A day in the life: Chemist

Development Chemists working cartoon

A pivotal role in the research and development sector is the role of a Development Chemist. It is a popular role and we advertise many Chemist vacancies a year. We wanted to find out what is the qualifying route for this career path, what a typical day is like, what the main objectives are and what is the most challenging aspect of this career.

We interviewed a Development Chemist who has worked for CK Science as a contractor on different projects for many years and now works for a global scientific company, they gave a great interview with some very useful advice:

1. What are a chemist’s core responsibilities/main objectives in your current role?

My core responsibilities include the development of new products alongside improving existing products and manufacturing processes. My responsibilities also include helping to solve quality issues and troubleshooting manufacturing issues.

2. What does a chemist do on a daily basis?

A typical day involves carrying out lab work to develop and improve both new and existing products; this can include developing formulations in the lab, testing material made from a quality and performance point of view, and then reporting the results of this work. Once suitable systems are found the process is scaled up to a production trial.

A typical day may also include liaising with customers in order to determine what they require from a product, and also with suppliers to determine what products they can offer which may be suitable for a given project.

3. How did you get into the chemical industry?

I studied Forensic Science at undergraduate level which was predominantly chemistry based, as part of this I spent a year working in the R&D department at Procter and Gamble.

I continued to work at Procter and Gamble following my degree but found that my degree limited the opportunities which were available to me, therefore I progressed onto doing a PhD in organic chemistry. Following the completion of my PhD I went back into working in the chemical industry.

4. What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the fact that the job is practical based, and also the day to day variation in the job. I enjoy the challenges the job provides as most projects require a problem-solving approach. I also enjoy working with a wide variety of people, from my colleagues in the lab and those working in production through to working with customers and suppliers.

5. What is the most challenging part of your job?

Having multiple projects to work on at once can be quite challenging as each project will have its own deadlines therefore it is important to be able to prioritise work well.

Working in an R&D role within a chemical company is also challenging as you constantly need to be aware of new developments within the industry and how they may affect/benefit you.

6. What made you decide to pursue a career in this field?

When doing my A-Levels I spent two weeks on work placement in a chemistry R&D lab which I really enjoyed. Following on from this I decided to study a chemistry based subject at university and as part of this spent a year working for Procter and Gamble in the R&D section. I thoroughly enjoyed both my degree and the work placement and so developed my career from there.

7. What advice would you give others that are looking to move into this field?

Gain as much experience as possible while studying, either through work placements, industrial internships or through summer work.

Also, look at apprenticeships that are available not just degree programs. If you do decide to do a chemistry or science based degree choose one which involves as much hands-on practical experience as possible.

8. Is there anything else you would like to add about your job that makes it more interesting/special than others?

I think the variation in the day to day work involved in being a Development Chemist makes it interesting.

Also when you’ve been working on a project and tried several different things and then get a system that works it is very rewarding and satisfying. The job requires you to constantly learn new things and to apply what you already know on a daily basis.

You may also like to read:

A day in the life of an Analytical Chemist

A day in the life of a Research Scientist

A day in the life of a Chemical Operator