substrate or component. If a sample looks encouraging, I do more tests on different raw materials to ensure it can be reproduced. From here, I may be required to sample materials to my customers, or be involved in making bigger batches of developmental products. The role also involves discussions with raw material suppliers who may be able to offer a new wonder product for my application.

What do you most enjoy about your job?

I love the practical nature of my job. It is very rewarding when a series of experiments give the final properties you want.

What other skills do you need?

As a senior development chemist, my role involves talking with customers at a technical level. It is great working closely with a third party to find a solution to their problems. The role also requires a lot of patience; not every experiment you conduct gives the results you want! You have to think on your feet and remember that an unexpected result can also have a positive outcome.

Why is it useful to study a science subject at university?

Without a degree in chemistry I would not be able to do my job. The work I do is very technical and requires a good understanding of what the numerous components in the formulation are doing, and how they interact as a whole. Without a strong scientific background the work would be impossible.

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