Anecdotes of a Chartered Chemical Engineer - picking my degree

In 1970 I was studying for my A-level maths, physics, and chemistry. We only did three subjects then and this was a typically standard choice for those following a scientific path.

I had still not decided what I wanted to study at university.

However, at a careers evening, a British Sugar Corporation representative asked if I'd consider Chemical Engineering.

I had never even heard of the subject, and at that time was probably favouring Electrical Engineering. Whilst my favourite subject was (and still is) physics, Professional Engineering offered a much better career path in 1970.

In the 1970s British Sugar Corporation had a large processing plant on the outskirts of my hometown, turning sugar beet into refined sugar. I went home and started doing a bit of research on this new potential career path.

The more I investigated it the more interesting Chemical Engineering became encompassing physical chemistry, mathematics as well as physics. I did not want to pursue a career in chemistry as I found organic chemistry just a massive memory exercise of standard reactions, at least it was to me.

However, Chemical Engineering seemed to encompass the computational aspects of chemistry I enjoyed along with a lot of physics.

I decided that this would be my career path. The chemical industry in the 1970s was a very dynamic and expanding industry with ICI as well as all the other well- known chemical and oil companies expanding their operations.

Carrying out more research, I decided to apply to Loughborough University of Technology as it was then known. I had already spent a three-day period at the University on a short course specially designed for sixth-formers on automotive engineering. We were all mad keen on cars in those days. The university was one of the top schools for Chemical engineering in the UK and so became my first choice.

After successfully passing my A-levels, I was accepted and in early September 1970 set off for the start of the first term, shedding few tears in the car as I realised that I was leaving home.

Bury St Edmunds railway station with the British Sugar factory at the backdrop. Source Wikimedia Commons, attributed to Mohammed Tawsif Salam