What is Emily's radioactive CV entry?

A Year in Industry student saved her employer quarter of a million pounds a year by designing a new metals recycling process: beat that for a CV entry.

Emily Nicholls, 20, from Plymouth Uni, worked with Babcock International Group before returning to study this year.

Her project at the firm involved improving the recycling of metal present in radioactive waste. Following her method, Babcock will make significant environmental and cost savings: recycling 245 tonnes of waste a year and making a £245,000 annual financial saving in the process.

This year's model

Radioactive waste stored at the company was assessed and sent to a specialised metal melting facility to have recyclable material extracted. The metal extracted was then recycled to reduce waste. Emily’s principal role in the project was to assess the activity of the radionuclides in the waste.  As some of the radionuclide activity values were missing, Emily had to make her calculations using complex mathematical models, specialised software and spreadsheets. She then used her calculations to estimate the total weight and activity of the waste and to support consignment and transport arrangements.

Emily recently won YINI’s top prize at its annual Contribution to the Business Awards.

Babcock line manager Roger Collison said: “The standard of work that Emily has achieved nearly matches the level that we would expect from an MSc postgraduate and would daunt many professionals. Her work has been of significant benefit to the team and company, leaving a lasting and significant impact”.

My aim is true

Emily said: “My year at Babcock gave me an insight into industry and how my science degree can be applied. The most important thing, for me, was learning how many different opportunities there are for people with a physics degree. Also, I've now had work experience so when I leave university I feel more prepared for the world of work.”

She says she may continue studying after her degree, or may take up a possible placement at Atkins, an opportunity that came up at the awards night itself.

Chemistry class

At the YINI awards night other winners were Cigdem Kemal, 22, who won the Centrica Environmental Awareness Award for her work at Basell Polyolefins UK Ltd. By designing modifications to existing systems, Cigdem reduced fuel gas, steam, water and nitrogen consumption. In addition to saving energy, her work saves money, reducing the company’s costs by £325,000 per year.

Having designed a 45m span bridge that was selected to be constructed on the M5, Cameron Blackwell, 19, was the winner of the Dstl prize for best science and engineering application.

David Hornblower, a Senior Structures Engineer at Balfour Beatty Mott MacDonald, was amazed by Cameron’s achievements, claiming he would ‘jump at the chance’ to employ him again in the future.

Pills and soap

Oliver Davison, 20, won the IET Innovation Award for his work with Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust.  Oliver, who is planning to study economics and management at Oxford, worked on improving systems for the delivery of drugs to hospital wards. As an outcome, patient length of stay has been reduced by 560 hours a week – improving patient experience and making the NHS a financial saving of £287,862 per year.

He said the YINI programme has a huge amount to offer its participants: “The projects have involved me in challenging work that is making a real difference. I have been able to improve a wide variety of skills ranging from hard data analysis techniques to soft people skills. As a really effective way to use a gap year The Year in Industry has not only given me paid employment but has also provided me with fantastic personal development and given me an insight into future career possibilities”.

For more information, please view The Year in Industry website.

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