Duncan Holdsworth

Duncan Holdsworth

Name: Duncan Holdsworth

Job title: Junior Process Engineer

Company: Johnson Matthey

Country: UK
A-levels: Chemistry, Design Technology, Maths and Physics
University: University of Sheffield

I’m from a family of engineers so it was probably inevitable that I’d become one too. I am the first chemical engineer in the family though – my father, brother and uncle are all civil engineers. I only narrowly missed out on joining them....

I always wanted to be an engineer from a young age. I loved science and maths and there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to study a science or engineering based subject at university.

I had always known of chemical engineering without really knowing much about it. My A-levels were chemistry, design technology, maths and physics.

It’s all in the genes

I only really thought about chemical engineering properly when I started to think about my university application. It seemed to be a good way of combining the chemistry that I enjoyed with the hands-on engineering that I wanted to pursue. However my plan was to study civil engineering – it must be in the genes!

When I was making my application, I paid attention to university rankings and their engineering reputation. I accepted a place to study civil engineering at the University of Sheffield , UK and two weeks before the course began, I switched to chemical engineering!

I had thought about it carefully and decided that chemical engineering still offered all of the positive aspects of civil engineering in terms of the scale of projects and the risks involved while giving options for smaller scale laboratory based work which suited me perfectly. After I had made the decision to switch, I quickly turned to whynotchemeng to find out more.

I’m glad I made the switch and it was only when I started to study chemical engineering that I fully realised the diversity of the profession. I had never really thought about where pharmaceuticals, bio-products and manufactured foods had come from before – but it all relies on chemical engineering.

The course had less chemistry than I expected and taking the time to do a summer placement at GlaxoSmithKline and another placement at a civil engineering company have also really helped.

I joined Johnson Matthey in September 2010 and it’s a great place to work. I get to do research and development, commissioning and design work so it’s all of the areas that I have always been really keen on.

No regrets

I have no regrets about making the switch to chemical engineering and I’m looking forward to going on-site for the first time – visiting one of the sites we’ve been working on in China would be really good.

My job lets me use the knowledge that I acquired at university and put it to practical use. As time progresses, I will gain more responsibility within the company and even as a fairly new member of the team I can see how my work is contributing towards the successful start up of another process facility.

If I can offer one piece of advice it would be to make sure you realise that chemical engineering isn’t all about chemistry. It’s much more diverse than that and it’s a degree choice that can open up a wide range of career paths.