Ishanki De Mel
"One of the highlights of my degree has been working in a team to operate the Fluor pilot plant. This gave me excellent hands-on operational experience and helped to prepare me for my Professional Training placement at EDF Energy at Sizewell B nuclear power station."
I chose to study at Surrey because it offered a fantastic all-round chemical engineering programme with the option to take a Professional Training placement year. As I was living and studying in Sri Lanka when I applied, I couldn’t attend any Open Days, but the University kindly organised meetings with its representatives in my country which gave me an insight into life as a student in the UK and at Surrey.
I was also offered the Chancellor’s scholarship (now the Surrey Prestige Scholarship) in recognition of my good A level results which made me feel valued as a student before I even arrived.
I was first inspired to study chemical engineering by a soap-making competition in Year 9 at school. The experience of using basic ingredients to produce a bar of soap started to make me realise that I wanted to apply my knowledge of chemistry, physics and maths to formulate products and design processes to meet the needs of consumers – and even change their lives for the better.
Now in the final year of my MEng Chemical Engineering at Surrey, I’m really enjoying being able to apply what I’ve learnt up to now in my final year research project. For this, I’m looking at how the existing energy system used in Surrey student accommodation could be improved by incorporating renewable energy resources at a local scale, using Distributed Energy Systems.
The academic staff in the Department of Chemical and Process Engineering are very helpful and approachable, and they encourage us to take an active part in class discussions and group activities. In my first year I used to be a bit quiet during lectures but, over the years, I’ve become so much more confident in voicing my opinions.
The chemical engineering facilities at Surrey are excellent. One of the highlights of my degree has been working in a team to operate the Fluor pilot plant. This gave me excellent hands-on operational experience and helped to prepare me for my 13-month Professional Training placement at EDF Energy at Sizewell B nuclear power station, which has undoubtedly been one of the highlights of my chemical engineering journey.
On placement, I worked on plant and in the laboratory which expanded my appreciation of systems and processes associated with generating energy and electricity, whilst maintaining a safe working culture. In one project, I developed procedures and more efficient sampling methods to monitor particulate iron present in feedwater as a product of corrosion. I also undertook some non-technical tasks – such as taking the initiative to create a New Starter Pack for chemistry personnel and developing a Mentoring Hub for the company.
Life at Surrey, for me, is a doorway to wonderful opportunities. During my time here I’ve been secretary of the Sri Lankan Society and helped organise its New Year celebrations, and also a member of the Music and Drama Society which included performing the role of Lion in the Wizard of Oz pantomime. Recently, I’ve taken up Bachata with the Salsa and Bachata Society: for me there’s no better way to relax after a week of hard work than by dancing and having fun with my friends during these sessions.
Meeting new people, and expanding my appreciation of different cultures and backgrounds, has made me feel connected to the world. I am humbled by this because I come from a small developing country with so much potential. I came here as a fresher aged only 16, and I will be graduating as a chemical engineer with a mission to provide innovative solutions that will have a positive impact on people’s lives.